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It’s half-time. You must take a productive, reflective pause!

Every game has a time-out as part of the game. In most games, the time for a pause is known to the players even before the game starts. Sometimes, players or coaches in the game can call for a time-out, depending on the situation. 

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The time out or half-time is a time to refresh, rejuvenate and restart. 

These are significant moments in the game. In sports, teams use the half-time period to regroup and make remarkable comebacks. 

For example, in football, some teams have used the half-time break to orchestrate magnificent changes as they moved from a losing position to a winning position before the game was over. 

A productive reflective pause is when a professional takes a break from their regular activity to reflect on their progress and harvest lessons from their experience and those of others to boost their productivity and wellness. 

Unfortunately, many professionals have a knack for passing on every opportunity to take a productive, reflective pause.

The business environment has become complex and challenging, and leaders must respond to multiple situations unfolding simultaneously.

A globally connected supply chain means that incidents in one part of the world become a crisis for businesses in other parts of the world. 

Leaders strive to deliver outstanding results in fast-paced work. Pressure on business leaders spreads throughout organisations. 

Productive pause enhances productivity

In response to the mounting pressure, work productivity and communication tools have emerged to enable professionals to work from home or the office. 

Many professionals have even ignored the natural cycle of day and night, which creates natural divisions of time for work and rest. 

Working 24/7 to keep your head above water is the norm for many professionals. The unprecedented pace of work coupled with other social and family demands means that there is little time for rest and any activity, which appears to slow down the momentum at work.  

However, the research is overwhelming. Superior performance is a combination of speed and strategic pause.

In motor racing, for example, one would ordinarily think acceleration is the major contributor to the success of any player in the game. 

However, the technicians tell us that a significant contributor to the success is the extreme braking capabilities of the vehicles designed to travel at speeds exceeding 270mph. 

The dual-core of effective braking and acceleration systems contribute significantly to success on a race day.

Without regular braking, the human body created to function within a cycle of rest and work begins to show signs of stress and breaking. 

The evidence is found in many offices today as recorded in the high levels of stress and mental illness. 

Effective learning requires a productive reflective pause

Peter Senge, in his book, The Fifth Discipline, explores the concept of “the delusion of learning from experience” as one of the seven learning disabilities affecting transformation in the organisation. 

Learning drives progress, and continuous learning is the basis of all professional development. However, when operating in complex systems as we are today, our actions have consequences beyond our learning horizon. 

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Hence, it becomes impossible for any profession to learn from direct experience. The only way to achieve meaningful learning is the suggestion by John Dewey. Actively reflecting on our experience is what leads to learning. 

Without making time for reflection, professionals experience significant learning loss even though they might have witnessed an experience. 

Breaking myths and unproductive mindset

Given the loss of learning and significant damage to our wellness and productivity, how can professionals create a culture and discipline of taking a productive, reflective pause to rest and review their progress and lessons from the journey? 

You have to give up the fear that you will fall behind if you take a pause. Also, do not confuse activity with productivity. 

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The tools created to boost productivity have become burdensome for many to disconnect from. Seek to understand the basis of your productivity. Indeed, the unexamined life is not worth living. 

To break from these, every professional must integrate the concept of a half-time into their work. The half-time must be determined before the game starts. 

Since most organisations and leaders work with a 12-month calendar year, the middle of the year is ideal for a productive reflective pause. 

Depending on your schedule and the nature of your work, you may schedule these breaks regularly or after completing a project or activity. 

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Helpful tips for a productive reflective pause

Set a period aside; this could be a day or a week. Choose any number of days you are comfortable with and determine what you will use the time for.  

Pick a suitable time of the day and create an environment that gets your reflective and creative brain working at its peak. 

If this activity is new, it may be uncomfortable initially, but you will get through with time. 

It’s helpful that you take time to disconnect from the routine. Do apply your extreme breaking capabilities and bring your speed to 10kph. Going on long walks a couple of mornings reflecting on a particular theme is very helpful. 

You can also undertake this activity with close friends or a significant partner. 

Reading relevant literature that inspires your professional work is a great way to get yourself in a reflective mood. You must have a pen and a notebook to journal your reflections, ideas and goals you may set for yourself.

Below are a couple of questions you can use to inspire your reflections: Where am I today on my journey? What do I need to celebrate? What have I learnt about myself on this journey? What has been challenging for me to do? What’s happening in my professional environment that I need to pay attention to? What do I need to do to accelerate my progress going forward? 

Many leaders have used the productive, reflective pause to boost their productivity significantly. The good news is that the impact is immediate. Your productivity, learning and well-being will improve as you make time for a productive pause this month.

Be of good cheer!

The writer is a Leadership Development Facilitator, Executive Coach and Strategy Consultant, Founder of the CEO Accelerator Program (https://ceoacceleratorprogram.org) and Chief Learning Strategist at TEMPLE Advisory (www.thelearningtemple.com). 

The mission of The Leadership Project is to harvest highly effective leadership practices and share them in a manner that other leaders can easily incorporate into their leadership practice. 

If you have an idea or leadership practice to share, kindly write to [email protected]. Until you read from us again, keep leading.... from leader to leader, one practice at a time.

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