One of the first things I did when our university campus shut down and we all started working from home was to cancel all of my requests for vacation days. My wife and I had already cancelled our plans for a family trip to Banff and it’s not like we were going anywhere. Also, I knew that our unit was going to be very busy supporting instructors who suddenly needed to teach in a remote format instead of in their usual face-to-face setting. 

After the initial emergency action phase, we’ve settled into a new rhythm of busyness. The adrenaline has warn off and the stress of it all is weighing on us. I’m pretty tired by the end of most days and have found myself struggling to stay focused on the task I planned to work on because of emails and other messages coming in. I had been handling all of it pretty well for 2-3 weeks before that so I wasn’t really sure what the issue was, but then I saw a clip on YouTube the other day that made me pause. It turned out that that was exactly what the issue was. I needed to pause.

The clip was from a seminar with Brendon Burchard and in it he was talking to a gentleman who couldn’t understand how he could be so on-task, so focused, so on his A-game for four months and then everything started to fall apart. Brendon knew what the problem was, based on the man’s description. He’d been putting all of himself into being his best that he wasn’t taking time to pause. He wasn’t pausing within his days (e.g. no stepping back between work tasks to reset and refocus) and he wasn’t pausing between days (no vacation). Pauses are needed to rest and reset your mind and body.

My first thought was, even if I can’t go anywhere, I can still use some of these many vacation days that I’m sitting on. I’m accumulating more each month and we won’t be travelling anywhere in the near future, so I went through my calendar and booked myself a bunch of three-day weekends over the next couple of months, mini-vacations.

Then I realized that while I make a point of getting up from my desk every hour, I wasn’t doing anything that really reset my mind through the day. This is more important than you might think. For someone who has had struggles with mental health, resetting my mind throughout the day helps to keep me from spiralling into a bad place of negative thoughts. You don’t have to have my history to get real benefit from regular mental resets during your days. 

Carrying concerns about the previous task or something you read, heard, or had to deal with can prevent you from getting a clear focus on the other things you are trying to do through the day. This might be taking part in a meeting, working on a project, or trying to give your children your full attention while playing with them. 

Then Burchard dropped another video in his series on Striving in Chaos (see the video below) that is about exactly what I’m talking about. He’s talked about these steps before, and I’d been trying locate the older video when this went live (good timing). 

The point is that for any of us to be the best that we as individuals can be, we have to take those pauses, both during our days and over longer periods.

The first 14 minutes is what I was talking about above. After that it’s a 10 minute question and answer session.

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