Finding your negative space

In art class I learned that the best compositions have the right balance of positive space, the space filled by physical objects on a canvas, and negative space, the space intentionally left blank around the objects.  In the example below, the tree is the positive space and the white background is the negative space. 

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

If the tree were larger, it would overpower the picture and if it were smaller, it would seem like it was disappearing in the distance.  Achieving the right balance is key.

In this crazy world, it's easy to only think about the positive space.  How many emails can I get through before the end of the day?  How many spin classes can I attend this week?  How much more can I do before I fall asleep?  But sometimes balance is achieved not by adding in more but by taking the time to focus on what isn't there.  If your composition is feeling a little crowded these days, here are a few strategies to free up the load:

  1. Remove social media apps from your phone and only check posts once a day.  You'll be shocked by how much time and mental energy is freed by not scanning your newsfeed throughout the day. 
  2. Stop doing workouts you hate.  I'm not saying exercise isn't important, we all know it is, but so is your sanity.  If you're constantly forcing yourself to spend an hour on the treadmill, give yourself a break now and then and take your dog for a walk, or do a little yoga in your living room.
  3. Only check email twice a day and only at times when you're able to respond.  If the thought of doing so gives you heart palpitations or if your job requires a lot of email communication, start with three or four times per day and cut back from there.  This alone is life changing!  (For more tips like this I'd highly recommend reading The Four Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris).   
  4. Start your day with a not-to-do list.  For example, today I will not re-read the email to my boss four times before I send it, I will not worry that my daughter's socks don't match, I will not add anything else to my social calendar unless it brings me lots of joy.  

There's nothing like that sigh of relief when you finally feel caught up and content with life's composition!

What are some of the things on your not-to-do list?