Home > Method, Personal > How to manage your personal whitespace

How to manage your personal whitespace

In the HBR article “Managing the Whitespace” Mark C. Maletz and Nitin Nohria defined the whitespace as

the large but mostly unoccupied territory in every company where rules are vague, authority is fuzzy, budgets are nonexistent, and strategy is unclear — and where, as a consequence, entrepreneurial activity that helps reinvent and renew an organization takes place.

And the blackspace

encompasses all the business opportunities that a company has formally targeted and organized itself to capture.

Taking this whitespace, blackspace, metaphor to our personal life I can think about those short hours sometimes only minutes when we are not focused on our well defined daily tasks and chores. This is the place where we are not our job, dad or mom. It is the place where we take some risk, open new possibilities for growth, and create new social networks. For some of us it is blogging, for others it is developing a second career, maybe experimenting with the stock market, or trying to write a novel. I see friends taking sports coaching training, building a web site, developing expertise in energy efficient home constructions (and blogging about it too).
Similar reasons drives people to operate in the whitespace as in corporates: great uncertainly, can’t take on such projects at work, and when their main career seems going well and there is no justification for making drastic changes.

Although navigating in the whitespace requires a new compass, the rewards from successful voyages can be great

So how to manage your whitespace project?
The authors suggest setting several conditions for successful completion of whitespace projects in the corporate world, most are relevant to individuals as well:

  • Establish Legitimacy – we usually get support for our blackspace activities automatically, but when it comes to whitespace project things could be trickier. Legitimacy can be established in multiple ways, the first is by drawing lines connecting skills used in blackspace activities to the ones needed for the whitespace project. The second way is to demonstrate what you are willing to sacrifice in order to meet your new whitespace goals, e.g. sleep, not going out, cutting your spending, and etc. Once legitimacy established, support could come in the forms of getting the free time or motivating at or close to your point of burnout. Since we are talking here about other family members the key elements here are trust and visibility
  • Mobilizing Resources – beg, borrow, and steal(time) to get what you need! Taking little time every day adds up, asking for little help from many people becomes a lot – like fund raising – use your social network on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+
  • Show Quick Results to build momentum – find the least path of resistance, create prototype, go for the low hanging fruits first. Once you have an accomplishment at your disposal, it is easier to ask for more resources and harder to kill the initiative. It also help to prevent burnout (happens when little or no progress is made despite a lot of effort)
  • Have Fun – it does not have to be done for the sake of earning more money or developing a second career. Whitespace projects can be very fulfilling, enhance your social life, and contribute to your personal growth.

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In some cases a whitespace project can lead you onto a whole new path and it worth considering moving it to the blackspace.

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