Remember back in grade school when you had to write those awful papers? Sitting down to type out your thoughts about Jane Eyre was about as boring as sitting through the teacher reading those drawn-out instructions for standardized tests – which of course they had to read verbatim although they were the same every year. You would sit there and watch your cursor on the screen laugh back at you.
Then, you found it. The magic button that would ultimately lead to your literary salvation throughout English class…the double-space button.
Never mind that your teachers insisted that you use said button to give them more margin for red marks and critiques. Every little bit helped when piecing together a two-page report on an old novel that you couldn’t even make sense of much less read. Such a magical and wonderful sight to see your 3/4 page paper turn into a page and a half in the blink of an eye. It was almost as if the work was cut in half for each paper you had to write.
Double-spacing a paper works its magic in a couple of ways:
- It separates each individual sentence allowing for clarity of focus.
- It’s easier on the eyes to read.
- It makes it seem as though you have a lot to say when in reality, you are struggling to put words to paper.
In the past, I’ve written quite a bit about not overwhelming yourself and living a stress-free life (for examples, see how to live your morning like a hero and how to manage your energy not your time.) The general take home is to spend more time doing the things you love to do and less time doing the things you hate. Makes sense right?
The double-spacing tool can be used in your own daily schedule to reduce stress and improve happiness.
Take, for instance, characteristics of the typical individual:
- Wakes up to a blaring alarm clock frazzled with not enough sleep.
- Scrambles to get ready in the morning because they neglected to prepare anything the night before.
- Lives their day in constant chaos moving swiftly from meeting to meeting on a constant caffeine buzz.
- Ends their day exhausted but still has family obligations that keep them up far too long repeating the endless cycle.
Sound familiar? In the writing world, that would resemble a long, single-spaced paper that is housed in one complete paragraph – no breaks, no separations. The print would be too tiny to read, and you would be strained to make it through the entire thing while maintaining dedicated focus. It’s the kind of thing that makes your eyeballs hurt after awhile. The page that you read through only to realize at the end of the entire chapter that you really had no idea what went on during the last few pages. What was Noah saying to Allie on that last page? And who the hell is this Lon character? (Full disclosure, I’ve read The Notebook and a few other Nicholas Sparks books.) It’s the type of print that makes you sigh with disappointment when you flip to that particular page (What the hell…no pictures?) - much like this paragraph.
It’s busy, sort of stressful, and makes your eyes hurt – not too different than the typical schedule listed above.
Fixing the Busy Paragraph – Adding Spacing
For books, it’s an easier fix. Increase the spacing and adjust the font so it’s more pleasing to a reader’s eyes. For life, it’s a bit more complicated, but it would go something like this:
Plan out your day in advance. Flying by the seat of your pants is a surefire way to having a packed schedule filled with busy appointments and rushing around to get things done. I recommend planning out your day the night before. What are your must-do’s that absolutely have to get done? Separate tasks into lists based on importance so you can attack the highest priority items first.
Schedule breaks. Just like a double-spaced paragraph has breaks after each line of text, schedule breaks throughout your day depending on stress levels and task requirements. If a certain hour is going to be extremely taxing, schedule a 15-30 minute break afterwards to reflect and recoup. For simpler tasks, this may get cut down to 5 minutes of letting your mind wander before attacking the to-do list again.
Practice clarity and focus. One main reason why a single-spaced page of text is so stressful upon first glance is that it presents too many things at once. Focus your efforts on one task at a time and don’t move on to anything else until you’re finished.
Schedule more time than you think you’ll need. Think something will take you 30 minutes? Schedule 45 instead. That way, you won’t be rushed, and you’ll have more time to reflect – which brings me to my next point.
Reflect. Just like a teacher littering your paper with red marks, take time to reflect on the big events of the day. How did they go? Could you have done better? Part of the benefit of “double-spacing” your life is allowing time for reflection. Take 5-10 minutes and make a list on how you could improve for next time.
Thoughts, questions, comments? I want to hear them. Love Nicholas Sparks books? Tell me your favorite below along with the book you dreaded the most in school.