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A sliver of space.

I love that phrase and cannot take credit for it. It is a gift from my colleague Alli Polin. Do you make sure you have your slivers of space? Alli asked in a tweet a while back. I knew exactly what she was talking about. I had just had a coaching chat with Donna, CFO of global high-tech firm. I simply never have time to do everything I am supposed to do on any given day, Donna said. The worst part is running from one meeting to the next to the next. I just keep running. I never stop.

I dine with my friend Javier at La Salumeria in Miami. I’m in a bad mood, Javier warns me before we meet. The election. I simply cannot watch the news anymore. It’s all too much. Fast. Relentless. Dissected. Spun. The information keeps coming. The brain goes on overdrive. Emotions stir. Too much.

Donna is yearning for a sliver of space. So is Javier.

The moment when we can reflect on what just happened.

The moment when the mental fog lifts.

The moment when meaning becomes clear.

The moment when we surprise ourselves.

And we don’t need all that much time for this to happen. We simply need a sliver of space.

Langevin Learning Services, the largest train-the-trainer company in the world, had this all figured out. When I worked for Langevin as a course leader back in the late 90s, I usually delivered 3-day training programs. That’s the training version of the long-distance run.

The Langevin slivers of space? We had the prerequisite breaks. But each break was followed by a 5-minute-transition-period. We’d do a puzzle. We’d show a cartoon. Something light. It was our sliver of space. This is when participant brains could switch gears. Digest whatever messages they had received during the break. Settle back into learning mode. Be present again.

Our 5-minute-fluff-time was not wasted time. It was harness-the-energy-time. It was accelerated-learning-time.

We have a coffee-maker in our office. But I finally “got” that jumping into my convertible and driving to Starbucks is not wasted time. It’s my sliver of space. The change of scenery invigorates me. The sun supercharges me. My productivity boomerangs. Always. And it’s not about the caffeine.

A sliver of space. Essential time.

Key word is “sliver.” Finite. Miniscule. Brief. Our moments of unstructured freedom. A sliver can happen in mere minutes, seconds. So consider your slivers of space. Add more. And more. And watch the quality of your work explode as your slivers proliferate.