Pause and Think
“People don’t like to think. If one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant.” ― (often attributed to) Helen Keller
In busy times, the thing we most often squeeze out of our lives is the single most essential component to effectiveness: thought. Isn’t it odd that when there is more on the line, we stumble into the bad habit of “shooting from the hip” rather than giving full and measured consideration to our responsibilities?
However, the most important time to instill the discipline of structured thought is when you are busy. In Die Empty I referenced Joseph Campbell’s “sacred space”. This was his term for the time and place each day in which he would immerse himself in thought, study, and experience that filled his well and allowed him to stretch his mind and spirit.
If you are busy – especially if you are busy – you must adopt the discipline of setting aside time to think, reflect on your day and your work, and to fill your mind and your soul with inspiration. More than that, it can be valuable to break out in the midst of challenging work to take a quick walk around the office, retreat to a corner, or step outside for a few minutes. (I used to have a rubber ball I would walk around the office bouncing whenever I had an especially challenging problem to solve.) This kind of ritualistic break from your work provides fresh context for your mind, and allows you to re-engage the problem with a fresh perspective.
Why don’t we pause to think?
1. We’re too busy doing the work to think about it (which may lead to diminishing returns).
2. We’re afraid of the possible consequences of new ideas (which may lead to more work).
3. We’re afraid of how it will look to others around us (who are nose-to-the-grindstone).
4. We’re under the delusion that it’s sufficient to think something through once (when the context is always changing).
Make every attempt to punctuate your day with pockets of thought and reflection about your work. Try to schedule ten minutes before or after each meeting to consider its implications. Block off some time at the beginning and end of each day to reflect, recharge, and re-align. Schedule time for your “sacred space”.
Pause, think, then re-engage.
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I'm Todd Henry.
I write books, speak internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion for work, and help people and teams generate brilliant ideas. More