Juliet Funt is the author of A Minute to Think. In this book, she explains how to reclaim creativity, conquer busyness, and do great work

She is also a speaker and consultant. She has advised companies such as Spotify, National Geographic, Vans, Costco, Pepsi, Nike, Sephora, and ESPN.

In this episode, she explains the power of white space to improve your life. White space is the precious time in your day when nothing is scheduled and there is whitespace on your calendar.

This is the time when you can reflect, cogitate, and innovate. What a concept! She has provided the ultimate intellectual reason to go surfing.

There are places in this interview where the sound is a little hollow. I considered asking her to re-do the interview, but then I thought that this would decrease the amount of white space in her life.

Which is exactly contrary to the point of the interview.

BTW, her father created Candid Camera, a hidden camera TV series featuring playing practical jokes on unsuspecting people. Our interview starts there.

Enjoy this interview with Juliet Funt:

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Transcript of Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People podcast with the remarkable Juliet Funt:

Guy Kawasaki:

Hello, it’s Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. This episode’s remarkable guest is Juliet Funt. She is the author of A Minute to Think. In this book, she explains how to reclaim creativity, conquer business, and do great work.

She is also a speaker and consultant. She has advised companies such as Spotify, National Geographic, Vans, Costco, Pepsi, Nike, Sephora, and ESPN.

In this episode, she explains the power of white space to improve your life. White space is that precious time in your day when nothing is scheduled. This is when you can reflect, cogitate, and innovate. What a concept! I think she has provided the ultimate intellectual reason to go surfing.

Guy Kawasaki:

There are places in this interview where the sound is a little hollow. I considered asking her to redo the interview, but then I thought that this would decrease the amount of white space in her life and mine, which is exactly contrary to the point of the interview.

By the way, her father created Candid Camera, a hidden camera TV series featuring playing practical jokes on unsuspecting people. Our interview starts there.

I’m Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. And now, here is the remarkable Juliet Funt.

Juliet Funt:

My dad, Allen Funt, was the creator of the very first-ever reality television show. It led to the entire genre of everything we know of as reality TV. He started it as a show called Candid Microphone as a radio show before there was television.

He would interview soldiers to send messages back home to their loved ones. But when he was recording them, there was a little red light that would come on. So first they do practice, no red lights, soldiers were great. Then they turn the little red light on, and the soldiers would clam up because they knew they were being recorded. So he started disconnecting the light and he started realizing that when they were being recorded and they didn’t know they’re being recorded, then all of their real emotions and real stories came through, and this idea of recording people without them knowing it went from Candid Microphone to Candid Camera.

He caught me a couple of times myself. I’ve been a subject too on the show. But it was really beautiful. It started me in a real habit of watching people.

Guy Kawasaki:

When he caught you, what did he do? Put a dead lizard in the salad at dinner and see what your reaction would be? I mean, how did he do it to you?

Juliet Funt:

He caught me twice. One was just a conversation, which when he did kids, there was no stunt. It was just a conversation. So some of the most famous pieces of Candid Camera ever like The Guardian Angel or Cinderella, these very famous episodes with just little beautiful children, there was no stunt. It was just a conversation.

He did that with me once for a movie called Money Talks, where he talked about what’s the good thing about being rich and poor, and should people want to be rich or poor. We just had a really long conversation, but I didn’t know that I was on camera at the time.

And then once he did catch me, I was coming after school to a shoe store. They were shooting in a shoe store. I’ve never told this story, and he said that the crew felt that his kid should stop coming to the set and he recorded my reaction of being disappointed to not come anymore. It’s a little more malicious than my dad usually went with, but that was the other one.

Guy Kawasaki:

Because so much of this is about white space, you’ve got to define white space for people as a basis.

Juliet Funt:

Sure. Sure. It’s really easy for people to grasp it if they think about the foundational metaphor of the book, which is starting a fire. If you imagine that you’re starting a fire and you want to get all your right ingredients, so you get firestarter and wood and pine needles and newspaper in, if you just push them all into a big dense pile, no matter how good what you have is, it will never ignite, but if you add space and if you add that oxygenating passage in between, then that little spark that you are starting with can ignite, and we are the same in our work, in our creativity, in our ability to be strategic. We need oxygenating space throughout the day.

We call it white space because it came from the days of looking at executive calendars back in the day when I was coaching executives, realizing that when there was white, when there was actually unscheduled open time on a paper calendar, that that was a key indication of how much possibility that they could hold. So white space is the time without assignment.

It’s the moments, half a second, one second, ten seconds, an hour, where you look at your day and there’s nothing that you are planning to do, and you can be fluid and improvisational, or you can recover, or you can take a minute to think, which is this very rare thing that we don’t do anymore.

Guy Kawasaki:

But can’t you make the case that if you block off your calendar, you have scheduled white space?

Juliet Funt:

Yes, you can time-block white space. That’s absolutely one application of the word. It might not be the safest word because they don’t know it. So you might want to write strategic time, or thinking time, or planning time. I have a client in New York who just puts “big data” because nobody knows what that means, but they won’t ring during “big data” time.

Let me tell you, Jeff Weiner, Phil Knight, the book is filled with people talking about how you show me a person who’s really achieved a lot, and I will show you a person who takes thinking time as a for granted part of the structure of their day.

