The Wake-Up Call
In our always on dimension of digital distraction, working at speed is often perceived as a badge of honor. Proceeding at all times with a sense of urgency has become coded into our operating systems. The driven Do More, Faster. We instantly respond to demands (usually delivered by email) that are not actually urgent, and often not important.
A couple of decades ago this mindset was something I aspired to and lived by, as a high-flying attorney. Until one morning in 2004 when my doctor called to inform me that blood tests indicated I had a month to live.
Most people don’t have such an extreme wake up call. But the consequences of operating at breakneck speed, whilst rarely pausing to take a breath, are many and significant. They include:
- Poor quality work
- Stress, exhaustion and burnout
- Missed ideas and opportunities
- Shallow meaningless engagement with colleagues
- Compromised creativity
The irony is that the intention behind moving fast is often enhanced productivity, but the research unequivocally demonstrates that our effectiveness and the quality of our work suffers – as do we.
If we choose to pause, take a breath, stand back from our tasks, ignore our devices and allow or minds to wander freely, we give our brain the recharge and reset it so desperately needs.
Good leaders know the value of a power pause and utilize it on daily basis. By way of example, Jack Welch, legendary GE CEO, was known for spending an hour of his working day engaged in what he called “looking out of the window time”. The Navy SEALs typically operate in situations where the stakes are highest yet live by the maxim ‘Slow is smooth, smooth is fast’.
Studies and experience show that pausing, even for a minute (but 5 is better) has many benefits including:
- The avoidance of cognitive fatigue
- Better problem-solving capabilities. Standing back, reflecting, and altering perspective works wonders.
- Improved focus and attention.
- Enhanced creativity.
- Greater work satisfaction.
In short, better work and better you.
A further significant benefit from deliberate pausing is enhanced presence. Good leaders have good presence;
otherwise referred to as executive or leadership presence. Pausing facilitates calmness, a sense of being present and the ability to engage and connect with the audience.
So whether you schedule your pauses or take them when the moment feels right, raise your game and enhance your well-being by embracing the power of the pause.