Remember to smell the flowers
Remember to smell the flowers.
Do Pause by Robert Poynton is a book that tries to remind the reader to take pauses and breathers during their day to make people more productive and innovative. Book tackles many misconceptions and provides examples to back up its statements.
This essay will explore what taking a pause really is, use examples for the reader to understand and grasp the idea and how you can make pausing a habit.
In this hectic modern world, being busy is considered being honorable and admirable. Many books are oriented towards idolizing productivity and filling the empty moments in your day with something “productive”. These fillings can be setting goals, sending emails, making calls or anything that seems better than just wasting time. This kind of mentality and mantras like “time is money”, has been created by goal-oriented society and usually leads to stress, anxiety and ultimately in burnouts.
Poynton (2019) has a simple solution. Well simple on paper and rather hard in practice: Simply take a pause – a period of time when your mind and attention are free to roam.
We forget to look around because of machines.
Poynton (2019) asks the reader that when did they last stop to look around. He tells a story of his hike through Spanish mountains and kept getting frustrated by the fact, that his friends kept falling behind to admire the views. Poynton had been striding ahead alone. After some walking, he realized that he had seen the hike as something he needed to achieve, rather than something he would enjoy in the process and have a great afternoon.
According to Poynton (2019) we cut off ourselves from daily pleasures if we adapt the achievement-oriented mindset.
He uses this an example, that how the modern mentality has changed towards thinking and performing like machines, instead of stopping and smelling the flowers. Machines are designed to be tireless things which complete a task after another, without error. Technology can always keep the same pace and even increase it when needed and people have the mindset, that they need to compete with machinery to stay relevant in front of others. Although machines are designed to work like this, people certainly aren’t. People usually talk for example, admiringly about coworkers who are always at the office, completing all the tasks and taking up more things to do without resting. In the world of emails and other types of quick communication, we demand replies quickly and it seems, that the quality of the content is irrelevant compared to the time it took for the other party to respond.
According to Poynton (2019) It’s unlucky that we pay that much attention towards our to do lists, and not appreciate the “negative space” between tasks, because that is where the flavor of our lives lies, he states.
In this hectic, relentless environment, machines don’t stop to appreciate the views, or smell the flowers, so why should we?
A pause isn’t an empty space – it’s an opportunity
What is a pause? According to the book “Well it could a great number of things. It’s the five seconds you spend dwelling on a question, or the hour spent reconnecting with an old friend, or the one-year sabbatical you take from work. In essence a pause is a break in your rhythm – whatever that rhythm might look like” – Poynton Robert, 2019, Do pause.
The book describes that there are many kinds of pauses and there are many forms of it, pauses are not just empty space. When a person decides to pause, they don’t stop their thoughts and their minds don’t go empty. When taking a pause, persons mind dwells on other things than just the task they were accomplishing, and they tend to focus on things they usually overlook.
The author provides a second example that takes place in his Spanish villa. He invited a friend over for the weekend. They spent their time discussing books they read and other non-work-related things and the friend started to worry, that he was being unproductive had concerns that he was wasting his time, not achieving something. After the weekend retreat, authors friend realized that he had gotten solutions for problems that he didn’t even known he had. In just couple of days with this pause-expert, his state of mind had shifted enough to let things that he had not concerned himself with, surface and be resolved. These things usually are silenced with everyday problems and worries. He had taken a pause.
Situations and examples like this also differentiate us humans, from machines. When a machine is set for a pause, for example, when you turn off your mobile phone, it does nothing. When a person takes a pause, he starts to explore things that are in the back of their head and couldn’t surface beforehand and they take time to resolve it. This is a great tool for achieving better mental health and overall wellbeing.
Pausing improves creativity and relationships.
When taking a pause, it’s commonly considered to take us out from the problem and delaying the completion of the problem or task. Ironically, pauses work exactly the opposite, according to the author. When we take a pause, it can help make substantial progress. Poynton (2019) describes that evidence suggests that pausing is a vital ingredient in the creative process. He backs his statement by giving an example from a book called How to get ideas by James Foster where the creativity from everyone, from philosophers to advertising executives is examined. The conclusion in How to get ideas is that all the people studied for the book had an element of pausing in their processes. People call it by different names: some call it “mental digestion”, others “incubating ideas”. The pauses have different names for sure, but the general idea is the same, take a break from what you’re doing and let the break help you achieve greatness.
Pauses don’t only apply to creativity and work-related issues, they can be extremely helpful to all relationships, whether they’re professional or personal. Taking a pause from the conversation and listening to other person talk, opens possibilities to actually listen to the other person and finding out what they truly want. When a person is taking the role of a facilitator in a team or work, they can utilize pauses to get the attendees real issues and ideas out with half of a question “so?” to have the other person break the pause caused by the question and express what they’re truly feeling. Anyone that is looking to deepen their relationships, whether they’re professional or personal, step back, take a pause and listen more.
Simplicity of a pause.