Guy Kawasaki:

Do you know the concept of MVP, minimum viable product?

Juliet Funt:

No. Is it a little bit like Seth Godin’s spec? Do you know Seth Godin’s concept of spec?

Guy Kawasaki:

God. I just interviewed him two days ago. That did not come up. No. What’s Seth Godin’s spec?

Juliet Funt:

If I’m restating it correctly this one of my favorite new pieces was, that there’s spec. If you’re in manufacturing, you have to build a car to spec. You have to meet a certain standard, but you don’t have to go beyond that standard. There’s a level where this is good enough and you put the car out the door. You don’t just keep sitting there noodling with perfection. Is that a little bit like minimum?

Guy Kawasaki:

Yes, that’s much the same. In the context of startups, it’s saying, in other words, ship the damn product.

Juliet Funt:

Right. Right.

Guy Kawasaki:

Don’t wait for perfection or try to achieve perfection. Yeah. Anyway, I have a new… MVP, if you say MVP to anybody who’s in tech entrepreneurship, they will immediately know what you’re talking about, okay?

Juliet Funt:

Mm-hmm. Got it. Okay.

Guy Kawasaki:

It’s like the buzzword. Eric Reese and Steve Blank. So I think you should get a concept called MVW, which, guess what that means. So what’s your minimum viable white space? You can make that a fame concept.

Juliet Funt:

See, I thought you were going to say minimum viable work or minimum viable workload because if we had a lower workload, we would naturally have more space. It’s the wasteful emails and meetings and decks and reports that are eating…We don’t have a space deficit because we don’t value it. We have a space deficit because we have to excavate it from all this junk that we push into our calendars, just kind of randomly applying our effort, and I think that’s a lot of what robs people.

Guy Kawasaki:

That’s better. So in a sense, you’re doing to use another buzz phrase. You’re doing zero-based budgeting of work.

Juliet Funt:

Mm-hmm.

Guy Kawasaki:

And work starts at zero and you add what’s minimally needed, as opposed to white space starts at zero and you add what’s minimally needed.

Juliet Funt:

Yes. I believe white space is there for everybody. We just have to excavate it, as I said, from underneath all this stuff. And it is very, very possible.

We work with teams a lot, so when you see teams do this together, twenty percent, fifteen percent, thirty percent reduction in garbage just because they have taken the time to think about things that they were previously tolerating and it’s that jump from complacency to action that I’m really inspired to get people to do right this minute while we’re in a redesign of work. This is the moment where everything is being redesigned, so we can break patterns that have been driving us crazy for decades if we take advantage of this opportunity right this minute.

Guy Kawasaki:

Let me just be devil’s advocate for a second. Not that I truly believe what I’m about to say, okay?

Juliet Funt:

Mm-hmm.

Guy Kawasaki:

But when Sheryl Sandberg had her book Lean In, one of the reactions was, “Yeah, sure, Sheryl, you’re worth two-billion-dollars. You have a nanny who has a personal assistant. You can lean in. You can lean in.”

Now one could say to you, “Well, fine. If you’re an executive and you have personal assistants and you have secretaries and you have this failings surround you to guard you on your time, then yeah, you can make time for white space, but I am a middle manager. I’m at the beck-and-call. I don’t have the ability to make white space.” So is there a Sheryl Sandberg effect here?

Juliet Funt:

Not for me. First of all, as an entrepreneur, you always have freedom. So I could be any level of entrepreneur, and I can still choose when I take white space, but you’re speaking to people who feel disempowered in the middle of an organization or a team or a community, where they alone value this and they don’t have anybody above them that’s giving them that tacit permission. That’s really, I think, the problem that I hear in your question, but it’s the entire structure of our work.

I took twenty years watching people to figure out how could a smaller role within a larger company do this for themselves.

Juliet Funt:

And so, the baby steps that we advocate, the training wheel uses of white space are not to take an executive length, an hour of white space on the calendar. That might be hard for a while. But can you take two seconds? Can you take a minute? Can you take five minutes to completely break that frenetic, hallucinated, urgent motion, and pause and recover? Absolutely do that.

There is not a person listening who cannot just… get a little oxygenation into the system and begin to see benefit from that. So we start with our own span of control, and that’s incredibly important, otherwise people would just give up.

Guy Kawasaki:

To take an extreme example, you’re saying that even an Amazon distribution center worker who’s being watched can create white space?

Juliet Funt:

I love that as the ultimate example. Let’s talk about how small white space insertion can become, all right? So you start in the beginning of the day. We want to insert a tiny moment of white space in the most important moment of the day, which is between opening your eyes and getting out of bed. Because there’s this tiny little moment where you could say, “I’m going to be purposeful and think about what kind of day I’m going to have, how I’m going to contribute, what I’m going to do or not.” And from that moment, you take that tiny little moment of thoughtfulness, and then you progress to just looking for forced white space throughout your day.

So forget about ever creating any. Just look for all the times when you’re waiting in line, when your computer is rebooting, when your phone is starting back up, where you would usually be in a pause anyway, but you’d probably reach for your phone to fill it.

