Pausing for reflection and thinking – to be better at your work – is not personal time.

In a recent workshop with a client who bills most of their work by the hour, we were discussing how to weave short mindful practices into their various workflows. As I explained the value of resilience practices for creative problem-solving the CEO offered this, “Let’s add a few more minutes for personal time each day.”

While I love time for personal reflection, this was an aha moment for me.

Time to think improves the work we are producing. Mistakes happen when we are on auto-pilot and when we work long hours without breaks.

In many open work environments taking time to think can look an awful lot like being unproductive. I’ve had team members come to me worried about another teammate who didn’t appear to be “working.” How have we come to a place where we believe doing requires constant action or reaction?

We are a knowledge working society which is true also when you are running a machine. “Google” the value of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in an AI world. Self-awareness and the ability to pause, think, and respond are critical skills for every employee.

Our clients would likely be horrified to learn if our employees felt guilty taking time for reflection on a problem they were paying us to solve.

Communication and permission are important if we are to change these perceptions and judgments. Leaders play a key role and you can begin with 3 simple steps:

  • Communicate that you value time for thinking at your company and within your teams. Talk about the importance of reflection and the positive impact on your work. You may first have to address device addiction since that’s what most people turn to the minute they look away from work, but let’s start with creating space to think.
  • Practice Pause Before Send. Before you send a proposal, client response, or an internal email on an important topic, write the email and step away from your desk to breathe, stretch, take a bio break, or say hello to a coworker. Then come back and read what you wrote. Ninety percent of the time you will find something you can improve, then press send. 
  • Start meetings and 1:1 conversations unplugged. I’ve heard it referred to as One Minute to Arrive which is perfect. Give time for everyone to let go of what they raced to your meeting worrying about and to be fully present to talk about the agenda at hand.

Finally, go ahead and bill for time to think and reflect. Your clients will thank you.