The Power of Pausing
By Laura Hurtienne, Ed.D.
Assistant Professor of Education - LICI
A few months ago, I was walking aimlessly through a store filled with opportunities for decorating our new home, when I stumbled across a sign that said, “The best ideas always come to you in the shower.” I stopped in my tracks, felt myself fill up with validation, and wondered if people would notice if I reached over and patted myself on the back. I had repeated those same words, or variations of them, to countless audiences, and there they were, in print, available for purchase. The sign stared at me, taunting me. I needed no further encouragement; the sign was in my cart within seconds.
The lesson of the power of pausing came to me when I was working on my doctorate degree. I would stare at the computer screen or stacks of articles and books, feeling completely and ignorantly stuck. I would force my brain into an unproductive staring contest. I needed to think, yet it was like there was a brick wall between my brain and any sense I might make of the information I read.
Out of frustration I would head to the shower, do the dishes, or even vacuum, anything to avoid the reality that my brain had become my enemy. In those moments, the moments of attempting to do nothing, my brain would unexpectedly fire up, sending me rushing back to the very work I had been avoiding. I found that the mundane tasks I did to avoid my brainlessness actually gave my brain time to process naturally and do the work with much less effort.
I didn’t notice the power of pausing right away; it took some time. But I started to recognize the phenomenon occurring when I was driving, cutting the grass, or waiting for my kids in the school parking lot. The reality of what was happening became clearer and clearer. I slowly realized how much more productive I was when I just took the time to pause. In pausing, doing seemingly mindless actions, my brain went to work.
Consider the power of pausing in the workplace. Why do some companies have slides, swings, kitchens, and coffee klatches? Have the companies given up? Do they think their employees are lazy or are they trying to make up for missed childhoods? No, they are extending the opportunity for thinking to occur in the brain’s natural habitat. In providing employees activities that require little to know thinking, they’ve allowed for the downtime that gives the brain freedom to go to work.
What about you? Have you taken the time to pause in order to allow your brain wiggle room? Have you allowed employees time to just breathe and let their minds wander? If you have, continue to be intentional about making that time. If you haven’t, go for a drive, take a walk, sit on a bench outside. Whatever it is that ignites your brain, find time to pause, engage in the “mindlessness,” and truly think.