Just abstaining from those filling behaviors, you could take advantage of spacious moments that are coming your way even if you didn’t create them, and then the next step would be the tool that we call the Wedge, which is just to imagine a little wedge of time, a tiny sip, a minute, two minutes, even thirty seconds where you’re separating activities that would have previously been connected.

So let’s say that worker has thirty-six boxes to load, and then they have to go do three checklists on the other side of the room. Maybe between finishing the boxes and pivoting to do the checklist, they take fifteen seconds to just… And then they turn, and then they walk, and maybe as they’re walking, they realized– we saw this with emergency nurses as we profiled them in the book– they’re walking down 100 hallways a day with no room to take a breath, so they realized that while their legs were walking, their mind could take a little hiatus. They could have a moment where they just… disconnected, went upward a little bit from work.

So yes, I don’t think I can think of a role where… if emergency room nurses can fit it in, in a moment of life and death, no more chances kind of constant urgency, I do believe anybody can.

Guy Kawasaki:

I’ve asked every guest how do they do their best and deepest thinking, and many of them say on a walk, in a shower, or driving.

Juliet Funt:

That’s all– that’s exactly perfect. Now, if you’re on a walk and you’re listening to a podcast and you’re tethered to something– let me give you the analogy that you’re quietly searching for, which is there’s different ways to use open time.

Meditation and mindfulness are when there is instruction presence. So meditation and mindfulness, you say you come back to your breath, you let go of thoughts, you think about your mantra, but there is still a tether. There’s the tether between your mind and a goal of coming back to something.

Juliet Funt:

White space to me is like a dog running through the park without a leash. It’s no tether, no agenda, no instruction. You go anywhere you want. So wherever your mind feels like a dog running leash free through the park, that’s white space; a walk, a run, in the shower, and anytime that you re-tether it, for instance, if you open a screen during any of those moments, you’ve immediately broken the spell of white space, because now you’re tethered to the screen.

Guy Kawasaki:

As I read your book, sometimes there’s five, ten minutes between waves. So you’re basically sitting out there looking at the horizon. Isn’t that white space?

Juliet Funt:

Sure. I bet you wish you had an aqua pen half the time because I bet that ideas come in those moments, and I bet that clarity about, “What kind of human do you want to be? When’s the last time you were of service? What kind of dad am I?” There’s all these things that don’t come up in the numbness of business, and as soon as you open, as soon as you open, whether it’s business thoughts or personal thoughts, of course I think that that’s a beautiful… I think all of surfing might be white space when you’re not really paddling away.

Guy Kawasaki:

It’s enforced because you can’t control having a wave coming in you.

Juliet Funt:

Right. Right.

Guy Kawasaki:

It’s not like you can check your inbox. There is no analogy. It’s whatever nature sends you, you deal with. It could be thirty seconds from now or ten minutes from now.

Juliet Funt:

I think of that as waiting for the wave. There are people who are waiting for work. They’re very interesting to watch. There’s a guy in the book named John, who’s a security guard at a Fortune 200 company, and because he’s a security guard, a lot of his job is waiting for something to happen.

It just so happens this company is very known for its innovative patents. And this guy, this security guard who, granted, is a very innovative thinker, but he has the record in the company for innovative patents. Two different times he was transferred from security into innovation where they thought he should be, and two times he rejected the promotion, went back to security, because there he had so much white space. He had so much waiting time that he could actually create ideas. Whereas the tasks in innovation, he said, kept him from being creative because there was too much agenda-driven action.

Guy Kawasaki:

Now I have the most cerebral justification for going surfing.

Juliet Funt:

There you go.

Guy Kawasaki:

That alone makes this episode worth it. What do you think of the old concept, yarn, and algorithm, and recommendation, that if you want something done, you ask a busy person to do it?

Juliet Funt:

Yeah. I think that that’s probably true because busy people are very…They get into a metronome of work. The next thing, and the next thing, the next thing, the next thing. So if you throw something in front of that train, it’s likely going to be picked up and carried forward.

I don’t think, though you’re asking, is that really good for the busy person to have no… So yes, does it work? Probably, yeah. Is it a healthy pattern that we’d like to propagate for exhausted people everywhere? No, I don’t think so, especially right now. We could take a right turn into burnout and it would be a long conversation. But it’s just frightening, frightening what that busy person looks like right now.

Guy Kawasaki:

Do you think that there is a gender difference in either the ability or the opportunity for men versus women to tap into white space?

Juliet Funt:

Yes, but it’s a cautious time to talk about binary, gender differences. So I’ll say that men tend to have trouble taking white space until they hit a wall of some kind. They have to have an event that frightens them; they have a divorce, they have a bankruptcy, they have a firing, and then they have a heart attack and it shocks them into realizing that there’s no space. So that’s a tendency that I’d say as a generalization. But women do have another tendency. I think we have a tendency to take on more and more, and then we take off our hat at work and we go home to be the CEO at home. We keep driving and filling.

Juliet Funt:

So I would say that if I were to lean into Y generalizations, I’d say that women have a harder time giving themselves permission to have space. They also have a much harder time giving themselves permission to have leisure. You don’t see men on the golf course going, “I don’t know if I deserve to be here. I wonder if I should be here.” So that’s just not that doesn’t come up.

