Did you know that there’s something that’s exactly the same in a well-designed life as in a well-designed website? It’s called white space.
In web design, white space refers to leaving some areas of a web page deliberately blank or empty. This is vital both to make the content you want people to see more clear and readable as well as to make the website look elegant. Apple is a classic example of a website that leaves enough white space in their website to have maximum functionality and impact.
Now obviously you must have something on the web page— if it is all white space, completely blank, it’s not useful at all. But if you try to cram every square inch of the page with information, you end up not being able to clearly make out anything. You end up with just TOO MUCH STUFF— too much to end up meaning anything. In website design, less is definitely more.
Now I hope you’ve figured out the parallel to life design: if your life is completely empty, you have no life. But if you try to cram every second of your life full, you have another serious problem: that your life ends up being neither clear nor functional nor impactful to you or anyone else.
I had to remind myself that this week while I’m on vacation at the beach. Did you know that the English word “vacation” comes from a Latin root meaning “to be empty?” Vacation literally means to have white space in your life. But how many of us take “vacations” that are so crammed full of stuff that we joke at the end that we need another vacation just to rest up from our vacation?
I realized that I wasn’t doing so well with white space on this vacation. I’m currently reading through four books, and I brought another three to start reading this week. And you know, Monday I was beating myself up for not getting more reading done, because two of my intellectual heroes, Dr. Al Mohler and President Theodore Roosevelt, are famous for reading 6-7 books per week. So I was comparing myself to two intellectual giants while I’m supposed to be on vacation?
So, I adjusted. In addition to spending time with family, reading, and writing, I took some time to just sit on the beach and look at the ocean. No activity. No checking my phone. Just white space.
So, the next time you’re on vacation, even if it’s in a fun place with plenty to do, may I recommend that you carve out some white space. Some time to rest and intentionally do nothing. Not watch television or go out to a game or ski or an amusement park. Just nothing. White space. Look at the ocean or some mountains. Listen to the waves or a river or a crackling fire and purpose to accomplish NOTHING for an hour or two.
And life design with white space is about more than just taking large vacation chunks of it. Resolve to carve out white space in your weekly routine, even for ten or fifteen minutes. Take time to simple be— not asleep, not checking social media, not involved in some activity, just to be, doing nothing.
White space. Every well-lived life needs it. You might be surprised at how much it will increase your productivity, your impact, and your satisfaction. Add some to your life today.