Efficiency and effectiveness are the name of the game these days. Phrases like “maximize” and “prioritize” dominate the landscape. All of these are worthwhile, but they have the potential to misdirect us. When we speak these words, we are left with the impression that we must make the most of every moment in order to squeeze everything out of each day. It’s exhausting! Perhaps there is a better way!
A purposeful pause has the power to settle our body and focus our thoughts. When we pause, we clear space so that we can transition. We enhance clarity and focus. Without a pause, we begin new tasks with residue from the previous chore lingering in our mind. This actually slows us down. By creating a moment for a pause, we accomplish more at a higher quality with reduced stress. Sound too good to be true?
Consider the example of the written word. The space between words is effectively a pause. Commas and periods are pauses. New paragraphs create more substantial pauses. Without these bits of help, reading would be cumbersome, tiresome, and indecipherable.
Try reading this last paragraph without pauses:
While the second version took up slightly less space, the effectiveness of the paragraph is completely lost. Such is life without well-placed pauses.
These are five specific ways to employ powerful pauses into your daily life.
• Pause first thing in the morning. Reflect, give thanks, and settle yourself for the day. Don’t rush this pause. This pause is most important on the busiest of days.
• Pause between tasks. Take one to two minutes in between essential tasks to stop, stretch, and clear your mind before beginning again. DO NOT use this pause to check your social media!
• Pause before new meetings. Stop and sit quietly for two minutes (this may require arriving a little earlier, which is not a bad idea). Take a couple of deep breaths and relax. I guarantee the meeting will benefit. After the meeting, take a minute to pause, perhaps with a notepad. Reflect on what happened and what needs to be done.
• Pause before you speak. I know that I am prone to think of what I am going to say while another person is talking. Choosing to slow down and pause before speaking improves our listening.
• Pause before a major decision. Recognizing that some people struggle with indecision, for those of us that like to get decisions over with and behind us, a healthy pause can save us from impulsive choices.
These suggestions may seem like unnecessary fluff. I assure you they are not. When we pause, reorient, reflect, and prepare, our effectiveness skyrockets. We have been conned into believing that maximizing our time means racing every second. This frenetic kind of living chokes the enjoyment out of life. It also is the quickest path toward mediocrity and shallowness.
Slow down! Catch your breath!