June 26, 2015

Inside Contactually: Whitespace

One of the biggest productivity dangers in life is getting sucked up in the urgent, at the sacrifice of the important. We spend too much of our day in firefighting mode, responding to whatever's in our inbox and whoever has a question or a need from us.

We don't spend enough time doing what's important -- building the business.

You may be familiar with the idea of a Maker's Schedule and a Manager's Schedule. That is best applied to differentiate how someone who is primarily a maker works vs someone who is primarily a manager. Managers run by their calendar. Makers (developers, creatives, etc) sometimes don't even see that there was anything on their otherwise-empty calendar.

The issue we faced is that managers need to make sometimes too. How does that fit in when every 30 minute block of your calendar is booked up by one or another thing?

Inside Contactually, we introduced among our team the idea of whitespace. I know that in sales roles, there is sometimes admin time to answer email. Or other roles have core hours where they are willing to have meetings.

Whitespace is different.

Whitespace is:


It has to be 2-4 hours. It has to be in your calendar. It can be moved, but cannot be broken up or interrupted for a "quick 30."


Get out of the office. I go to a hotel lobby nearby. Unplug from email, chat, Skype, and phone. Put on music.

This is for important time

This is not to clear out your email inbox. This is your time to focus on the big rocks in the business.

Have clear outcomes

Come in with a clear list of outcomes you want to achieve. It could be building a pitch deck, sales comp, model. It could be something less definitive, like "Think about XYZ" or "Come up with a plan for..."

I've been doing this for the past few months -- it's been incredibly helpful, and I hope you give it a try too.