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LISA MCLEOD: Avoid cramming in more to-dos during shorts breaks

Lisa McLeod

Lisa McLeod

I confess; I crowbar things.

If I find myself with 10 minutes free, I’ll crowbar in a phone call. If I see a blank spot on my calendar, I’ll crowbar in one more appointment.

People often ask me how I get so much done. The truthful answer is, sometimes very badly.

At times my crowbar time management ups my productivity, but at other times crowbarring in one more thing creates chaos.

Like this week, when I crowbarred in a phone call while packing and neglected to include my passport.

That seemingly small almost non-decision resulted in 12 hours of stressful chaos for myself, and others, including my husband who had to dash to the airport to overnight said passport to me on the West Coast so that I could get into Canada the next day.

I’m not alone in my crowbarring. I see the same thing happening with my clients.

As the pace of life heats up, people find themselves checking email at stop lights, texting while talking to family members, and booking so many back to back appointments, there’s no time in between to think.

The best boss I’ve ever had once told me, “One of the biggest mistakes executives make is booking themselves so tightly that they don’t have time to do the creative strategic thinking that made them successful in the first place.”

More isn’t always better, it’s often worse.

Wellness and Performance coach Richa Badami says that the secret is to “Pause for Power.”

Badami says, “Sometimes the simplest solutions are hidden in plain sight. Taking brief pauses throughout the day can be simple and effortless and still have a profound impact on your life and work.”

When you pause, you breathe, which makes you physically stronger, and you clear your mind, which enables you to think more strategically. Here are three ways to leverage the power of the pause:

1. Get off the phone

You’re barreling down the road at 65 miles an hour, strapped in steel, but this alone isn’t interesting enough, so you find yourself wondering who you can call.

Many of us are constantly reaching for the phone. But as my passport experience demonstrates, you can’t talk to someone about one thing and expect yourself to get something else done at the same time.

Avoid costly mistakes by putting down the phone and focusing on the task at hand.

2. Make transition time think time

Transition time helps you get centered and focused. As you’re walking to the elevator, heading to a meeting, or striding through the airport, instead of texting, or talking, think about where you’re going and what you want to happen when you get there.

Pausing for mental prep helps you harness your power for the upcoming moment rather than wasting it on distractions.

3. Build in white space

Things happen. Despite your best intentions, you’ll run into traffic, forget your passport, or miss a flight. If you’ve booked yourself back to back, one miss creates a cascade of chaos.

Building white space into your day enables you to respond to what’s happening, Badami, who works with CEOs, doctors and other leaders (www.RichaBadami.com) says, “When you Pause for Power you check in and see if you are managing your stress or if your stress is managing you.”

So next time you’re tempted to crowbar in just one more thing, consider pausing, it might make the difference between power and chaos.

Gwinnett-based Lisa Earle McLeod is a sales leadership consultant amd author. Visit www.LisaEarleMcLeod.com or email her at lisa@mcleodandmore.com.