Guy Kawasaki:

Well, also similar/related, I’ve never met a man who had imposter syndrome.

Juliet Funt:

Is that true? Wow.

Guy Kawasaki:

Ever. Well, think of one. Have you ever met a man who says, “I didn’t deserve this raise? I don’t deserve this promotion.”?

Juliet Funt:

Oh, that’s so interesting. Yeah. Yeah.

Guy Kawasaki:

Food for thought. Food for thought. So do you have a white space hall of fame? I know you mentioned Bill Gates. I don’t know if we can mention Bill Gates anymore, little bit of a tricky recommendation there.

Juliet Funt:

There are people who’ve been very public about it. Like John Cleese, in the book, from a creativity standpoint, I would say is the white glove standard of white space. He gives himself these very long stretches. He likes ninety minutes at a minimum for what he calls open mode when he’s creating. He says that when you stay in it longer, you get a good idea, you set it aside. You go for the next better idea, you set it aside. So he goes deeper and deeper and deeper. From a creativity angle, I probably would say Cleese.

From a business angle, it doesn’t always match the… White space is a concept that sometimes people misperceive as light or soft, but the people who’ve really used it to their greatest effect are not light/soft people. If you look at Jack Welch, the most driven, maniacal leader ever who used to spend an hour and a half every single day at what he called it looking out the window time, and he knew because there’s a generational thing too between.

There was a time when thinking was a very respected act at work, and if you walked in an office and you saw your boss with their feet up looking at a window, you would back up like you saw a rattlesnake because you know that was the golden hour and they were concocting the next great idea or the future of the business. So people who are a little bit older, dueling more naturally into it.

But I like the little stories. I like the little stories of… There’s a guy that I adore named Tony Calanca, who is a white space advocate. He’s a guy who works in live events. Live events is an extraordinarily stressful world where you just never stop moving. There’s a story in the book about him crafting a proposal.

He was getting ready to do a proposal and he said, “I’m just going to SALY it, which means, “same as last year.” You take the proposal from last year and you clean it up and you change the date, right? He said, “No, I’m not going to do that. I’m going to really think about this.” He scheduled himself six blocks of white space to think, and he crafted it. He thought about it and he got objective about it. He designed an RFP that saved the company and then earn the company millions of dollars.

So I like the stories of real, not famous humans, who give themselves permission to think, and then see a business result that they never could have imagined.

Guy Kawasaki:

I can’t remember if I asked you to use it or your PR firm, but I pointed you, or your PR firm, to my Calendly calendar. That Calendly calendar, I have blocked off. I worked on that calendar anyway 10:00 to 7:00. Whenever I add an appointment, it automatically blocks it. So I can just point people to someone and say, “Look at my calendar. When you see a day that’s opened, click on it and you can take the appointment.” So there’s a lot of white space on my calendar.

Do you think Calendly or something like that is a useful tool?

Juliet Funt:

I love the fact that there’s a lot of white space on your calendar because I don’t know if you remember. Do you remember sitting in some weird little room in a hotel after we were both keynoting and I asked you before I wrote the book about your own white space? You tell me if I’m saying this wrong, but I remember you saying, “No, I just go. I just go and go and go and go.” And I remember, I thought, “When I’m done writing this book, I really wish I’d get to come back to him and find out what’s your current update on your own white space?”

But I think Calendly or scheduling apps can be terrific to remove this one more touch, right? So we want to keep removing. A lot of our work is about removing waste to unearth space.

So if you look at, “Well, what is the time it takes you to schedule those appointments instead of use Calendly?” Every single touch you save, you’re building up extra time, which can be repurposed to thoughtfulness or strategy or recuperation or the things that we need from space. So I love an app like that.

In some corporations, it’s hard to move into those entrepreneurial tools. I think Calendly as an example that might not be a given the thumbs up in every corporate environment. The simple role of calendar management for corporations is: never let the colors touch.

So you just think about your calendar. You just want to make really, really sure as– We’re talking about baby-stepping our way into a white space life. Never let the colors touch. You want slices of white; five, ten, fifteen-minute transition times, not only so that you can have a bio-break like a real human and maybe eat something, but also so you could look back on the meeting you just finished and maybe digest it and think about it, or maybe you want to look forward at the appointment you’re about to have and actually be prepared and present for that person.

When the colors are touching on a calendar, all of that intentionality just evaporates, and you’re just jumping from one to the– I don’t know what your friends and fellows are like right now, but the people that we work with, they are still in 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM Zoom meetings a lot of the time. It’s ludicrous what is being tolerated, right? I keep waiting for them to break for something profound changes, and it hasn’t happened yet.

Guy Kawasaki:

I know many people who say that they are just covered with Zoom, and going into this, I thought, at least, “Well, look at all the time you save not traveling.”

Juliet Funt:

Mm-hmm. Right. And if you have a boss– here’s what we’ve noticed is– what do bosses do? Bosses assign work. They sit around, they tell people to do new stuff.

So you give a boss two hours that were previously commutes, an hour in the morning and an hour in the– that’s two hours more assigning that now is trickling down. They don’t know what to do with themselves.

We’ve all already finished Netflix at this point, right? So you’re just doing more work and so the boss component, I think the removal of the commute not only expanded the day– well, Bloomberg knows it has.

