When Effort is Not Enough: How WhiteSpace Improved My 5K TimePublished June 24, 2019
A couple of years ago, I decided to take on a new challenge: running.
I’m a big guy, so the thought of slogging away on pavement for what could seem to be an endless amount of time was not exciting; however, after training for a few weeks, I found immense enjoyment by beating my previous runs. By effort alone, I was able to shave 5-7 minutes off my 5K time in about 4-6 weeks. But then, for the next few weeks, my times didn’t improve. I hit a wall. No matter how hard I tried, I was not able to see any improvement and started to lose the joy of running.
For a week, I decided to not run in order to figure out what was going on. That decision changed everything.
Juliet Funt would describe the decision to pause and reflect as “Constructive WhiteSpace.”
WhiteSpace is “a strategic pause taken between activities.” This pause allows us to both recuperate from exhausting work and construct new strategies and develop innovative solutions to both simple and complex challenges.
It’s necessary to create intentional pauses to ensure we are not just putting out fires but innovating solutions.
With ever-growing tasks lists, a litany of meetings, and project deadlines, it’s necessary to create intentional pauses to ensure we are not just putting out fires but innovating solutions.
Here’s a WhiteSpace framework that has been helpful for me:
Stop and ask yourself 2 questions. Why am I doing this? What problem am I solving?
Answering the “why” gives fuel to your driving force and your “what” clearly defines the problem your trying to solve. We aren’t working just to complete a series of tasks, but we work to solve problems. For me, I wanted to keep up with my kids on the playground (why) and decrease my 5K time (what).
Pausing is the recuperative. Sometimes, we just need to take a breath.
Learn ways to combat the problem you’re solving by inviting others into the process.
There are many ways to solve a problem. You have to figure out which one works for your skillset and energy.
Gather a few people, have conversations and see what you learn. For me, I read articles about decreasing my time and sought advice from people I knew who run. Who can you invite to help solve your challenge?
Develop a laser-focused strategy.
With your new data, create the plan to solve the problem.
For me, my time was stalled because of my form bad. The longer I could stay in my corrected form, I expended less energy and could go farther. Where does your strategy need to shift? How do your form or work habits need to change?
With renewed focus and energy, attack the challenge with everything you have.
Over the next few weeks, I was able to continue to decrease my time. I pursued the right problem with the right strategy and continued to see results.
This process took about a week for me. Depending on the problem you are solving, your recuperation might be shorter or longer. Try pausing for 2 minutes to gather yourself in between meetings. Process with people for 10-15 minutes during a lunch break.
What’s most important is that you create strategic pauses and intentional time in your day. WhiteSpace creates an environment where you can take a breath and gain perspective.
When my effort became the jail cell of progress, a little bit of WhiteSpace was the key to unlock the door of improvement. The next time you find yourself stuck and effort alone isn’t solving the problem, try creating some constructive WhiteSpace.
You might be surprised at the breakthroughs that come in the midst of a simple pause.
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About the Author
Jared C. Wilkins is a Group Life Pastor and champion for community life. He leads leaders in developing strategies for creating authentic mid-sized and small group communities at Willow Creek Community Church. He served as a teaching pastor in North Carolina before coming to Willow Creek.