Work-Life Balance: Adding White Space

You most probably heard that work-life balance is called the ”holy grail of the 21st century.” In bookstores, the book shelves groan with books devoted to the topic, yet ironically enough, quite a few people just can’t find the time to read them. May this article help you cast a fresh eye on what work-life balance means to you and take a further step towards balanced life.

Graphic designers and layout people will tell you that white space is what makes it possible for us to register text on a printed page or a computer screen. White space gives order, context, and emphasis to what matters.

White space facilitates delight: it makes it possible for the contents of a page or of a life to be arranged in a pleasing way. It allows artful choice. Without it, everything seems equally urgent, similarly important.

Because it is empty, it is tempting to fill white space when the pressure is on. If you’ve ever tried to read an email that isn’t broken up into short paragraphs, you know what happens when too much content squeezes out the white space. It is hard to track meaning, hard to isolate key points, hard to know how to respond.

The same thing happens when there is not enough white space in our lives. When we steal time from the white space to make another meeting, start another project, make another call, we end up distracted, confused, and reactive. Depending on our individual styles, we may get irritable, weepy, bossy, or simply forgetful, none of which saves time, makes money, or engenders effective collaboration. Ironically, we may start saying “no” to things we’d like to say “yes” to and vice versa. Play feels like work, work loses its charm, work-life balance quits us.

However, if we expand or maintain white space in times of great challenge, we will often notice that unexpected opportunities and solutions arise. When a problem is too big or complex to be solved with available resources, we have to go to another level to solve it. White space helps us find that other level and bring work-life balance back, when pushing harder and moving faster won’t work.

I’m renewing my commitment to white space for the next few weeks. We are releasing a book later this month, and it’s tempting to work around the clock to keep up with all the project demands . But I know too well the costs of that choice. So I’m doing yoga, taking time for music and reading, and making myself available for a chat with a friend. This is not self-indulgence. It’s not even self-care. It’s cultivating the white space that I need in order to maintain work-life balance, show up, serve, and prosper in every aspect of my life and work.

If there is not enough white space in your life to sustain work-life balance, or if, like me, you need more white space than usual right now, take some time to revise your commitments and declare a moratorium on promises for a few days.

Has this article inspired you to consciously create white space? Share your ideas on how you will maintain white space in your life. Your idea may inspire another lawyer!


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