I was given a little book years ago, called Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much. It was at a time in my life, when I was at my busiest with a growing business, a young family, and an insatiable appetite to achieve and to get things done. I took this gift as a compliment. I loved it when people asked “How do you do it?” or “Where do you find the time?” I even secretly enjoyed my husband’s little jabs as I assembled equipment to support my next new hobby, from screen-printing at one end of the scale to roller-blading at the other.

I now realise that the book title was suggesting an elixir or remedy for a condition that isn’t healthy or something to be proud of. We must learn to press pause…

Busy-ness is the culture of business and in fact, of our time. In most professional firms, it is a culture that suggests a high performer is someone who works long hours and late into the evening. This type of ‘work ethic’ is honoured and applauded. It is a work pattern that is perpetuated by leadership and expected of their teams. It is the substance of stress and burnout. One can imagine the pressure experienced by women returning from maternity leave to fee-earning roles in these firms, to manage the expected billable hours, her self-induced high performance expectations, and also serve the needs of her family. It is an exhausting pace of giving, giving, giving, and getting little if any respite or replenishment.

With the wisdom of hindsight and experience, my belief is that productivity and effectiveness have nothing to do with how busy you are or how much you get done. It is our capacity to press pause in our doings, which will ultimately impact how effective we are both personally and professionally.

Pressing pause, means cultivating a habit of rest. It is about taking breaks to rest both mind and body. In practical terms this means putting more commas and full stops into your weekly pattern of life. Like reading an essay out loud that has no punctuation, we live our lives without stopping for breath.

My advice to anyone who feels the pace of life is leaving them breathless, is to consider what your commas and fullstops could look like, and build these pauses into your week, intentionally. Here are some practical ideas …

  • Book a daily diary date during work hours called Think Space. Imagine spending just 5 to 10 minutes when you get to work in the morning, and then again later in the afternoon, uninterrupted, away from people, phones, your laptop and all other devices, just thinking. Imagine the potential for gaining clarity and perspective or getting some creative thoughts flowing?
  • Turn off all sound in your car on the way to work, now and then. There is enough happening outside the vehicle to demand your focus. Use this time for peace and quiet.
  • Identify and eliminate any home-based activities that you really don’t need to take on yourself. Define what your priorities are at home, and ask yourself: Is what I am about to do in line with my priorities? If not, delegate it, delay it or dump it.
  • Develop a Micro-Me-Time opportunity at home to recharge your batteries – time for you. It doesn’t have to take long to give you the benefits. 3 or 4 minutes of solitude to put your feet up (literally), to read something that inspires you, to journal or even to plank … or to DO absolutely nothing at all, and simply BE.
  • Take a short walk in the fresh air and be aware of breathing. This is an old fashioned idea that researchers still maintain is our best form of R and R.

What will change?

There is no doubt that cultivating rest habits will impact you on a physical, emotional, mental, relational and spiritual level. For those of you working moms who may be sleep deprived, the need to rest is quite literally, good for your health and wellbeing. The benefits you derive in turn will impact the people you work with and those you live with for the better.

In closing, life to date has taught me that regular breaks from high activity serve to restore, renew, refresh, refuel and re-energise. You need to discover your own ways to press pause on work and life in general. I encourage you to give this serious thought – it is just a decision to build rest habits into your daily routine.

… And don’t rule out the idea of stopping to smell the roses or simply, in solitude, from wherever you are, to enjoy the view. Give yourself a break – it’s worth it.

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