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Mastering the Strategic Pause

Monday, September 9, 2019
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Experienced trainers already know the importance of pausing periodically throughout a training session. Whether you’re in front of a group for 30 minutes, 60 minutes, a half day, or a whole day, it makes sense to pause periodically. Trainees need time to absorb what you’ve just said. And they need time to follow through on your instructions.

Pausing More Often, Everywhere

Have you considered that pausing throughout your workday, when you’re not necessarily in front of group, also yields benefits, in this case, primarily to you?

Even when you’re not doing a training session, it’s likely that you encounter some rather rigorous tasks and unending workdays. You often find yourself gravitating from one project to the next and from one challenge to the next.

Where is it written that you need to proceed as if you’re a buzz saw, operating at a high setting all day? What if you could carve out tiny bits of time and space here and there, so that by the close of the day you didn’t feel utterly frazzled?

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A Different Way to Proceed

You can proceed in a way that enables you to maintain equanimity and high productivity and still have a life at the end of the day. How? By mastering the strategic pause. You mindfully decide to pause for as little as eight to 12 seconds, or perhaps as much is 60 seconds, to center yourself, take a breath, get reflective, maybe do some stretching, have a sip or two of water, regroup, and then return to the project at hand.

Suppose you don’t feel as if you have the time throughout the day to take strategic pauses ? I’d like you to reconsider. Here are times you can take such pauses:

  • Before stepping into your next training session, your next meeting, or your next activity pause for a couple seconds. Don’t turn a doorknob, don’t enter the room, don’t jump into the fray. Allow yourself to draw one good deep breath or to feel really good. When that’s done, turn the doorknob, open the door, or engage in the next activity. Your newfound habit of taking strategic pauses before an event, activity, or continuation of previous tasks helps you to build up a new kind of energy that enables you to go longer, more effectively, each day.
  • Anytime you feel the need, take 15 seconds (or 25, or 45, or 60) to drop back. Then move on to whatever task may be next, whether it’s a training session, a meeting, or simply answering an email. Even if your day has been rather hectic, you’ll discover that by pausing for a few seconds here and there, it will not diminish your productivity. Instead, it’s likely to enhance it.

What’s more, randomly pausing will not prompt anyone else in your workplace to think that you’re somehow shirking your tasks and responsibilities. In the long term, you’ll find that pausing strategically better enables you to focus on tasks once you return to them and to maintain a higher level of energy, day after day.

  • Before stepping away from your workplace, whether it’s going to lunch or meeting with co-workers or clients, give yourself permission to take a pause. From that moment on, the individuals with whom you meet could well be favorably impressed by your demeanor and equanimity.
  • Before you depart from the workplace at the end of the day. As you’re heading out toward your car or public transportation, strategic pauses will aid you in being more present. Not only will people will notice your sense of calm, you’ll be more appreciative of what you’ve accomplished that day—and what you’ve retained in your career and your life.

Looking at the Big Picture

Careers are long. If you went to college and graduated by age 22 and you work to age 70, that’s 48 years of work. During this span, you want to adopt effective techniques that will enable you to remain energetic, creative, and forward thinking. Strategic pauses fill the bill.

About the Author

Jeff Davidson, MBA, CMC (aka "The Work-life Balance Expert"®) offers keynote presentations and workshops on a creating work-life balance, managing the pace with grace, and thriving in a hyper-accelerated world. He has spoken to Fortune 50 companies, such as Lockheed and IBM, as well as American Express, Westinghouse, America Online, and Wells Fargo. Jeff also is the author of Simpler Living, Breathing Space, and Dial it Down, Live it Up. His books have been published in 19 languages including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Malay, Turkish, and Russian. For more information visit www.BreathingSpace.com.

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