Pump the breaks*
How to maximize the power of the pause
*Hey, Illuminate Me tribe!
Before you send me a message about the misspelled word in the headline, I’m aware that the proper spelling in this context is “brakes.” However, I have a two-fold reason for intentionally ignoring it:
You know I love a clever play on words.
I wanted to give you a heads-up that I’ll be leaving soon for a vacation in Bali with my husband. Since I want to be fully present during our travels, this newsletter will also take a break next week, but it (and I) will resume on January 29th, no doubt feeling refreshed, re-energized, and ready to share lots of illuminating new content. Until then, please enjoy this week’s edition. Thanks for your support, and see you in two weeks!
How’s the new year treating you?
Are you in full-stem-ahead-get-out-of-my-way-while-I-make-progress mode?
If so, more power to you, my friend.
But if you’re not, join the club.
Don’t get me wrong: I have goals and plenty of drive. And my Januarys are typically filled with tons of momentum and make-it-so energy.
But lately, it’s less about forcing things and more about taking my foot off the gas pedal or even, dare I say, pumping the brakes.
Because when you pump the brakes, you stop and take a second to think about what you’re doing.
You reflect on your choices (there’s my word of the year again), and you consider how and with whom you’re spending your time, what matters most, what you want, and why you do what you do.
Spoiler alert: That’s impossible to do when you’re moving a million miles per hour.
Contrary to popular opinion (and what social media would lead you to believe), nonstop hustle doesn’t always lead to success.
Though it seems counterintuitive, taking a break is the best way to make career progress. In addition, research shows breaks are essential to improving our moods, overall well-being, and performance capacity.
Here’s a four-step process to maximize the power of the pause:
First, shift your mindset about breaks.
Downtime isn’t unproductive; it’s essential for progress. Taking deliberate breaks can seem jarring when you’re used to operating at a frenetic pace. But being busy is not the same as being productive. Change your perspective to embrace the gift of giving yourself the time and space to think, feel, and experience as complementary, not contradictory to your career progress. When you make this type of self-care a regular practice, you’ll have greater clarity and enhanced performance and protect, preserve, and improve your well-being and happiness.
Second, create dedicated space for breaks.
After you’ve accepted that breaks can enhance your progress, you need to carve out space regularly for them to occur. Treat your time like the precious commodity it is by taking back your calendar and protecting it. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of to-dos and requests, believing everything is urgent and important, which is seldom the case. Avoid overbooking yourself with countless and unnecessary meetings and instead simplify, prioritize, and focus your attention on what matters most, saying no to everything else. Doing this will allow you to schedule blocks of uninterrupted time to be quiet, slow down, reflect, and make room for insights.
Next, be picky about how you spend your break time.
Once you’ve finally created intentional breaks, be mindful of how you spend them. Resist filling your time with mind-numbing activities like scrolling through your social media, and instead, use that time to replenish yourself. Nourish your body through movement by walking around the block or getting in a quick yoga session. Connect with educational and uplifting podcasts, books, TED talks, articles, and videos to enrich your mind. Recharge your spirit through meditation, prayer, and reflection. Or, since research suggests that sleep deprivation leads to reduced performance and productivity, try using breaks to prioritize rest, even if that means taking a quick catnap.
Finally, use technology to help you stay on track.
Let’s face it: technology is woven into the fabric of our careers. And when you’re crunching on a project, it’s easy to get lost in your device. Fortunately, the same tech we rely on to do our jobs can also keep us accountable to our breaks.
If you own a piece of wearable technology like Fitbit or Apple Watch, use its functionality to set a reminder to take regular breaks or prompt you to stand up and move around. Or download a meditation app like Calm or Headspace, so you have instant access to mindfulness sessions at the swipe of your finger.
In a world that glorifies nonstop hustle and grind, taking an intentional break may be the ultimate career hack.
Another career hack?
Spending your professional time on the right things (aka the needle-movers).
In my latest Forbes article, I share five questions to ask yourself to ensure you are.
P.S. When I’m not writing this newsletter or taking intentional breaks, I’m a social media ghostwriter. (Yep, that’s a thing). I help founders craft their stories to communicate and connect better, magnifying their reach and impact. (Think personal branding and thought leadership.) Learn more here.
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This is an ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL NEWSLETTER with an EVEN MORE BEAUTIFUL MESSAGE, Amy!!
Out of all your "Illuminate Me" Newsletters, this one has GOT to be my FAVORITE!! You're teaching us to see things from a Different Perspective, and I LOVE your "Play On Words"!! I know your Insights here will help me in both my Personal Life and my Academic Life!!
Enjoy your WONDERFUL VACATION in Bali! You've earned it! You deserve it! I look forward to seeing the GREAT WORK you will continue to do when you come back!! Post some pictures!!!