In Praise of Pause

We live in wild times.

In the space of just a few years, back-to-back meetings have become the backbone of our days. Overlapping commitments are standard practice on our calendars. And, it’s not at all uncommon to receive an email followed immediately by an instant message and even a text to make sure we’re on top of it!

It escalated quickly. It became the norm quickly. And, it became unsustainable…quickly!

We are simply not designed to move at this pace, under this kind of pressure, for prolonged periods of time.

We can, sure. But at what cost?

Most of us here would agree that there is a nearly straight line from overcommitment to feeling overwhelmed. And yet, two-thirds of us are, more than likely, overcommitted RIGHT NOW! (VitalSmarts, 2019)  

Pause to Reflect

Being overcommitted is a concern shared nearly across the board by my clients. It’s evident in their voices, their body language, and the way they refer to their to-dos, have-tos, and should-dos.

From their perspective, everything is important. So how can there possibly be any relief?

But, there’s power in that question!

And, the power is in the pause. In taking just a moment to stop juggling, catch all of the balls, and reflect on the current status of things.

This can be an incredibly uncomfortable experience when we’re used to constant motion, but give it a whirl. And, experience the corresponding moment when your world does not implode, but rather pauses with you…for just a moment.

When we’re not lost in the chaos of our day to day or in the expectations of everyone in our orbit, we can take a more objective look at what’s truly important. And, that’s when we can engage the power of choice.

Pause to Prioritize

When you’re able to stop juggling and pause, you open the door for clarity to step and help with the challenge of prioritization.

Give this a try:

    1. Look at everything you’ve been juggling today.
    2. Assign each one a value. I like to label each responsibility as glass, wood, rubber, or paper. The glass tasks are non-negotiable because, if dropped, the damage is irreparable. Wood is a bit more durable, but still something to be careful with. Rubber tasks can flex and change shape as needed to fit into new time blocks. And, paper tasks are low priority with few to no repercussions for rescheduling or deleting altogether.
    3. Now, gather up your glass and wood priorities. Put them in the order you’ll tackle them. Add in some rubber tasks if time allows.

Pause to Choose

This is where the magic happens. Lost among your to-dos, have-tos, and should-dos, there’s another category…the choose-tos.

There is nearly always a choice. Sometimes all the choices are rotten and undesirable. But, there’s nearly always a choice if you look carefully.

In the pause, you have the ability to assess, prioritize, and then choose a way forward.

And, the choosing is the thing!

Life stops happening to you.

Instead, you take the wheel making deliberate and thoughtful decisions based on the information you have, the circumstances you’re in, and the true value of each option in front of you.  

For many of us, this feeling of autonomy can feel surprising vulnerable. You change the story when you take charge of the pen. And, that clears the way for both freedom and responsibility.

What will you choose to do next?