Written by Kristin Harrington

One of the very best parts of Springtime is the first opportunity of the calendar year for a genuine break. Some of us hold our calendars to align with the school year, while others use the sunshine and blossoms as a reason to schedule the first vacation ‘away’ from work.

Whether you’re one of the many “Spring Breakers” heading away for vacation or hanging around home this year, I have a challenge: Plan a week this Spring to embrace white space.

𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘸𝘩𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘴𝘱𝘢𝘤𝘦, 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘴𝘬?

White space is dedicated time where you can pause from work and every other commitment on your plate to allow your mind to wander to new and different. It can be an hour or two (or even a week – hint, hint) to mentally rest, recuperate, and think constructively and creatively about the bigger picture and the future. It’s your brain’s time to recharge through cycles of rest and creativity. There’s nothing like the renewal of spring to renew your mind.

I’ve always struggled with the ‘working on vacation’ dilemma. Whether I stay home or get away, I could improve at switching my brain on and off on demand. While I love the often much-needed rest a vacation offers, I still find myself drawn back to work. Nevertheless, failing to step away (ever) isn’t great for anyone. Your brain needs time to disengage from a topic to view it again with new excitement and energy. What is a possible solution?

Answer: white space. I entered this year’s Spring Break with a plan of a different kind. Instead of feeling the push-pull tension of working or not working, I decided to work but differently. Here are some suggestions for embracing a white space week:

Be thoughtful with your time. To prepare for my white space week, I got a line-up of books to read that will serve my clients in new and different ways. Importantly, however, they’re not aligned with a particular client challenge or business-as-usual problem. I’ll use the week to dig into topics that interest me and stimulate my brain but that offer enough change of pace to allow for an actual break.

Embrace “old school” ways of working. I don’t know about you, but technology always draws me back into working. If my phone is open or my computer is up, I’ll glance at my email or peruse the latest Slack discussion. I can’t be trusted to break with my typical tech-fueled routines. That’s why I’ve packed a yellow legal pad and a pen this week. I’m jotting down my notes and insights by hand to minimize distractions and stay committed to my intended ‘break.’

Work on the business, not in the business. Business expert Michael Gerber coined this phrasing nearly 40 years ago, highlighting the difference between managing the everyday execution of the organization and devising the overarching strategy. All too often, we devote the majority of our time to daily execution and putting out fires. Use this white space break to, instead, think meaningfully about the future of your work.

I will work hard this Spring Break to work differently, finding joy and peace in unplugging but not. I will rest while creating and thinking without pressure. If you take me up on this challenge, I’d love to hear from you! Please shoot me a message to share where your white space led you. Let’s inspire one another.

Founded in 2004, Lead Star is the company behind New York Times best-sellers SPARKLeading from the Front, and Bet on You. Lead Star supports professionals to reach new levels of success through an innovative coaching program, Year to Rise.