In the last couple of months, I travelled a fair amount, spending a month in Japan with my family, dragging my 2 year old from place to place, then back to London and travelling again in the UK. Then I’m literally just landing to Heathrow now, coming back from Sardinia.

During this time, I never really stopped working a part from when I was with my son and he got my full attention. Well, most of the times!

But I have paused for thought. A lot.

I stopped to reflect beyond my usual busyness. In fact, let me add: my usual silly busyness.

Sometimes, we are so busy that we don’t realise if what we are doing really needs to be done or there are other ways to do it which could be more effective.

When we pause to reflect, we are effectively slowing down to speed up again.

We can see opportunities in places where we wouldn’t have imagined before and we interpret situations in a different way, and often with more clarity. We allow ourselves to talk to new people, break our usual routine, change scenario and flex our minds. We grow without realising it!

Right now, I am taking my time to get things right and focusing on the present projects, renewing my purpose and aims.

That means cutting things that are not priorities in this moment, such as relentless activities on social media, improving my website, advertising, and more… Instead, I’m giving more space to a focussed strategy, to the creation of new contents and products, and networking to learn and share.

When I was in my corporate job, there was no such a thing as pausing for thought. Maybe there was but I don’t remember-which makes think it was not highlighted enough! The culture I have always perceived was of a ‘GO GO GO GO !!’. To be successful meant to achieve things, quickly. Having down-time had a negative connotation.

Now, I realise the importance of directing my energy inwards if I want to be successful: nurturing my kokoro, as I always say. That means creating a space and time to nurture my feelings, emotions, thoughts, desires and allowing myself to do so without guilt.

~Recharging and gaining focus to become more productive.

~ Reflecting on what I have done and achieved, and what could be done differently.

~Reflecting on things that at a first sight might not be related at all.

That made me reflect on what it means slowing down to speed up in a work environment .

To me it means creating a culture where people are allowed to stop, reflect, recharge and speed up again with renewed energy. And not been judged for it.

It means seeing leaders who are role modelling these behaviours, so that other people are encouraged to do so too.

It means challenging old outdated beliefs, based on which thriving is the only state that is recognised. Instead, we should recognise and even celebrate the value of recharging to avoid switching into surviving or burn-out mode.

The most important thing when creating a culture of reflection and recharge is to find our own way to pause for thought.

Here a few examples that might inspire leaders to start changing the culture:

  • A walk in the nature or at least outside: if you are in an office, encourage your people to get out and have some fresh air, run walking meetings, celebrate the end of a project outside. Make sure there is contact with the outside natural world as much as possible, for example during offsites or team building events. And especially, you leader make sure you lead by example!
  • Teach the power of mindfulness: quieting the mind is a skill that helps regaining focus and clarity. If you are reading this and think ‘ah again, this wishy washy mindfulness’ … Well, let me tell you: you might be missing something. There is plenty of evidence and research that back up the power of mindfulness and how much it improves our brain activity. It’s been around for hundreds of years- Aristotle and his fellows must have done something right!
  • Encourage exercise, perhaps through running clubs or yoga classes or similar. Share your experience of adding exercise to your life and how you feel about it. Normalise it. Make it part of the working day.
  • Do something different. Completely different. That could be reading lifestyle magazines or playing golf or whatever: take your mind somewhere else, and see what happens. The most likely result will be a fresh mind and a different perspective.
  • Teach the power of surrender: when things get out of control and people feel overwhelmed, it’s very helpful to learn to let go of things we cannot control and focus on those we can change and improve. Channeling our energy in the right direction helps developing resilience. When I used to practice martial arts, having a ‘lighter mind’ was a must to be able to focus on my opponent. I had to let go of things to be fully present (and avoid to be kicked in the face!). Create a space for people to be able to talk through what overwhelms them and to literally give their brains a rest.
  • Encourage your people to find a mantra that can work for them when things get tough and it’s all too much. Something they can refer to and they can see displayed in front of them every time they need a little reminder. Mine is a Japanese proverb: ‘Fast is slow but without interruption.’

Now, what do you think it would happen if you were to carve some time every day to pause and reflect? What’s stopping you to do so? And what do you think it would happen if you asked your team to pause for thought, every single day?

Would love to hear your thoughts …

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