When to Press ‘Pause’ on Your Priorities


What’s the trick to better business focus?

Just breathe

Jim Beach, founder of School for Startups was interviewing me the other day for his radio show. Mid-way through the interview Jim said,

This topic of sitting down and reassessing has come up three times in the first 11 minutes….
Why do you think that the pause is so important?

The answer is vital to sustained success, so I wanted to share it with you.

You’ve probably heard that a simple pause when speaking can let people absorb what you’ve just said. It gives listeners time to process and it affords you time to collect your thoughts. As impactful these verbal pauses are, there’s another type of pause that’s even more powerful.

You see, we all need a breather from time to time to mull over important decisions, unlock creative inspiration or simply return to our roots and revisit our dreams. Often an hour of quiet will do the trick, while more difficult situations might require a longer period of reflection.

Reaching your potential personally and professionally requires the ability to periodically stop what you’re doing, breathe deep (in a metaphorical sense), and assess your trajectory. Are your goals still the same? Are you on the right track? Do you need to course-correct?

Rather than constantly charging ahead, taking a break can be of immense value in your journey to the top. “Taking a break” doesn’t mean that life as you know it comes to a screeching halt. Pressing the pause button simply offers an opportunity to get clarity around both problems and opportunities, so you can move forward with confidence.

What does this kind of pause look like? Here are some examples to consider:

  • I took a long break of almost 6 months when writing my book because I wanted to rethink my approach. I didn’t stop everything, I just put the book aside and worked on other things while evaluating my objectives.
  • One of my most successful clients takes a day every quarter to review his business. He assesses his progress, considers new ideas and confronts challenges before diving in for the next three months.
  • Many people I know have a daily discipline of personal or spiritual reflection. Some enjoy quiet early in the morning, others make time at the end of the day. When and where doesn’t matter, but doing it consistently does.
  • A former colleague of mine took a year off after leaving a high pressure position, not realizing the time he spent with his family would be their last together. (Sadly, he died soon after.)

Using a break to actively tackle an issue or concern can be helpful, but don’t be surprised if your pause yields unexpected results. Sometimes the most pressing concerns resolve themselves when we’re not even thinking about them. They move from top-of-mind to the back burner, slowly simmering until the right path reveals itself.

You can get seriously stressed if you work too hard to solve a problem. A pause is about letting it be. I like to think about this like letting bread dough rise. I can create the ideal conditions for that biological reaction, but it’s not me doing the work, it’s the yeast.

Bakers like me need patience, because the dough is ready when it’s ready, and not before. If baking isn’t your thing, try to make paint dry. You can watch it or not, the results are the same. Time and patience are the secret.

So it goes with a strategic pause. You may know it’s time to put things on hold, but you can’t rush results. You’ll know the break is over when the clouds in your mind clear or the enticing glow of what’s ahead beckons you to act. That’s when it’s time to get back to work building your business.

How do you feel right now? If you’re “too busy to breathe” or race through every day at 100 mph, give yourself a break.

You’ll be glad you did.

Photo by Duygu Agar on FreeStock.com

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