The author tells that the best thing about pauses is, that how easy it is to take them. A lot of other techniques, like yoga or meditation take instructions and time to learn and performing them is also time consuming and can be tedious for someone. Pauses are really easy to perform, since it’s something that everyone instinctively knows how to do and it’s easy to implement in our daily routines if person is willing to do so.
Poynton recommends the reader to take everyday pauses, the pauses can be for just two minutes or two seconds. According to Payton (2019) even that short of a pause can make all the difference. The book tells an example from a filmmaker named David Keating, who implements pauses right before he states “Action!” on his sets. The word has a huge effect and stigma in filmmaking, and he makes the pause to create anticipation and electrifying effect all across his actors and crew members.
“A short pause can also be invaluable when you’re trying to make a judgment call” Robert Poynton, 2019. Do Pause.
Another example used in the book was about the author’s friend who was a facilitator. She described that whenever someone asked her a question, she tries to take a pause before responding, so the answer is well thought and would represent what she actually feels in the current situation. In practice, according to her, it’s really difficult to take a pause, because there’s a mental pressure to reply immediately, which results in that pauses are quite rare in her facilitating. The pressure that was mentioned, has its roots deep in our society and people are hooked in being busy all the time. “Asking ourselves to slow down for even a few minutes is like trying to wean ourselves off a powerful drug”. Robert Poynton, 2019. Do Pause. All because of the environment and society pushing us to perform like machines, completing tasks after other with as little rest as possible.
Poynton provides an exercise for anyone looking to implement pauses in their daily lives. He suggests, that draw in a breath before answering anything. Focus on your stomach and relax the muscles in there. Breathe in and let the air go all the way down to your stomach, making it expand. After a breath like this you’re ready to respond, and you’ve also taken a pause.
Sometimes people need pauses longer than a few seconds. Many companies’ executives, like Bill Gates take retreats to middle of nowhere to detach from their hectic everyday lives. Gates regards his one week retreats as “essential ingredient of his innovative mindset”.
Longer pauses need to be designed according to the book and when they are designed, they give tools to think outside of the box and create motivation for the actual pause to happen.
While trying to survive in this volatile and hectic world, is common to think that taking time off for a vacation or relaxing retreat is lazy and unproductive. People convince themselves, that its better just to keep their high pace, complete tasks and push onwards while ignoring the warnings that come in the form tiredness, anxiety and stress. Author makes an interesting and a rather provocative remark, that he considers people who are constantly busy, as lazy. He backs up his controversial statement by saying that people who are constantly busy, are avoiding changes in their lives and too lazy to look for a better solution. According to Poynton (2019) “Avoidance is lazy”
Designing the pauses are in a great role towards mental wellbeing and countering anxiety. Disconnecting from technology is considered to be a big deal in pauses and breaks, since there are no emails or messages that remind and push you to the next task. One thing that should be avoided during the designed pauses, is setting goals for yourself, even though it might be tempting. According to the book, that transforms the pause to a task, and the effects are not as positive as initially planned. Leaving room for the unexpected and keeping an open mind is a first step towards effective pausing.
Learning pauses from different cultures.
There are many differences in how easy taking pauses really are. The author has examples from his small hometown in central Spain called Arenas de San Pedro. This town isn’t the leader of technology or other modern traits, but people there take time to chat and discuss with each other. People there are rarely busy and don’t mind waiting for a long time in line to get their olives pressed, they have learnt how make time for pauses. According to the book, you may have to chance your environment you live in, if you want to make pausing an essential part of your life. Huge metropolitans, like New York or Beijing are on top of every technical thing there is and its paid by the price of people being pressured and stressed out.
Religions, like Judaism, have great learning points for pausing. In Judaism, Saturday is considered to be the Sabbath. That is a one day of the week, where a pause occurs for the entire day and lets the people take a breather and focus on their own issues. Learning from other cultures and religions can be a great tool for anyone, looking to break for the tedious hamster wheel and focus more on the wellbeing and overall happiness.
The Book Do Pause by Robert Poynton turned out to be interesting and offered many tips and tricks to implement breaks and pauses to people’s everyday lives. The book started out with mapping and charting the importance of pauses in modern society. Not shying away from the mental and physical problems which the cut-throat world of work causes for people, who are just trying to get by. Poynton offers people that are looking to improve their wellbeing great tools and ways to easily implement them into their lives.
The book was easy to comprehend and engaging enough to finish in one setting. Usually books about mindfulness and mental health can be quite tedious and dragged out but this book surprised positively.
The book receives a good recommendation basically for anyone who is concerned about their ability to keep the same pace as they have been. It’s also a great tool for anyone in a leader’s or any other powerful position, since it opens up more about the meetings and from the people involved in them.
Some of the tips and examples seemed a bit self-explanatory, but after some reading, it occurred that the basics and the “little things” need to be visited also, to make a comprehensive book and keep the skills fresh.
Now it’s time to take a breather.
All the information and quotes taken from Do Pause by Robert Poynton, 2019