Pressing Pause

Working flat-out is tiring and, ultimately, unproductive: that’s why jobs come with mandated break periods.  But if you’re self-employed or otherwise responsible for organising your own schedule, make sure that you take a break from your tasks.  Imagine a ‘pause’ button and make sure you press it frequently.

Taking a break is beneficial to physical and mental health and it makes negotiating work and relationships more pleasurable.  If we work non-stop, we begin to enter an unreflective, auto-pilot mode, characterised by stimulus/response activity.  Pauses calm our nervous system, enabling us to choose our responses mindfully rather than out of habit.  Exercising choice is more effective and satisfying.

I have a tendency to speed through my day, convincing myself that ticking things of my to-do list as quickly as possible makes me an efficient and effective worker.  However, in this mode I feel rushed and suspect that I might be short-changing everything and everyone.  Without thoughtfulness, our responses merge into mediocrity.

Taking a break between tasks – something as simple as breathing deeply, enjoying a cup of coffee or making a phone call to a friend, resets and refocuses me.  I can then proceed rationally with my day, prioritising my to-do list and even deciding to drop some items altogether.

Recently, during a workshop for some women who have been through terrible times, we pressed pause between each section of our activities: we took three deep breaths and made a little clearing in which we could rest and reflect before tackling the next step.  It was so successful that I intend to introduce it into other workshops.

It may not always be easy to resist the pressure and slow down – press ‘pause’ – but if you don’t give yourself a break, who will?  It doesn’t not come naturally to me – I’m not known for waiting before I talk or act – but experience has shown that it is beneficial and not just at work : don’t forget those vital personal relationships.

And here’s link to 10 short Ted talks to watch during your coffee break