The Blog.

Making space

12 Jan 2015 | Clarity & Focus

This has come up in almost every conversation I’ve had with clients, colleagues and friends so far this year. Making space seems to be a big theme.

In a world where the trend has been for faster, further, sooner and more, what we crave more than anything is space. Space to enjoy, space to think, space to breathe, space to live.

And that’s what productivity is really about – or should be about. Not how to go faster on the hamster wheel, but as my friend and chief Ninja Graham Allcott puts it:

“Productivity = Making space for what matters.”

For example…

1. Making space for the work that really matters

There are probably lots of things you could or should be doing right now. Things you’ve been asked to do, ideas you’ve got in your own head, requests, favours, demands, deadlines… Let’s face it, there’s never going to be a shortage of work. And if you say yes to it all, you’ll dilute yourself so much you’ll hardly make a dent in the work that really matters. Productivity is more about doing less, and doing the right things, than trying to get everything done.

2. Making space for the people who matter

We are human beings and we are designed to be in relationship. Yet sometimes we are so focused on doing that our relationships take a back seat. Productivity is about making space for the people who matter – our family, our friends, our community, our colleagues, ourselves. Being able to pause and find out how a colleague is really doing. Being able to switch off at the end of a working day – or even to have an end to the working day – and spend guilt free, undistracted time with the people we love. In the end, that’s what makes our lives rich and our work brilliant.

3. Making space for what you stand for

Your values are the things you stand for, that make you different. They are also the things you stand by, whatever happens.

Take Google’s value for innovation for example. They don’t just talk about innovation, they make space for it. Their 70-20-10 rule means that all their employees are expected to spend 70% of their time on core business, 20% on projects related to core business, and 10% on projects completely unrelated to core business – to play, to innovate.

Service is a value that often comes up in workshop discussions: “How can I step away from email when clients expect an immediate response?” “How can I prioritise when every single call is urgent and important?”

The real question is: How do you give your best service? The chances are, it’s not by working all hours and reacting frantically, but by making space for the kind of focused, problem solving and creative thinking you need to do, in order to give your best answer and deliver your best service.

Not to mention that happiness is contagious – the happier you are, and the happier your staff, the more it rubs off onto the people you interact with – as I noticed with businesses that were incredibly busy on the run up to Christmas. At one restaurant, the waitress was so visibly stressed that even though everything she did was spot on, her stress affected the atmosphere and dampened the Christmas cheer. Compared to my local butchers, who worked solidly from 7am to 7pm with a constant queue outside the shop. Every single person had a smile on their face, and because they were happy, it made a big difference to the whole customer experience.

4. Making space for what brings you to life

What do you enjoy doing so much it gives you energy? What sparks your passion, fires you up and fuels your inspiration. What brings you to life?

An activity, a hobby, being with particular company or in a particular environment. Something you actively do or spending time on the receive end. Something at work or outside of work. Make space for the things the fuel and feed you and bring you to life, and you’ll find you have so much more to give – more capacity, more energy, more ideas, more persistence, more patience…

Productivity is about giving yourself what you need to be at your best, because when you’re at your best you naturally do your best work and give your best to those around you.

5. Making space

You always lose something when you cram too much in. Ask any designer – whether in graphics, websites, interior space or fashion, space plays a vital part. The same goes for editing: great writing is shaped by what you take out. Try and eat too much: you feel sick and nothing tastes good.

Cramming too much in can destroy the very thing you’re trying to create. We need space to fully enjoy, engage in and appreciate what we have. Space itself matters.

So what do you need to make space for this week?


  1. Michelle Riley

    I need to make space for fitness and I would love to spend more time taking photos of nature. It gets me outdoors and that’s good for the soul! Happy New Year, Grace!

    • Grace Marshall

      Awesome Michelle! Could you combine the two I wonder? Go for a run, find somewhere beautiful and take pictures? Not running and clicking at the same time of course…!


  1. How to end your year with a big bang - tips on being more productive - Sage Advice GB - […] my good friend, Chief Ninja Graham Allcott put it, productivity is making space for what matters. What do you…
Image if author Grace Marshall

About Grace

I coach, train, write and speak on productivity. I help people adopt new ways of working and thinking about their work to replace stress, overwhelm and frustration with success, sanity and satisfaction.

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