"Real quiet is presence - not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise." ~Gordon Hempton.
It's quite possible that this post won't receive the kind of attention and social action that might be afforded to something on programmatic media or native advertising. I hope I'm wrong about that, because this might be one of the more important ideas I've posted in the 14 years I've written The Drift.
Into our crowded, noisy, attention-deprived industry and business world, I'd like to reintroduce the concept of white space. It's the hour you don't fill by slogging through your in-box at the beginning of your day; the at-first-awkward pause you refuse to fill with chatter in a client meeting; it's the opportunity for real human connection where 25 PowerPoint slides used to be. White space is where great ideas, true engagement and actual persuasion and growth can happen. There's too little of it in our world, and we have only ourselves to blame.
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I am as guilty as anyone. I fill others' in-boxes with emails - including this one - even as I use up valuable white space trying to clear my own. At my worst, I over-program meetings and pack too much information into messages or presentations. But I'm doing my best to bring white space back into my life and into my work with people like you and companies like yours. Because I know it's only in white space that I create real, lasting value for those around me. Here's a start:
- Your first 90 seated minutes are the most valuable of your day. Most of us burn it all by reverse-navigating our inboxes. Instead, intentionally schedule thinking and creative time; write something that's not email; schedule a face-to-face meeting or phone call during which you will be truly present.
- Force-feed some white space into each conversation - whether with a customer, an employee or a family member - by asking them how they feel or what they think about a topic or an idea. Don't interrupt - instead take notes and then see if you can paraphrase what you heard to the speaker's satisfaction.
- Run your next business meeting with just one slide. On that slide, in no more than 30 words, pose a collaborative question. For instance, "How might we put our company's technology to work in new ways that would help your company start new relationships with your customers?" Tell those present that this is the one and only topic of your meeting and the only visual you've prepared. Let everything else happen on whiteboards and paper.
- Run your next internal meeting in a "no-phone-zone." Fight through the paranoia and sense of short term loss. It's worth it.
Fresh air is what allows us to breathe. Quiet is what allows us to think. Real attention - giving it and getting it - is what allows us to grow anything worth having. I used this morning's white space to write this post. Was it worth it?