White Space Fridays

Well, I’ve been planning my “White Space Fridays” since reading an article about personal white space last year from the time-keeping software company, Function Fox. The author recommended that business owners take a day off during the week to recharge and find perspective. Well, my first week back to work, while it not a full week, I was already feeling the need for some personal time. 

But the purpose of my White Space Fridays isn’t to run away from issues that I’ve had during the week. It’s a dedicated time slot for me to take some time for myself. But what does that really mean? And would I know how to do that?

I easily worked 60+ hours a week. I’d work eight or nine hours at the office and then another two or three hours at home — sometimes into the early morning. I worked every Sunday, getting ready for Monday. Sometimes I’d work the entire weekend. I’d sit down to watch TV and flip open my computer, planning to check out Facebook and spend another two hours on email and working. Proposals, RFPs, business planning — all those things where I needed concentration and quiet — I did at home.

Saturdays were spent cleaning the house, the bathrooms, the kitchen — sometimes just cleaning the clutter in the kitchen from the week. I’d have a stack of mail, magazines and catalogs — it took me two hours to go through that stuff. Tom helped out by doing the grocery shopping in the morning — sometimes before I’d even get out of bed. Then we’d go to church on Saturday evening and to dinner, sometimes to the casino or somewhere else to unwind. More often than not, we came home after church.

By Sunday I would be exhausted. Sometimes I spent the day with uncombed hair and sweat pants, curled up on the couch, watching Lifetime movies. I’d usually make a good home-cooked dinner for Tom, since he didn’t usually get that the rest of the week. And I’d work. I’d clean up my emails or do something. It would be RARE for Tom and I to plan anything on a Sunday, unless it was Super Bingo that we volunteer for once a month at St. Gregory’s. On occasion we’d go to my Mom’s for dinner, or if it was summer, go to my sister’s pool for the day.

And then it would start all over again. I never felt like I had enough sleep, never felt like I ever got anything done, and if Tom and I had the choice to stay home or go out, we’d choose stay home every time. Because we’re both exhausted. Something had to change. And the cancer had a way of putting everything into perspective.

So how did I actually do it? The first thing I did was not rush to get back to work. I trust everyone who works for me, especially the managers. They care about MarketSpace as much as I do. So I was able to heal and think things through. And part of my new philosophy included White Space Fridays. I explained my new schedule as I came back to work part-time. I know they’re confused and probably thinking this is temporary with my part-time weeks here in February.

So yesterday, everyone thinks I had a test or a doctor’s appointment. I didn’t correct them. They’ll get used to it. I told them that I could not be part of a 4 pm RFQ call, because I was unavailable the entire day. Now, I plan to be available for important client meetings or calls.  I won’t neglect what is important and my responsibility. But once everyone gets used to my schedule, I’m hoping it’s fairly easy to take this day. I just couldn’t be part of this call this past Friday, because I had already made plans.

I got together with two of my good friends, Gert and Val and we went to Washington County (about 45 minutes or so) to have lunch with my brother, Father Bob. We had lunch at a fantastic restaurant off of the Southpointe exit on Rt. 79, called Jacksons’ Restaurant located in the Hilton Garden Inn. One of Father Bob’s parishioners managed the restaurant and we had the opportunity to meet him. After lunch we spent the afternoon at the Meadows Casino. We got back to Cranberry about 5:00 pm, and what a fantastic day with my girlfriends!!!! I have to admit that I checked my email frequently throughout the day, and I got home and immediately flipped open the laptop. But there was nothing urgent in my inbox. I did get an urgent call from a very important client around 5:30 pm. She called my home line, so I knew it was important and I, of course, took the call.

Any other Friday, I would be close to a coma, completely drained. But, I was in such a good mood — about 7:30 pm I got a huge splurge of energy and ended up getting so much done before I even went to bed. I am hoping that over time, my husband will see a change in me, my staff will see a change in me, and everyone I know will see someone who is happy and takes the time to be part of their lives. I want to be like I used to. Ask people how their weekend was and be genuinely interested in what they did. Know what my staff is doing this weekend, and know whose grandmother is sick, or who child said their first words, or what place my niece finished on her swim relay — take time to share with those around me.

So wish me luck on my new plan. I wonder what I’ll do next Friday? Hmmm… maybe paint pottery….

I pray: Dear God, help me use this time for myself to recharge, re-energize and renew my sense of life. Please let all who love me truly notice that I’m more patient, more attentive, more caring and more engaged, and less angry, self-serving and short-tempered. Help me be a better person, better leader and a better example for my staff and everyone who looks up to me. Amen.

Let me know your thoughts!