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Hit The Pause Button Before It Hits You

By Lolly Daskal


As a coach I meet a lot of impressive leaders. Many of them work hard and put in very long hours, always pushing themselves to the limit. At some point they fall into risk of serious health issues or find themselves not making the smartest choices. And when that happens, leadership becomes challenging.

Leaders push themselves because they believe the more they give the better their leadership. They don’t want to seem nonproductive. In time it becomes a vicious cycle, a never-ending worry that they’re not doing enough.

But a big part of leading is learning the balance between doing and being. The secret is knowing when to hit the pause button.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the more pauses you take the more productive you become—and the more effective you can be as a leader. So when should you hit the pause button?


When your standards of excellence are slipping. If you find yourself not meeting your usual standards, it’s time to pause and reevaluate what is going wrong so you can get your performance back on track.

When you’re seriously angry. The right words are good, but nothing has ever been more effective than a well-timed pause. When you feel like a keg of dynamite just about to go off, slow down and take a short pause—count ten breaths, maybe—instead of responding immediately.

When you want to be more productive. The best way to be more productive is to take time to reassess what you are doing and why—and then, with those things fresh in mind, to begin again with laser focus.

When you’re starting to burn out. Everyone needs a break from time to time. Taking some time before you hit the wall is like a good investment—in the long run, you come out ahead.

When you’re rushed. Being in a hurry is the perfect setup for mistakes, so take a minute. Doing it right the first time may take a little longer, but it’s a lot faster than doing it over. When you’re making important decisions. Take a deep breath and make sure you’re making the best decision. Making a choice and making it right requires time to reflect.

When you don’t feel well. Make your health a priority; more and more research shows that rest and sleep are essential to physical and mental health.

When you aren’t having fun. Stop and evaluate what’s temporary and what’s permanent in the situation. Ask yourself what you can do to bring joy to what you’re doing.

When you’re on the verge of doing something unethical. The moment you find yourself thinking of doing something that will compromise your character, hit the pause button hard and look at what’s motivating you. Often it’s either fear or greed. Think your actions through, because a reputation that takes years to build can be destroyed with one bad action.


As leaders, knowing when to hit the pause button is just as important as knowing how to stay productive and prolific. Make sure you can reach yours when the moment comes that you need it most. Lead From Within: Pause when you must, and in each pause allow yourself to respond from the deepest levels of your intuition and wisdom.

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