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A moment to pause before we respond

Imagine you are in a team meeting. With so much to do, you are also answering emails when your manager asks a question. Being distracted you answer quickly, with little thought. You then regret your response the rest of the day. Playing the situation over in your head, wishing you could have reacted differently.

When multitasking, we can feel rushed and unfocused. We lose the space to pause and choose how to respond. We may answer with a lack of empathy or in habitual ways that don’t serve us. Either can lead to negative interactions or feelings of regret. Taking energy away from what we could be doing, in and out of the office.

Mindfulness is focus in the present moment. Paying attention to what is happening right now. Viktor E. Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist said “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Creating space increases our ability to respond to people, situations, even ourselves favorably. Yet being fully present to do this is a challenge when the world is great at distracting us.

For most of us, work isn’t slowing down any time soon. We are trying to do more in less time with limited resources. There are ways though to help pause before reacting.

  • Give the current task your full attention. Turn notifications off when in meetings or working on a project. Resist the urge to look at email, messages, social media. When present, your awareness helps you recognize stimulus faster and have more time (even an extra second) to respond.

  • Reduce multitasking to stay focused. When you are distracted take a break. Step away from your computer, get some fresh air, move your body, enjoy a snack.

  • Know it is okay to not reply right away. Instead of responding immediately say “let me think about it” and give a specific (and reasonable) time to answer.

  • Observe your patterns. Do you always say yes (or no) when you are overwhelmed? Is this helping or depleting you? With awareness comes the opportunity to change.

  • Notice what happens in your body. If you become tense, recognize it. Circle your head or tap your thumb to each finger counting to 4. Take a deep breath and relax before responding.

When something occurs and you wish it went differently, give yourself a break. Work gets busy, deadlines get moved, people have bad days. Accept what happened, try to not judge yourself and move on. Be patient and trust you can react differently next time.

Viktor E. Frankl, Austrian Psychiatrist and Holocaust Survivor

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