It’s two and a half hours longer. It’s how long we’re working now, but that sense of executives also having extra time to be adding projects, plans, and assignments is a critical but subtle problem that we’re going to have to now rewrite.

If we go back to the office, the norms that we’ve created have now been solidified. They’re not going to un-solidify themselves. We’re going to have to break them on purpose now.

Guy Kawasaki:

Are you saying that if we now go back to the office, this person who worked for a company that had employees around the world, who nobody hesitated to say, “Well, sorry, at 8:00 PM that’s when you have to get on the Zoom call,” you can’t tell them, “Okay, I want you back in the office at 8:00 PM to go on another Zoom call.” Is that what you’re saying?

Juliet Funt:

No, I’m saying that they’re not going to return, but I’m saying they can Zoom in from home. They’re going to be asked more and more to say, “Hey, before you leave for your commute, can you hop on a 7:00 AM call?” And, “Hey, after you have dinner, I’m going to throw this 8:30 on your calendar for Europe because there’s no way to make the time zones work.”

We’ve broken the boundaries. If you have ever had screens with your children and you let a boundary go, you know how hard it is to try to put one back. It’s like, once you release the Kraken, you can’t get back. So that’s the same thing with the day.

We’ve broken the edges of the day. Now, people are going to have to have extraordinary saying ‘no,’ and boundary setting skills which many don’t have, and they don’t have the authority in their position to say no to those edge requests that are going to start coming in now, I think.

Guy Kawasaki:

Actually, I think we were saying the same thing. That it’s going to be hard to go back to where… As a matter of course, everybody’s expected to be twenty-four by seven. So you, as the white space evangelist, how are your days like?

Juliet Funt:

That question comes up a lot, obviously, because people want to know what it’s like for me, and the most important thing that I can say is that the starting point for me is absolutely in the trenches. I often say I am the sickest rat in this experiment and I’m the nutcase, workaholic, busy lady in my raw state.

If I didn’t have these tools, this framework, this way of working and this way of thinking, the way that I would be is incredibly busy and with a difficult predisposition to being addicted to my technology. So that’s just to start with that, it’s really important to admit that.

The most reliable white space moment for me is that one that I described between opening my eyes and getting out of bed. Sometimes I’m there for fifteen, twenty minutes because I think it’s so important to orient in that way, and then I’m very, very good at the interstitial white space that’s just become so much a part of me.

Where I struggle, which is where a lot of people struggle, is the pace of my mind. Not in a bragging way, in a clinical way. That there’s a problem with hyperactivity that I deal with. So those longer stretches when I take fifteen, twenty, thirty, that’s where I really have to hold myself to the sticking place.

I have to set a timer on my phone. I have to watch that timer like it was a meditation period or like it was an assignment. It’s amazing how instantly gratifying and relaxing and freeing it is, but it’s very hard for me to get to that place. I’m kind of like putting on your workout shoes.

Another place that is really natural for me in white space is my home version of white space. Very natural for me to un-schedule my children and keep a lot of free time in our evenings and weekends, and that’s an enormous passion that I have about the way that families would be more connected if we had more unscheduled time at home. So it isn’t just a tool that we use at work.

Guy Kawasaki:

I read that you sometimes during Zoom calls, you hold your lips.

Juliet Funt:

I can’t do it on a Zoom call. I used to do it on conference calls.

Guy Kawasaki:

What?

Juliet Funt:

In the old days, yeah, because… I’m telling you, this mind-fast thing, people think I’m praising myself, but I’m actually talking about a liability.

I think too fast, then I interrupt. So what I used to do in the good old days of dial into the conference bridge was, I just very gently hold my lips close while the other person is talking. Not all the time, but when they’re making an important point, when I know they want it to land. When I really want to listen, I just got in the habit of doing that. Then of course, Zoom made it impossible and I had to develop new habits.

One of the reasons I am so moved by the people that we meet in this work is how much I identify with them with managers who keep a peanut butter jar on their desk because they know they can never leave for lunch and they just eat peanut butter, or people who cancel their vacation four years in a row because it feels for them they’re on a moving train and they’re trying to jump off of it and they never can.

It is not just that I am moved by them, it’s that I deeply identify with what it feels like to be them. I think if I didn’t have my own book in my purse, I would be in a lot of troublesome days.

Guy Kawasaki:

Now, someone’s been listening to this and is convinced that this is something that I need to work on. So how do you start?

Juliet Funt:

I think you start by taking that convincing even a little deeper, by validating the importance that your mind is going to talk back to. Because the critic will say, “What is this? Slacking off? Doing nothing?” There’s a very ingrained branding problem with taking space that we have to combat.

So first of all, we have to talk back to those feelings with facts. We have to understand that the science says that our frontal lobe, which is in charge of all the executive good stuff that we do at work, is more fortified when we take this space. In fact, it’s so depleted when we don’t that it can’t function.

We have to talk back to the fact that white space is not only for recuperation, but it is for reflection, creativity, innovation, strategy. So we have to understand, first of all, that we’re not just resting, which is the most common predisposition. Most people when they think of it, think of rest in the beginning.

The next step would be… I actually kind of walked you through what I would consider the training wheels. Looking for the first moment in the morning, the forced white space, and then the use of the wedge. The wedge just keeps expanding and expanding.

