Posted on Jan 31, 2010

White space time management

The naïve approach to graphic design is usually to include as much information as possible on a given canvas. White space is nothing more than unused space, ready to be filled with more graphics and copy. However, this is obviously a bad strategy since all it does is confuse the viewer and obscure the message. This is why Google became king of search, and why Apple keeps being awesome.

Similarly, the naïve time management strategy is to fit in as much work and meetings in a schedule as possible. The person with the busiest calendar is clearly very good at managing his time and responsibilities. Or is he?

There is a difference between busy following a schedule, and busy solving a problem. This is essentially the same as a design busy presenting information and a design conveying a message.

Strangely, the concept of simplicity is never the natural state but always the result of carefully considered choices. Just as a design process should be about removing clutter until the bare essence is left, time management should be about removing appointments. Not adding new ones where they fit.

White space is a powerful element, necessary for creating dynamics between the essential components of a design. In the same way, free time is essential for effective time management. Leisure time works in your favor when alternated with creative problem solving. Mindlessly adding more work is thus nothing else than adding clutter.

True productiveness is just as much a product of free time, as of hard work. This is why the most creative people always tend to have hobbies, read books, write and travel — while the mediocre majority complain about being busy.


  • Erik Frisk says:

    Wow, very insightful. Have never though of “effective use of time” in that way. People, and I include myself here, tend to dump stuff in their schedules until it fills up (and starts to come apart at the seams), rather than thinking of it in terms of strategy.

  • Monik says:

    Fascinating, indeed! So, now I hope I’ll see more white space in your calendar? :D

  • Ehsan says:

    I believe we have discussed this topic once before dear brother, but now when I see your thoughts in plain black text on a massive white digital sheet I really appreciate what you want to say. The parallel with time management and spare time was brilliant!

    With the chance of this sounding to paradoxical: if you have more white space in your calender please don’t hesitate to schedule some more inspiring blog posts in it… :P