Lifestyle

How to master productive pausing – and get more done at work


Take a break – it’s good for you (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

It’s tempting to think that the best way to get work done is to go at a breakneck speed; multi-tasking and cramming as much as possible into your day without a pause for breath.

If you work through your lunch break and rapidly tick off tasks until the end of the day, you’re being super productive, right?

Well, perhaps not.

Taking a break is actually an important part of getting stuff done. It’s a way to fully focus, by taking a moment of rest between one to-do list item and another so you can move on feeling refreshed and ready.

Not all breaks are created equal, however. Rather than coming to a grinding halt and getting distracted by TikTok for 20 minutes in the middle of your working day, what you need to do is a ‘productive pause’.

What is a productive pause, you may ask?

Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like – a pause that’s designed to be super effective; one that’s consciously made and spent fully detached from work.

Here’s how embrace the art of productive pausing and make it a standard part of your day.

Take a moment to do nothing

‘Don’t answer the phone, emails or texts immediately,’ happiness expert Julia Paulette Hollenbury tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Allow yourself a moment to do nothing.

‘In the pause, scattered thoughts and attention gather. You are interrupting your automatic habits and bringing more self-awareness.

‘This new habit will help you be calm and focused.’

Don’t ignore your body’s needs

Ever told yourself you’ll go and get some water or nip to the toilet only once you’ve sent an email or finished a report?

Quit that – it’s not doing you any good.

Julia says: ‘Eat, drink, rest and go to the toilet when you need to. Give-in to the wise prompts of your body.

‘With the fuel of nourishment, you will think and function better. Without the distraction of ignoring the urge to go to the toilet, you’ll be more focused.’

Multitasking doesn’t work – neither does trying to rush through life without pausing for breath (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

When you’re stuck, step away

‘When stuck on an impossible task, instead of hunching over a laptop until it is done, forcing yourself to continue, take a break,’ recommends Julia. ‘The break will help you access the innovative instinctual intelligence of your whole body.

‘Make a cuppa, take a shower, chat with colleagues.’

Go outside

A brief change in scenery makes all the difference. Try stepping outside on your lunch break, or just popping outside for five minutes between Zoom meetings.

‘Changing environment from a manmade world of hard materials and straight lines, out into nature, can free up your thinking, helping you to find fresh answers to puzzling problems,’ says Julia.

Find pleasure

Work shouldn’t be a horrific slog. Find moments for pleasure.

‘Work can be empowering and fun,’ notes Julia. ‘Find something delightful, like cream in your coffee or a piece of cake, especially when a task is difficult, a colleague criticises you or a deadline tightens – find pleasure.’

Move your body

Julia suggests: ‘Stretch, dance, walk or go to the gym. Wriggle your face, hands or feet.

‘This is particularly important if your work involves sitting in a fixed position for hours. The body is evolved for movement – our ancestors walked for many hours a day and we aren’t designed to sit still.

‘Movement frees your fixed pattern of posture, enabling you to access not just your head, but the physical intelligence of your whole body.’

Grab a tea, have a chat, or pop outside (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

Release physical tension

Take a moment to check in with your body. Are your shoulders up by your ears? Are you clenching your jaw?

Shake it out.

‘Slowly raise your shoulders up (do not hold your breath) as high as you can, squeezing tight,’ Julia recommends. ‘Then, in one go release the tension and take some big breaths. Move, wriggle or stretch…

‘Remove your eyes from the screen and stare into space for a few minutes every hour.

‘Try stretching legs and arms out as if you are pushing something away. This will help you feel energized.’

Remember that pausing is good for you and your work

Let go of that guilt that pops up when you feel like you’re not working. Remind yourself that breaks are essential, and make you better at whatever you’re doing.

‘Pausing often helps you reclaim the essence of yourself, amongst all the tasks to be done,’ says Julia.

‘After pausing, you return to your work refreshed, with renewed concentration. You will produce better work, creating better dialogue and relationships with colleagues and customers.

‘You are not a machine but a sensitive feeling human.

‘The way you work best is irregularly. Allowing pauses is the most productive way you can work.’

Julia Paulette Hollenbery is a happiness expert and author of The Healing Power Of Pleasure – Seven Medicines For Rediscovering The Innate Joy Of Being.

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Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.


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