How Zero White Space 10x’d My Productivity

What the heck is a zero white space Sarah? Now in case, you're wondering if I've eaten a tube of Smarties and then hit the keyboard… Let me explain… But before I do, remember there's a free 5-Day Sprint Planner at the end of the post.

As you know I'm a productive person. I get stuff done. Because if I don't do things, who will do them for me? The world doesn't owe me a living, so each day I get up and do what I need to do to live the life of my dreams. An entrepreneur is defined by what they do, not by what they don't.

I'm probably twice as productive as the average person because of my beliefs. When I feel like I can't get up to slay the dragon one more time, I read a bit of Steven Pressfield's War of Art out loud and I'm fired up and re-motivated.

However, in the past, I've felt that I was wasting time.

I had concerns that I was losing time and not as productive as I could be. I felt the tick of the clock more profoundly than I've ever felt it before. Do you remember the old management adage – if you can't measure it, you can't manage it? I had an epiphany; I realised I was just using a diary to account for my time and I frequently added in things retrospectively.  How could I spot the time leaks when I didn't document all that I did or more to the point all that I planned to do?

Welcome to Zero White Space

When researching for my planner last year, I discovered the Best Self Journal. Its simple elegance appealed to my Spartan nature and it was here I found out about Zero White Space in your diary, or in my case, my journal.

Zero White Space is simply planning out everything you do in your day, and writing it down. You account for all of your working time.

Just add it to the time that you intend to complete the task. I email triage and check my emails every day at 10am, 2pm and 7pm. So I add that to the page. I stop for lunch at 1pm most days, so I add that in. I like to stretch my legs around 11 am, and that's usually 15 minutes, so I add that in. I also spend about 20 minutes at 11.15am mucking around on Facebook pretending it's work. Everything goes on the schedule.

  • I check my online scheduler and add anything that's there.
  • Then I add in my client work, and my own tasks.
  • I make note of who I contact, and I schedule that activity in too.

I can do anything I want to do, so long as it's on the schedule.

You won't be surprised when I say this has 10x'd my productivity. My biggest time sucks were replying to email. So now I outsource it to a virtual assistant. Anything I need is in my inbox at 10am, she replies to the rest on my behalf. Marketing my content also took up a lot of time, so I reviewed the tools that I use and found some like Missinglttr that gave me exactly what I wanted. Of course, I can outsource this aspect too. For now, I like using the tools myself and studying the data.

Zero white space only works when your dreams are bigger than your excuses.

I have more time for video. Which is tough considering my intense dislike of it :). I also noticed in the areas where I was a community leader, I wasn't giving enough of my time. I soon rectified this.

When you use the Best Self Journal you'll find that you can quickly see a pattern in how you work, where your time leaks are and where you can gain hours of your life. You'll notice which areas of social media are taking up more time than they deserve, and you might outsource more as I do.

I've noticed that not only has my productivity increased, so has my creativity. Why? Because I schedule it in to make sure that I have time for creative thinking! In the past, this would be the first thing to get canceled. Now I just stick to the plan and think during thinking time.

I read more books. Why? Because I schedule more reading time. I can instantly see in my journal when I haven't read for a few days.

I'm more grateful. The Best Self Journal starts and ends the day with Gratitude. This means I schedule in the power of gratitude, and we all know that's a performance enhancer!

The Downside to Zero White Space.

The No White Space has triggered people who follow me on social media, who don't understand the zero white space concept so they think I'm “too busy for them”. This is code for they don't want to book a session but they want the answer to their question, in private, or better still for me to do it for them for free because it's only 5 minutes. Zero White Space helps you protect your boundaries.

Other people are triggered by accounting for their time. They don't want to do it. If they share how little they actually do, they may feel bad and do more…

And some feel tracking their time using the zero white space method stops them from being spontaneous. They of course know this before they even try!

The truth is simple: If it's on the schedule, it gets done. If it's not, it doesn't…

Other than people not understanding the concept, there's no downside to accounting for every moment in your working day. There's a crazy notion that you can't use social media, or you can't talk to people or reply to emails. Of course you can. Just add it to your schedule. You'll find that when you start time tracking like this you suddenly have time for exercise, walking the dog and all the other things you are “too busy” to do.

If you like excuses more than you like running your own business, being the boss, and leading the life you've always dreamed about then don't bother trying something like this. But if you'd like to be more productive, more accountable to yourself, and do more of the things that matter to you, then give it a go.

All you have to lose is your ability to waste time.


P.S If you get a copy of the Best Self Journal (and I highly recommend that you do) I may get a small commission for recommending it. I promise to squander this on more copies of the journal to ensure I never lose another minute 😉

P.P.S Share from this box to grab your copy of my 5-day Sprint planner

Sarah Arrow

About the author

Sarah Arrow created the popular 30-day blogging challenge back in 2007. Since then 750,000+ business owners have learned to blog and grow their business through her content, her challenge and her blogging books.

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