To take interstitial sips, like a glass of water that sits on your desk, to take interstitial sips of this space when either your body cues you, that means that you get a little cue, “I’m starting to feel frazzled. I’m not as clear. Maybe I’m reaching for some sort of compensatory stimulant like sugar or caffeine, or my digital device to give me a little dopamine,” when you’re looking for that jolt, sometimes what you really need is to pause.

Or when your intellect says that you should. You’re looking at that calendar and all the colors are touching and you can see that you have to put in some space, the next step is to try to find a white space partner or friend. One person at work who gets this, or it could be at home, who you can start having dialogue with about if there was a place that we can insert a little space, what could that look like? What would that look like? How could we talk to our bosses or supervisors about maybe reducing some of our communication channels or looking at the meeting calendar?

Remember, for corporate people, a lot of time it’s that excavation project. All they have to do is remove stuff, and the space is already there.

When you have company, the road gets easier. It’s like that drafting metaphor of a bicyclist drafting is pulling along other people. So we rely a lot after people are experimenting with their baby steps and their wedge and their forced white space. Try to build a little tribe of people who could come to believe this way of working, and you’ll find it get exponentially easier when you have company.

Guy Kawasaki:

Just for clarity, in this case of trying to find white space at home, you’re obviously talking about not doing email and checking social media, but also you’re not saying go watch Netflix either, right? That’s not white space.

Juliet Funt:

The brain is never doing nothing. If you took an MRI scan of your brain during white space nothing, the MRI scan is lit up, and all these colors, there’s all this activity going on in what’s called the default neural network. So we’re busy in that pause. We’re digesting, thinking, questioning assumptions, planning.

But at home, we have to look at our calendars the same way, which is where is they’re white? Are we saying yes to every afterschool activity that our kids are marginally interested in or that we just think will benefit them in twenty years? Are we driving thirty minutes to a retirement party for someone we don’t even like, because we just don’t know how to say no to things? Are we just cramming and insatiable at home in the same ways that we’re habitually insatiable at work? And if so, how can we walk some of that back?

When we walk it back, we’re making room for joy, for being present, for actually tasting our life and not missing it at home, as opposed to whizzing by at sixty miles an hour past the things that supposedly we work to go home for, and that’s why the passion is so high for me is, if you don’t have space at home, you will look back. It’s like when you get drive through dinner and you kind of remember that you ate a burger, but you don’t really. Your whole life can feel like that if you’re not careful because you’re just too busy to feel it.

Guy Kawasaki:

Let’s say that husband and wife both achieve this ability to grab white space. Now, does this mean that both of them could be sitting in a living room… let’s say there are no kids here. So sitting in the living room, they’re not interacting. They’re not talking. They’re just in their own white space. That’s socially acceptable?

Juliet Funt:

That’s such an extreme picture that I don’t think it’s what really happens, but I like the granularity of where you’re going here. So what does this really look like?

So what it looks like is you come home from work, and maybe you pour a glass of wine… but if you’re the mom or if you’re this type of personality, sometimes I walk in from work and I don’t even stop on the way to finish cleaning the kitchen, because men have been cleaning the kitchen all day, so now it needs to really be cleaned, right?

Guy Kawasaki:

My wife always says, “After you spend your half hour, I need to spend another half hour.” So I understand that. Yeah.

Juliet Funt:

So if you have a white space life, here’s the difference is. On the way between work the kitchen, I might remember to flop down in a chair for a couple minutes, or I might remember to step outside and see a mountain, or I might allow myself to stand at the counter for a couple seconds and take in the day.

Then, maybe, while I’m doing the kitchen, my kid comes in– we’re going to put the kids in now– and they ask a question, and instead of saying, “I’m doing the dishes. I’m doing the thing that I was on my agenda doing,” I noticed that the universe is giving me an opportunity to go be present with him, and I put down the thing that I’m doing and I follow instinct because there’s enough space to do it and I say, “What’s up?” And I give him the beautiful gift of full improvisational attention because he needs it.

And then, my husband calls and says, “Can you sit with me a minute?” And we go sit outside. We have a little blue cheese and red wine. Maybe we talk about the day, but it’s not… That is a white space aspect, is to be able to have unscheduled time because what it looks like without it is, I walk in from work.

I’m doing the dishes. I start the dinner. I pushed the kids to bedtime. I tell my husband I don’t have time to hang out with him because I’m busy putting… And there’s something every second. It just looks exactly like your scheduled day during the day. So the A and B is, do you have oxygenating space, these little beautiful tendrils of space that weave in and out of things? Or are you just on a moving conveyor belt to your next task?

Guy Kawasaki:

You, of all people I know, will be an expert in this next question because I read it in your book too. Tell us the art of saying ‘no.’

Juliet Funt:

Ah, big one. If you can’t say no, you can’t stop the tide. The book references that… Many of your viewers will have to Google this, but you know the old Lucy and Ethel on the conveyor belt with the chocolates? You remember? It’s the Lucille Ball show. They’re standing at a conveyor belt.

