Space can actually be the glue that holds us together. It is where the magic happens, when we let go of doing and actually give ourselves space to breathe.
Here are seven ways to create space when there are so many demands on our time:
1. Say “no” without guilt.
Being a good-hearted person means that people often assume I won’t mind giving them my time. Just five minutes doesn’t seem like much. When hundreds of emails or messages come in to the office every week with “just five minutes” of my time requested, it is no longer “just” anything. It can feel exhausting to my own wellbeing.
Sometimes I make a quick phone call to help someone out, rather than spend more time on the computer. More often than not, though, I have learned that I simply have to say “no”, in order to have room for the things I most want to say “yes” to. I am grateful for the workflow, definitely, but even with assistance, I cannot say yes to everything.
We owe it to ourselves to honor our own needs and joy, or we won’t be good for anyone, including those we most love. Saying “no” without guilt takes practice to master, but so does any healthy habit.
It is OK to say no.
2. Choose faith, not fear.
This may seem like an odd one for creating space, but it’s an important one.
So many of our actions can be driven by fear. We say yes to things our heart doesn’t want, worrying that we’ll not have enough money or miss an opportunity if we don’t say “yes”. By courageously trusting instead, we don’t waste precious time or energy serving fear, hence allowing a more open flow to us.
I often receive suggestions of things I “should” do, particularly in the direction of my career. There are plenty of ways I could go. Some of the things I am capable of creating could be fabulous products. But if my heart were not into them, it would not be authentic or joyful. Instead I choose to surrender, grow in faith, and create space to allow the guidance and creativity to flow from my heart. And it always does.
Without that space, though, we don’t hear that guidance and miss the most important voice of all: our own heart’s longing and the joy that follows by honoring that.
The more we choose faith over fear, the clearer our heart’s voice is heard.
3. Completely unplug often.
The Internet is a wonderful tool for global connection through communities of like-minded people. I truly value everyone who is a part of my own online family. But computers and technology are only one part of our lives. In modern times that one part has taken unnecessary dominance.
To commit to being unplugged, there are a few things I do. One is that I don’t do emails via my phone at all, unless I am away travelling. I don’t have it set up for easy access. I actually have to manually go in to check them when I’m travelling. My phone is a phone, a text messenger, and a camera. That is all. Very occasionally I’ll post to Instagram via the phone, but usually not even that.
Instead, the computer or tablet gets my attention when I am in my office, which is not every day either. We have an auto-responder message from the office that explains this. For some people, this may create a fear of missing out on something important, but if we don’t set our own boundaries, no one else will.
Just as computers crept into our lives, eventually becoming a new habit, so can we return to increased time unplugged. It often takes conscious choice to break an old habit and create a new one, but it’s worth stepping away from technology more often.
Nature and fresh air are not only incredibly beautiful, they are our home. We must embrace them often for wellbeing. Real life laughter and shared experiences are always richer than online ones too. We just have to create the space for these.
Consciously choose to unplug regularly.
4. Schedule it in.
I don’t like that I sometimes have to actually schedule space in. But the unplanned time within that plan helps return me to an element of spontaneity. I have golden, real life friendships.
But I want downtime too, family time, with no plans other than slow mornings and the choice to do whatever our hearts guide on that day. So we keep a couple of days a week as sacred time. Those are the days when life feels the most joyful.
Often it just means hanging at home with music playing, doing puzzles, riding our bikes, or whatever. Other times we are out and about somewhere brand new. The enjoyment is in the choice and the lack of plans.
Either way those days are almost always completely unplugged, without checking emails, social media, or anything. Same is the case when I create moments of solitude away from work or family time. It is offline. Being unplugged is freeing.
The more we honor that commitment to space, the more life then gives it to us unexpectedly, through changes in plans, for example. If you find yourself with unplanned space, don’t be tempted to fill it. Take those times as direct gifts, to have a moment of timelessness, fresh air, and some ‘me’ time.
Remain committed to time for yourself and to the things that bring the greatest joy.
5. Be completely present.
Even if the calendar is very full, we can live stress free by remaining wholly present in whatever we’re doing on that day. Stress only comes when we look at the calendar and feel all of those demands on our time.
When I make an appointment, then think no more about it until it is the present moment, there is no stress. Only gratitude flows instead, that I have a life full of many positive choices and people.
We don’t use the word busy anymore either. Full tends to move us more towards gratitude. Busy just points towards stress. Full also means I have to say no, without guilt, because my schedule is actually full (even if that includes a couple of scheduled days with no plans).
Keep attention on life unfolding in the very moment.
6. Respect the gift of time.
Facing the fact that death is a part of our journey does not have to be confronting. It can be inspiring instead and a great reminder that our time is limited. From the moment we are born, our time remaining is constantly decreasing. It is not replaceable. So use the reminder of our inevitable death as a tool for living. Respect the gift time: our own and that of others.
It helps to ask ourselves often: Is this how I want to be spending my time? Is this a good use of my time? Sometimes the best use of our time is to just be, to do nothing, and allow ourselves some peaceful time out. Sometimes the best thing is to get active in a constructive, non-stressful way.
Just as our time is precious, so is that of others. Treat their time as a gift too. If others don’t treat your own accordingly, question if that relationship is actually healthy or necessary in your life.
Why is their time any more valuable than yours? If someone constantly keeps you waiting or treats your time disrespectfully, the choice is your own as to whether you keep giving it to them or not. Letting go of such associations creates space.
Recognize that time is precious.
7. Have no clutter.
Choosing to travel often and live as simply as possible, we don’t own a large home. But any size home can feel spacious if there is a commitment to no clutter, just as a large home can feel small with clutter.
To support no clutter, put a limit on things—even coat hangers. If a new piece of clothing comes in, one must go. If I need new coat hangers, I know I have more clothes than I need. So I give away something instead. Sometimes I have considered selling them, but then I look at the value of my time.
Selling my clothes will add more time on the computer. I also survived thanks to the generosity of others when I was living through the hunger and homelessness of poverty. So it is with that volition that I give to charity shops, to pass that kindness onto others who are now finding themselves in need.
I cull books too by giving them away, much to many people’s horror. I’ve long ago given up keeping them just to show an impressive library of the thousands I’ve read. I only keep those that I love so much I will read again or lend to friends. Initially it was difficult to accept that many of my books were just stale energy in our home, as they were just sitting there for years once read. Now I love the habit of giving them away. It shares the wisdom onward instead.
Uncluttered physical space gives the mind space to breathe and the heart space to be heard. The commitment to creating space is always heard. It is rewarded with more spontaneous synchronicity unfolding, like running into friends with no effort in planning needed or solutions appearing out of nowhere, ones that would have taken an immense amount of time and research if applied.
But first we must acknowledge our need for space and have the courage to set boundaries that allow for it.
I wish you space to breathe, space to laugh, space to receive, and space to be.
*Note – This article was originally published on Bronnie Ware.