Taking a pause can do wonders for your productivity and personal satisfaction. Here's why and how.
Productivity

Why you should hit pause more often

In early August, Boomerang, the email scheduling tool that affords users a modicum of control over an overcrowded and frequently overwhelming inbox, launched a new feature called Inbox Pause. The new feature allows users to “pause (and unpause) your inbox at any time, temporarily hiding incoming messages from appearing in your inbox and preventing notifications.”

The theory behind the new launch, seems to piggyback off the notion that checking your email less often can both reduce stress and increase productivity. Pretty tempting in theory, right? In practice though, I’m wondering about the reactions to receiving an autoresponder midday (or mid-creative streak) letting others know you’ll be out of touch for a while. It could end up creating a vortex of additional needless emails which could cause inbox chaos for someone else.

A short pause

Most of us could probably use some more pauses in our own lives–and they don’t have to be long ones.

“The premise is that the only way to pause is to take long breaks, I don’t think that’s the case” says Rachael O’Meara a sales executive at Google and author of “Pause: Harnessing the Life-Changing Power of Giving Yourself a Break.”

O’Meara told Ladders that she defines a pause as “any intentional shift in behavior” not based on “time, resources or activity. It’s what works for you.”  And taking a pause isn’t only for those who are independently wealthy “I think it’s a myth or a misnomer, that you need money to take a break,” O’Meara adds. “Who says you can’t dedicate a weekend, or even start taking time on weeknights from 7 until 8 and do some journaling. It’s about intention and dedicating and committing to what you want.” Or at least the notion of facing what might not be working and figuring out what you might want next.

Forced breaks

O’Meara identifies several signs that might inspire your pause. Maybe you used to love your job but now you loathe it. Maybe it’s worse than that and your boss is the one to tell you that things just aren’t working out. O’Meara defines these as forced pauses.

A layoff or unexpected leave can provide a potential opportunity for you to really think, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time. O’Meara suggests that in those cases, it’s important to “Reframe and decide what works for you. Maybe that job was the perfect job, but maybe it’s time to take your career and shift- renew and refresh–it’s all about what works for you.”

A high-profile hiatus

In case you’re feeling overwhelmed by the social media vortex of thumb type and madly scroll, you’re not alone. Even the queen of overexposure, Kim Kardashian West, took a three-month social media hiatus after being robbed at gunpoint in Paris late last year.

“She was essentially stalked,” says O’Meara, who says on some level, “I love that story. It probably all became too much for her and maybe she was thinking to herself ‘You’re burning out on that thing.’ Even if digital media is your job, you need to take a break sometimes.” If you think it’s not possible to take a digital break, O’Meara says that most actors or Hollywood stars are pausing all the time, in between movies or gigs, or by literally deciding not to work.

In case you’d like to hit pause on your own career or social presence, O’Meara offers some tips.

Own your pause

It’s okay to make an announcement and be somewhat vulnerable. Let people know you’re in between jobs or taking a few months off.  O’Meara believes that while you run the risk of being judged, by setting up your communication plan you’re potentially opening many doors for people to both share their own stories or potentially find ways to connect or reconnect with you.

Don’t wait until you’re burnt out

O’Meara says that there are always lots of signs indicating that you’re deep crispy fried. She says that “when you’re in a rut…you might not be aligned with your strengths” which could lead to a vicious cycle of dissatisfaction fueled by burn out.

If you’re not ready for a break or even a pause, “ask people who know you what they think is going on with you and they’ll give you valuable feedback,” O’Meara explains. I’d take it a step further and suggest only asking people who have your best interests at heart.

Try it out: Taking a pause doesn’t mean committing to anything other than taking some time to reconnect with things that are greater than you. Scandal’s Joshua Malina is very vocal on Twitter but takes time off from social media on a weekly basis to celebrate the Jewish sabbath with his family. A simple message of “Shabbat Shalom” lets others know he’s off social for a while. Try taking your own tech sabbath for even a few hours every weekend–you’d be amazed at what a palate cleanser it can be.

The idea of a pause is more about breaking patterns and habits that no longer work “so we can emerge and reach our potential.” O’Meara says at the very least, try to keep checking in with yourself. “If you’re constantly angry or dissatisfied, try to stay non-judgmental and see what is happening, what is not working? What could be different? What can be tweaked?”

Because most of us feel always on, it’s important to allow ourselves to hit pause whenever possible. “We’re always on. We’re on autopilot and it’s important to take breaks to be more conscious in everything,” says O’Meara. Taking that break allows us to find ways to take care of ourselves or as O’Meara puts it “Pausing is in service to the doing, be more satisfied, live a fuller life.”

Rachel Weingarten is a marketing & brand strategist and president of 729.marketing. She’s a pop culture and trends analyst who frequently writes about business and style and the business of style. Rachel’s a sometimes professor, teaching personal branding on the graduate and undergraduate levels. She leads corporate seminars on topics including evolving communication and spirituality in the workplace. Rachel is also the author of three award winning non-fiction books.