Permission to Pause

How often do you daydream? I mean really, truly getting lost in your thoughts and drifting off for a while?

In a recent article in Psychologies Magazine they covered the idea of soft fascination. This is where we balance periods of intense focus with periods of less intensity. It is giving ourselves permission to pause.

Our cognitive health is at threat from attention fatigue. By softening our focus, daydreaming or taking a simple mindful moment, we can turn down the dial briefly on our busy lives.

In the past I have been guilty of constant busyness. With the gift of hindsight, I can see now how much this was blocking not just my productivity but my creativity too.

My best ideas come to me when I have switched off my brain. Actually, that’s not quite true – our brains are always ‘on’ whether we’re rushing around at our job or lying on the sofa doodling. Culturally, we are conditioned to only consider one of these a worthwhile activity.

The article in Psychologies Today suggests that we reframe our idea of work, that work does not have to mean action. As an author, I have learned that in addition to writing the words for my projects I also need to mull things over, sit in meditation and let my projects ‘stew’. This too is work and contributes to the overall project.

How about your own occupation – which activities have you dismissed as not real work, which you could now reconsider? Sitting in contemplation after a meeting, social chit-chat with a colleague or reflecting alone at the end of a shift, are all work.

Reframe your idea of work.

When I switch off my attention, thoughts and ideas tend to flow. Often, its when I am relaxing in bed at the end of each day. I keep a notepad on my bedside table for this reason, as I can never remember my bright ideas the following morning!

In recent months, I have begun to let my mind wander more. I have a bird table outside the patio doors to my home-office and I regularly stop to watch it for a couple of minutes at a time. This little interruption to intense concentration helps me to feel refreshed.

I have found lots of other ways to pause like drinking my morning tea slowly & mindfully in silence, free-writing and taking a short walk to the nearby park at lunchtimes.

This week I attended a Christmas wreath-making workshop. I am a novice but I soon found myself lost in the flow of the task. As I pinned blue spruce and pine cones together, ideas for completely unrelated things came to me.

Wreath-making workshop was hosted by Tammy Kefford Designs

Our brains were not designed to be in a constant state of intense focus. Not only is it bad for productivity but it is bad for our health. Lunchtime walks and floristry workshops may not be conducive to your schedule but how else could you introduce more pauses into your day? I’ll end with some simple suggestions:

  • On waking, take a minute or two to lie in silence before you get up. Set the intention to be fully present in that moment but to do nothing.
  • Move away from your workspace and look out of the nearest window for a few minutes.
  • Block out periods of ‘thinking time’ in your diary, in the same way that you would for a meeting. Protect this time and use it to do inactive ‘work’.
  • Spin in your chair and let your mind wander!
  • Think of an activity that you usually do accompanied by music, podcasts etc. Next time, try it without adding any sounds.
  • Take a social media detox. Annika Spalding has a free, guided one which you can join here. Time away from socials can be spent on more mindful activities.
  • Find a quick and easy task, unrelated to your work, where you can find a state of flow. Colouring-in is my favourite.

Give yourself permission to pause.

-Michelle

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