My mind is racing along. I feel like it’s a good thing – in the flow or zone – but then the entire day flies by. I can’t seem to put on the brakes.
Later, when I don’t follow through, I feel lousy. I’ve let down someone else and myself, too! And it happens way too often.
Pause: My best advice
My best advice will always be to find ways to “push pause” during your day. [Read this article for why I say that.] This post will share some of my ideas as well as those used by various clients (no names are ever shared).
If you have ADHD, are overwhelmed by life changes and transitions, or have a brain injury, these all make pausing more difficult to manage. However, this is absolutely doable, once you find your personal best strategies.
Pause: 4 quick steps
In a fairly new book, Dr. Stephanie Moulton Sarkis assesses alternative, non medical strategies for managing ADHD, one of which is mindfulness. In this chapter, she shares the STOP framework created by Dr. Lidia Zylowska (Sarkis: page 107, Kindle edition).
“STOP is an acronym that can help you practice mindfulness during your day (Zylowska 2012):
S = Stop (pause) for a moment.
T = Take a deep breath.
O = Observe mindfully in the moment (notice your body sensations or what you are doing).
P = Proceed with relaxation and awareness. The “Proceed” step is your chance to change your actions.”
How to get yourself to pause …. and remember to do it consistently
Use one or more of these techniques to get yourself to slow down for a break.
Then use the STOP approach above before you leave your desk, or as you return. Which way will depend on your own experiment for what works better for you.
- Set your timer. If you get into the zone and forget to stop, set the timer before you work for 60 minutes. It’s fine to choose another timeframe; the point is to be consistent. Why? Because you eventually will have a better sense of “how long” 60 minutes” is by staying consistent. At one hour, you choose whether or not to keep working on that task.
- Don’t ever use “snooze.” Let the timer go and go and go …. until your mind pauses and you stop.
- Or some people will use the countdown feature or else 2 or 3 reminder notifications: a wakeup/warning blast (first alarm), time is actually running out (second) and stop right now (last one). If you need this routine to get yourself to wind down instead of the jarring start/stop approach, then consider this your new best practice. Think of it as necessary to switching gears in your mind as well. Breaks release creativity so you’ll be in even better shape for your next project.
- When you plan your day the night before (more here), write into your schedule when you plan to take short breaks. Or how you will transition from one task to the next.
- If “break” isn’t engaging enough to your brain, reframe it and write it differently in your plan or calendar. For example: “Listen to an ICD teleclass while taking Malik for a walk.” “Get tea in time for your next call.” “Break to make hotel reservation for this weekend.” “Break for 10 minutes of … exercise, yoga, coloring book time, walking around.”
- Use a post-it note with the word “Pause” on it. Or if you’re artistic, make something beautiful to remind you.
- Some people will feel the anxiety in their body first, and that acts as their trigger to do something different. They will pause, use STOP and figure out where to head – or what to say – from there.
Good luck with your choice of strategies. Remember that sometimes, no, often, you’ll need to experiment to see which works for you.
And if you have ADHD, you may need to have a few strategies you alternate, to stay engaged.