They’re these chocolates coming out. They’re supposed to put them in a box. And they start going faster and faster. They put them in their mouth and they put them in their hat, and they’re flowing on the floor. So ‘no’ in your life, whoever’s listening, stops the line. It is the thing that stops the conveyor belt of all these activities and it’s really scary to do.

So if you’re learning to say no in baby steps, I’ll give you a couple of ways that you can do that. The first one is based on camaraderie, and I talked about this in a different flavor. But you want to find yourself a nobody, which is somebody that you can go to in moments of deciding ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and a pending ‘no.’ It’s more intimidating than people give it credit for, especially if you’re no is something like, “I have to say no to a meeting, or I need to say no to a project, or I have to say no to my boss,” which is a really frightening thing, but you have to understand that no is the only way that we get to that beautiful spacious control that we want.

Once you have your nobody, the next thing to think about is that rehearsal of a ‘no’ is not a remedial tool to be embarrassed about. It is a critical skill that every presenter… I know you’re one of the greatest presenters in the world. I bet you practice and rehearse and prepare, right?

Guy Kawasaki:

No. Okay. Anyway.

Juliet Funt:

I bet you used to in the beginning. Did you use to before you became you?

Guy Kawasaki:

I did. I did. Well, I mean, I don’t want to interrupt your train of thought, but I’ve been speaking for about forty years. So one could say “he’s a natural speaker,” or you could say, “oh, it took me forty years,” yeah.

Juliet Funt:

I would venture to guess in the early ones that there was a hotel room somewhere where you were doing a lot of prep work the night before. Is that fair to say?

Guy Kawasaki:

That’s true. Yes.

Juliet Funt:

Okay. In the early days of learning to say ‘no,’ people need to prep. They need to maybe even write out what they want to say and take a look at it and gauge that’s what the nobody is for.

Does this feel too pushy? Does this feel too weak? Am I sounding like a doormat? Am I not being empathetic? Saying no requires sometimes thinking it through a little bit.

There are also phrases that can be really helpful if you practice them and get them in your mouth to say over and over and over. So a simple one, because you want it in your mouth. You don’t want it in your brain. You want it in your mouth. Just ready to come out anytime.

The greatest one, just to give you a little time to buy a little time to work the decision is simply, “Can I take twenty-four hours and get back to you?” So you’d be gob smacked at how few people give themselves a minute to think much less permission to just sleep on a pending yes or no.

It’s one of the greatest gifts that you can give yourself, is just break that interpersonal connection when somebody’s asking you for something and give a little time to kind of work through your decision.

There’s a tool in the book that’s too complicated to go through called the Hour Glass. It’s a pretty complicated visual tool, but it’s basically about taking space to think about, “What are my motives for saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Am I just people pleasing? Am I afraid? What is my foresight? If I look in the future, how will this ‘yes’ or ‘no’ benefit me or my team or my schedule? And then what’s my history of past ‘yes’ and ‘no’s’? Am I an over ‘yes, sir?’ Where I just automatically am reflexively saying no. Or maybe do I say no too often and I’m hankering for more involvement and I’ve just been to boundaried? So that planning time, thinking time can occur if you just give yourself, “Can I take twenty-four hours?”

Another really great one to push a demanding person back and give them a little bit of space is, “I can do it for you this time, but I can’t do it for you every time.” It sets your ‘no’ up for the next ‘no.’

So you do have to do the thing one more time, but that’s the last time you’re ever going to have to do that annoying thing because you break the cycle with that phrase, and there are so many more, but getting some language in your head and in your mouth ahead of time is really helpful.

Guy Kawasaki:

Are you going to tell me that that last one works on your kids?

Juliet Funt:

Now, we do have a ‘no’ phrase. The ‘no’ phrase for children that you want to practice is, “Sweetie, please take the no.” That is on the 857th time that they have renegotiated a request. The phrase is, “Please take the no,” and with children, it’s so great to have these phrases that you say over and over.

Some of them are boundary setting like that, but some of them can be back in the white space vein that we talked about earlier. I talked about giving your kids attention when they ask for it.

A great thing to teach your kids is to say, “I would like full attention.” When they say that phrase, it’s a really big trigger for you as a parent to take out the AirPods and put down the spatula and turn to them and they may not know how to ask for that. That’s why they’re bugging you and bugging you, but that phrase of “Can I have full attention?” a gorgeous connective phrase to use between kids and parents.

Guy Kawasaki:

It can work in both directions in my house. They may be telling me that. Yes.

Juliet Funt:

Yes, yes, yes. That’s the original… I mean, you can ask for your full attention from your kids, but good luck for holding it very long. The use of that phrase that I adore and love and talk about is when the kid says, “I would like full attention” that you then, “This thing right now is more important to them than the five other things that they’ve asked me in the last hour.” And you can treat it with the respect that they’re craving.

Guy Kawasaki:

Tell me about meetings. What’s the art of meetings?

Juliet Funt:

The meeting culture is the number one place where I wish I could just get a long line of all the executive leaders of all the fortune companies and do that thing where you run down like in a comedy where you’re slapping them all, just slap them in the face in one gigantic line of a thousand people and say, “What are you thinking? How is it possible that human beings are still being asked to do this maniacal schedule we see?”

