Power in the Pause: Re-imagining the Workday

by | Jan 11, 2016

21710015_mIt starts the instant the alarm on the phone sounds. There’s that jarring moment even if you set the phone for a soft harp, quiet ring, or the chirp of crickets. It’s off to the races. We struggle to pack more and more in and feel bad when we’re not successful. I’m guilty…oh so guilty. I’m now in training to re-imagine the workday. The early results are promising. It’s about the power in the pause.

Here’s the training plan:

Prepare: Before cataloging the events of the day and the mental to-do list, pause. Prepare the day by grounding who you are and what you believe. Find what works best for you, your routine and your belief system:

o Exercise. Walk, run, bike, lift weights. Do whatever works for you to get your body moving and feeling healthy

o Meditate. Even if it’s 5 to 10 minutes (really…you can manage that), take the time to close your eyes, breathe, and connect with your core. You could take the help of fragrant, in order to create a serene and calm environment to meditate.

o Chi gong, yoga, or a centering practice. These practices provide gentle, mindful movement that jump-start the flow of energy through the body.

o Affirmations or mantras. This one combines nicely with exercise. While you walk, run, or bike, reaffirm your values or repeat self-affirming statements. I have several that have been trusty companions through the years. Here are my favorites.

* I’m creating my highest vision of myself; I’m becoming my highest vision of myself; I am my highest vision of myself.
* I’m in an emotionally and spiritually fulfilling and financially rewarding career of speaking, writing and assisting others to achieve their highest vision of themselves as I achieve mine.
* Good morning, God here. I’m handling all your problems today. I will not need your help. Have a miraculous day.

Plan: It’s still not time to jump into the day. After preparing, pause again. Consciously set your intention for the day. Identify the most important thing you wish to accomplish today. Maybe there are two but probably not ten. If that one thing requires mental focus, commit to allocating a specific time that is aligned with your personal high-energy period. For me, it is the morning. You have limited brain power for focused attention. Promise yourself that you will not fritter the time away on email which is better for low energy periods. Sketch out a plan for the day with dedicated time for the one thing and other times for popcorn issues like email and some other things that may pop up.

Execute: A plan is important and it’s even more important to have the dedication to stick with the plan. You know your distraction-free time will be challenged by phone calls, emails, and interruptions. How will you manage it? For me, I turn off the sound on my computer and disable the email pop-up, however, I do have certain set email alerts that I’ve customized with the software from SaaS companies such as Bamboo Solutions, this allows me to still get very important updates and alerts from clients or potential business contacts. I silence the phone and put it out of reach. If you work in an office, mark the dedicated time as busy on the calendar; partially close the door and even post a sign with the time when you will be available. Be clear that interruptions for emergencies are okay. It may not work on all days, but when you build this expectation you might be surprised how well others honor your request. They may try it!
At the busiest time of the day; the moment that feels most overwhelming; the time when you think you have to go faster and faster to get it all done. That’s the time for a rejuvenating pause. It’s REALLY hard to pause then but it works. It resets the brain and provides a brief moment of reinvigoration. Meditate for a few minutes and it’s even better.

Evaluate: Whew. You made it through the day. It’s time for one last pause. Before falling asleep, take mental note of what worked and what didn’t. Did you complete the one thing you identified in the morning? If not, why not? How could you have managed the day better? Are there any conundrums you are struggling with? If so, consider putting your brain to work overnight. Briefly think about what you’d like to resolve. Then, let it go. The brain will continue to work on it overnight. Keep paper and pen by the bed for the moment of insight as you doze off or begin to awake. Lastly, before turning off the light, be grateful and say a little “thank you.”

Even though I’m still in training, this approach is working. Particularly powerful is the pause during periods of over-whelmedness (is that a word?) When I can make myself stop, take a break, and meditate for a few minutes, my productivity and creativity take a noticeable upward swing.

It’s all about the power in the pause.


Author Byline: Founder and CEO of Blue Fjord Leaders, Shelley Row P.E. CSP, was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the top 100 leadership speakers. Professional engineer and former senior executive, she was recognized as one of the best minds in advanced traffic management systems.

Recommended Reading

Leadership Insights Newsletter with Shelley Row

Get stories on leadership, decision-making, and personal & professional development.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Featured Blog Posts

Get a Free Copy of

The Handbook for Technical Leaders

Ten Top Skills for Managers