The problem with saying you don’t have enough time is that you’re basically saying your time is not your own. Taking back your time is about taking back your life. Our life is made up of time.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Whitney A. White. Whitney is the founder of Afara Global, an organization that helps startups, corporate innovation teams, and nonprofits launch and scale new products and services. She is also the creator of “Take Back Your Time”, a transformational coaching program designed to help business leaders get on a clear path to achieving the goals that matter to them most.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started my career in management consulting with Bain & Company. I really enjoyed the strategy work, and advising clients in different industries. Several years later, I worked in e-commerce, which is when I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. I decided to start my own business and I ran that business on the side for a couple of years.
In 2013, I jumped into entrepreneurship full-time working with businesses, corporate teams, and nonprofits to help them launch and scale new products and services. It was through that work I noticed a trend. Collaborating with people who had high potential and amazing goals, I noticed that they were the ones who were most likely to be pulled in so many different directions. Having so much on their plate, they really struggled to focus on the goals that mattered to them the most.
For me, I’ve always been goal-oriented and focused on identifying problems and coming up with solutions. If I see a problem, I think: how can I fix it? That’s what led me to start interviewing a bunch of different people. My academic background is in anthropology so I’m very comfortable interviewing and gleaning insight. And so, I developed a curriculum for my coaching program, “Take Back Your Time.” Initially, it was a hobby. I saw a need and I created a program to help those people. And as the program really took form, I had that first cohort and had such incredible outcomes.
I thought that people would get more efficient with their time and move forward more effectively towards their goals. However, the feedback showed that the program was really transformational in terms of the clarity they received about what was really important to them. Their ability to work with me to develop the step-by-step plan to get from where they were to actually achieving those goals, made me realize this is something that has the potential for outsized impact. And I decided to do another cohort and that led to another. It was through referrals from clients that the program grew.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
I believe we should be making our own decisions about what it is we really want. Do what you love day to day instead of feeling forced to do things you don’t want to do. This is a big mindset shift for so many people.
Many people follow a certain path and get the outcomes they are supposed to get. But then, they end up feeling unfulfilled, and that their life isn’t turning out the way they envisioned. Basically, these people are living a life where it looks great on the outside, but on the inside they have different goals for themselves, and goals in terms of how they want to live everyday and impact the world around them. Their true goals are deprioritized.
My work is disruptive because I tell people that the goals you have deep down matter — especially the ones that you’ve been afraid to say that you really want. Those goals are more important than all the things other people expect from you day to day. And so, it’s time to give voice to what you really want so that you can go after it.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
During my undergrad at Davidson College, I participated in a program called “The Emerging Professionals Group.” There was a group of alumni who volunteered their time to help Davidson black students who would benefit from exposure and mentorship around business.
To put this in perspective, I am from a small town in rural South Carolina. So, the fact that I started my career at a management consulting firm was unheard of. I really benefited from having mentors and I was fortunate enough to have several..
Donnie Johnson and Vincent Benjamin ran the program and were particularly helpful in my first year when I worked as a publishing intern at Scholastic in New York City. I never worked in a corporate environment before or had this kind of experience. Even though they were both extremely busy, I could email or call them to ask for help. They would drop what they were doing to give me advice and support. One of the most memorable times was when I reached out for help and they said ‘you’ve been doing a great job and learning everything we’ve been sharing with you, so you don’t need to ask anymore. We know you’ve got it.’ That gave me such a confidence boost. I knew I could represent myself well and be professional in the corporate context. Basically, they told me, ‘okay you can fly out of the nest now, little birdie.’ So, those two men definitely played a big role in the early part of my career.
Another mentor was Tiara Henderson, and she was really amazing. As a woman, she could give me advice that they necessarily couldn’t. Tiara took me shopping for my first business suit, taught me about the different styles of suits, and was very helpful since it was all new to me.
Knowing how to dress, how to communicate and conduct myself in a corporate setting, were things I never would have known if they hadn’t taken me under their wing.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
The first piece of advice is to do what you love. When I first started school at Davidson I was deciding what to major in.I was told to major in something that I enjoyed and that led me to anthropology. I don’t think I’d even heard of anthropology prior to that. In my first semester, I took an anthropology class, and fell in love with it. That piece of advice around doing what you love is something that carries through in life, because often we can make decisions around what’s practical instead of what will bring us joy. Listening to this advice put me on a great path.
Secondly, my mom always told me, “If you don’t like something, stop complaining and do something about it.” She was super active in our school, advocating for positive change within the school system. So I grew up with this belief that if you don’t like the way something is then, change it, fix it, and make it better. Don’t just complain about it. That’s what actually pushed me to be so involved as a campus leader at Davidson. I heard the same complaints over and over from students and I wanted to make campus life better for everyone. My mom’s advice made me start to think, start from the place of need, come up with a solution and mobilize to get it done.
The third piece of advice came from mentors I had in college. They really emphasized the importance of relationships, particularly when it came to forming professional relationships and networking. I’m an introvert, so throwing myself into situations to meet new people doesn’t necessarily come natural to me. Even though the idea of walking into a room full of strangers still gives me anxiety, once I get there, I love connecting with people and I always feel so much better. My mentors also made me see the importance of connecting in a way that was authentic to me. Personally, I don’t maintain relationships with people I don’t click with. I stay in touch with people with whom I feel a genuine connection, and have the desire to keep that relationship going.
How are you going to shake things up next?
One of the things I am most excited about is being able to take my program to the next level. I want to impact not only individuals, but also entire teams. I’ve worked with amazing clients, many of which go back to their organizations and pass on that information. They take what I’ve shown them and implement it in their day-to-day work. As a result, I’ve received requests from organizations in all industries and have been asked to do more coaching and training workshops within companies. I believe there’s power in having a shared language within your organization. When everybody is clear on the company mission and priorities, the team can be more efficient, collaborate better, and reach those bigger goals for the organization.
It’s been amazing to work with businesses who are thinking outside the box and adjusting the focus of individuals and teams in a way that allows them to live up to their full potential. Together, we’ve been able to clarify what their employees want for their own future and professional growth. This helps lower turnover as employees can identify paths to reach their goals within their existing organization. Making this accessible for more teams and employees is something I’m really excited and passionate about.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
To be honest, I don’t really have a go-to book or podcast. For me, I try to be really thoughtful in terms of my curriculum without having a lot of outside influence. Instead, I focus on really listening to my clients about what they need.
That being said, there is a book that I’m still finishing, but it’s a great read and definitely had useful information. It’s called Essentialism: The Pursuit of Less. There’s a school of thought around essentialism that I find valuable. It focuses on what’s important, instead of trying to do it all. I remember the book because it really does align with the way I think about the level of focus that we all need. When we’re running in a million different directions we don’t focus on the biggest priority.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would start a movement for people to take back their time. In all the interviews I’ve done over the years, so many people complain about not having enough time. And beyond not having enough time, they aren’t clear about what they really want, don’t have a plan to get there, or have the support and accountability to make it happen.
The problem with saying you don’t have enough time is that you’re basically saying your time is not your own. Taking back your time is about taking back your life. Our life is made up of time. And life is made up of seconds, minutes, hours, days, and years. And if we do not feel like we’re in control of our time, then we don’t feel like we’re in control of our lives.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Life is never long enough to postpone living it the way you want.” I hear so many people say they don’t have time to do the things they want to do and make excuses to put off going after what they really want. Freedom is what drives me. I chose to align my career and life around doing the things I love and focusing on what matters most to me.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
To follow me online, visit my website, https://whitneyawhite.com. There you will find information about my program, Take Back Your Time, and you can also join my mailing list to get tips and advice. I’m also on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!