Do you ever get caught up in work? You are working on a project and either you are so enthusiastic about it or anxious about finishing it by a deadline that you keep going and going and going?
You keep thinking, “Just one more thing and I’m done.” You look at the clock and think, “Five more minutes.” An hour later you think, “This is nuts. You need to stop.”
Have you ever noticed that when you finish pushing yourself to the brink and then go back to look at your work, you find it lacks a certain something? Either you write something you didn’t intend to or it just doesn’t turn out the way you want and you have to got to start all over again?
The gold is in the pause.
What I mean by this is that your reward whether it is the innovativeness, the genius, that epic spark for the grand vision, it’s in the pause.
I make it a point to take breaks. I set the intention and then, no matter what I’m doing or how urgent something feels, I stop. I don’t stop and do something else. I stop and clear my mind. The point is to leave the important e-mail on how to manage a difficult discussion or leave analysis on policy or leave a summary note for someone I am coaching aside. The more urgent the task, the more important it is to take that break. The aim is to calm the mind and come back to my work grounded and refreshed.
What’s the result? I look back at the e-mail and realize the pause was necessary so that others have a chance to chime in on the discussion and for me to have some perspective. Ditto for the analysis. A 15-minute break sometimes cuts down an hour of work I would have done unnecessarily if I powered through. I look at the summary notes and start to see a repetition of the same thought in different words. I’m able to get the piece done in no time and make it more succinct!
It’s not easy to pause. I know. I still get tempted, every once in a while, to power through. But I pay for it. I feel the increased stress. The anxiety. The exhaustion. The back pain flaring up again. I’m less patient with a colleague. And then, of course, everything thing takes more time.
Why? Well because pushing myself results in sickness that takes weeks to get over and just makes it harder to do my work. Sitting at the desk for long hours means shooting pain up my back for days making it more difficult to focus and carry on with daily responsibilities. Being less patient means taking more time to attend to my relationship with my colleague so that our collaboration is not negatively impacted by misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Powering through means fixing all the mistakes I’ve made because my focus has decreased.
The gold is in the pause.
Here’s an idea of how it could work:
First thing in the morning: When you wake up, before Facebook, the news or your e-mail, breathe in and out slowly 3 times.
Morning break: Take 5 to 15 minutes break to go for a walk, grab a cup of tea, or just stand and look out the window.
Lunch: Give yourself an actual break for lunch. No munching in front of the computer. 30 minutes to one hour. Actually taste the food in your mouth. Give your eyes a break from the computer screen and look out the window or step out. Go visit the farm down the road or play floor hockey with the kids near the compound or buy a small treat for yourself to have later. Flip through an art book. Doodle.
Afternoon break: Listen to a tune. Finish that doodle. Take 10 minutes for powering knitting.
Evening break: At the end of your work day or before you go to bed, breath in and out slowly 3 times.
You can program your phone or computer alarm to remind you to take your break at a scheduled time. Pre-program it. Doing this increases your chances of actually practicing these steps.
Remember: The gold is in the pause.
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