Among the many requirements on school projects, one always stuck out to me as plain wrong:
"Don't leave any blank space on the page."
As a kid, this rule was annoying for the reason my teachers intended it to be—it made me work harder and put more effort into my task. I thank them for that.
However, it was a concern of practicality to me. To cover up all the white space, I had to color in *everything*, even when it should've been blank. I had to "get creative" and find ways to decorate all the empty parts of the page. After everything was said and done, though, I didn't have a better project. I had a more decorated project.
I've had to stop and look at many real-life situations where my instinct was to fill up all the blank space. Times in which my only goal was to distract myself from the emptiness around whatever I was focused on.
Leaving no blank space isn't just a symptom of how we like to color in our notebooks—it's a matter of how we live. For example, I've had an aversion to "taking a break" or "relaxing" for a long time. Meditation? What a waste. Going on a walk? Horribly unproductive, avoid at all costs. It's blank. There's nothing to it.
(Walking and meditating are awesome now. I still can't figure out "going swimming," though. How is standing in a pool relaxing? I guess some things are a matter of preference...)
But activities like these serve a purpose. They are the margins of the page in which the rest of my life exists. If those margins didn't exist, I would be an amalgamation of activities and checklists that serve no purpose and have no mission. The blank space in the margins gives the body of my life shape.
Only recently have I been able to confront myself about why I want more. Why do I want more money? Why do I want more friends? Why do I want more recognition?
What are all these things good for, or am I just filling up blank space in my life?
Rather than add a bunch of decoration to your life to make it seem more abundant, embrace the blank space. Cherish the things you do that don't contribute in any way to your "work." Take a break. Rest. Anything but work.
PS—I might be preaching to the choir with this piece, but I sure do need to learn this myself. Maybe one of these days, I'll take a break and embrace the non-work, too.