Indeed says where fifty-two percent now are officially burnt out. We have checked the box. We are calling ourselves burnt. Not burning, but burnt, and so I am very worried that there is no bottom here. It’s like in A.A, when they say an alcoholic hits their bottom, that’s supposed to be the catalyst for change because they have enough pain. And this meeting issue, we just can’t get in enough pain.

So I have to say that first, because I want to take a stand that it really, really needs to change. People can be in a certain amount of meetings per day, but before that becomes ineffective, and that’s going to be different for every person. If there’s a lot of white space transition time and a recuperative time and thinking time in between, they can do more. But I believe that we need to contain this intensely.

The tool that we teach in the book, and actually it’s a subtle tool but it’s the most important one for people to start, is an internal mental tool to begin telling yourself when you should and should not be in a meeting. The tool is called the SBH.

To use this tool, it’s really simple. You begin to sit in meetings and abstain from digital multitasking, because digital multitasking will mute your boredom, and boredom is what we want to be watching here. We want to start watching when are you bored in a meeting, and then understanding why. If you pick up your phone, you won’t be bored anymore.

So first, you sit in your meetings and you begin the habit of abstaining from digital distractions. What’s going to happen next is you’re going to start feeling really, really bored a lot during these meetings, and as you are sitting in that boredom, and as you’re exploring it, first of all, you have to eliminate sometimes work is boring and that’s work and it’s your job.

But a lot of times it’s because you’re in the wrong place at that moment, and at those moments where you start to get clarity that you’re neither contributing nor benefiting, you say inside your head, “Oop, SBH” and that stands for shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t be here. So what you do is you start saying this to yourself over and over in any meeting that starts to feel like a waste of your time.

What will happen is it will begin to build in you this clarity and this awareness of how much time you’re spending in these unnecessary meetings. It will eventually push you to the actions you need to take to opt out of them, to question them, to talk to your manager.

If you’re a leader, to cancel them all together, and then you can begin to have SBH discussions with your team about which of the meetings that have to stay and which of the meetings that have to go. But that’s the beginning is to begin listening to boredom and following it’s instructive clues. It’s the same thing. If you’re in a meeting, it’s a meeting. Conference call is a meeting. A one-on-one is a meeting. Zoom. A physical meeting. There are so many.

Now, I also will say that if you’re on Zoom and you really want to help your people out, you should turn the cameras off most of the time off.

Guy Kawasaki:

Off?

Juliet Funt:

Off, yes, because the research is in now that says that we are cognitively much more clear and intelligent when we don’t have to have all the distractions of, “How’s my hair? How’s your hair? Was that a cat?”

That whole secondary line of communication that we’re dealing within Zoom is it’s very, very important to mute so people can just relax and focus on the conversation. There are times if you’re closing a sales deal, you probably want to see whether the buyer is nodding.

here’s moments where they’re… you know. But camera’s off, if you’re in a trusting environment, where you’re not in an “Orwellian boss watches me every minute” environment is actually the scientifically more proven approach to create what they call collective intelligence. That people are just better. They do things better when they don’t have to worry about the secondary camera channel.

Guy Kawasaki:

Wow. You know, I never thought of that. I, until thirty seconds ago, thought I preferred audio and video because it helps me read the body language and at least fake making eye contact. My fear, and it’s not proven, but my fear is if it were audio only, maybe both people would be tempted to multitask.

Juliet Funt:

During a podcast interview?

Guy Kawasaki:

During a podcast. Yes.

Juliet Funt:

I do my best and deepest thinking where I can see nature and I have complete silence. I like to go to a place. I usually have a place. It’s a little BnB, or a house, or a cabin that I rent or go to.

When I have to do something really big, which is how I wrote the book, I go for a twelve-hour a day, I go to the quietest place I can find, often without any kind of music. I like to be able to see, for me, dark green nature. Not beach nature, not rock nature, nature that has leaves in green. If I’m in those two things, real profound silence and if I could see trees, I’m going to be flowing that day.

Guy Kawasaki:

Needless to say, you have no digital connection during that day?

Juliet Funt:

No, I sometimes do. I sometimes do, because I think it is unrealistic to think that if I’m going to ask my brain to generate a lot of stuff. I’ve done this before where I asked my brain to generate a lot of stuff, I have only paper and pens.

I’m capturing everything analog, and then it creates this ridiculous amount of work to be transcribing later. So I do allow myself to have a computer or a phone if I need to find a receptacle for all of these ideas that are going to be generated. Even though I like paper better, it’s just not always practical.

Guy Kawasaki:

I may solve your problem because all the guests of the Remarkable People Podcasts get a free reMarkable tablet.

Juliet Funt:

Oh, wow!

Guy Kawasaki:

Which looks like this. It has a pencil and it has a screen for taking notes. If you print clearly enough, you can send the note to yourself and reMarkable will perform OCR and convert it to digitized text.

Juliet Funt:

That’s awesome. You got to plug in a present in there at the same time. Thank you so much.

Guy Kawasaki:

That’s why Guy is Guy.

Guy Kawasaki:

I’m Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. I hope you enjoyed this episode about white space, and now, you can go and create some white space in your life.

My thanks to Jeff Sieh and Peg Fitzpatrick for helping produce another remarkable episode of Remarkable People.

Until next time, Aloha and mahalo.