The Power of the Pause

Time. There just never seems to be enough of it. Whether I was checking things off my to-do list or running late to an appointment, I’ve been hyper aware of time lately. Every hour of the day is such a precious commodity; I haven’t wanted to waste a minute!

And yet, last week I dedicated almost four full days to my own professional development: one day with my amazing Leadership Triangle cohort of Goodmon Fellows and three days with my awesome Professional Learning and Leading Collaborative team at the Friday Institute completing Crucial Conversations training. I have to admit that it was difficult to spend so much time away from my inbox and my regular work. I could sense myself growing anxious by Day Two because the emails were piling up and I had deadlines to meet.

Did I get behind? Yes.

Were my responses later than I would prefer? Yes. 

Was it worth the time away from my daily duties? Absolutely!

Far too seldom do we take time out of our schedules to focus on our knowledge and skills. Both professional learning experiences made me stop and reflect on who I am, what I value and how I can be a better leader. I am grateful for this time well-spent on my own growth and development. 

As leaders, we must embrace the power of the pause. It’s okay to slow down from time to time to reflect, reset or recharge. I encourage you to try these five simple tips: 

  1. Begin your day by using a five-minute mindfulness activity to clear your mind and focus your thinking. Try sitting outside and observing nature or taking out a pen and pad for mindless doodling. Whatever you do, allow yourself to immerse fully in the experience.
  2. Block off at least one hour of dedicated time each week to spend time catching up on all those reports, articles and blogs you’ve been saving for a rainy day. Turn off your notifications, find a comfy chair and read for reading sake. 
  3. At the end of each month, take a step back to reflect on your successes and challenges. Consider what went well, what could have been improved and how you want to approach your next month’s goals.
  4. Use that PTO! We all need to take time to fully step away throughout the year. Even if you just plan a staycation at home, submit your leave, turn off the notifications and rest. The work will be there when you return.
  5. And finally…when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed and sense frustration creeping in, pause and use the six-second rule to redirect your amygdala from making an emotional response. We’ve all got at least six seconds to spare.

Headshot of Melissa Rasberry, a woman with short blonde hair wearing a white shirt and a multi-strand blue pearl necklaceDr. Melissa Rasberry, director of the Professional Learning and Leading Collaborative, is an accomplished education professional with proven visionary leadership and strategic communication skills, honed through 22 years of experience in public K-16 classrooms and education nonprofits. Before joining the Friday Institute, Rasberry served as principal technical assistance consultant for education at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). In addition to her NSF work at AIR, Rasberry served as the community of practice manager for the U.S. Department of Education’s State Support Network, supporting over two dozen communities with hundreds of members from across the country. She also led online learning projects with The Wallace Foundation, the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Rasberry’s passion for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) came through in her work as an employee resource group chair and member of the DEI council, in addition to her ongoing efforts to mentor junior team members and advocate for colleagues of color.