Dancing the Pauses

Please pause this moment
and we can dance between the
seconds on the clock.

– Daily Haiku on Love
by Tyler Knott Greggson

As I’ve been examining the various places in my life where I don’t have slack, I keep coming back to time. Namely, I have a tendency to over-schedule – either putting things too close together or simply putting too many things there. It’s understandable, as someone with a fetish for productivity. There’s millions like me, trying to wring the most…the most…the most something out of every second. We begrudge sleep and long for the ability to multitask regardless of how many studies show it just isn’t possible, and we really only like the 4-Hour Work Week  because it means we can have TEN JOBS!

AnaDiegoBut I did still come up with that mantra: Dance, don’t scramble. And in terms of time, what is the difference between dancing and scrambling? One of my prime definitions when explaining dance to people is that dance is intentional movement whereas “scrambling” is simply reactive. There’s a key ingredient in relation to time that is also a difference between dancing and scrambling:

When you dance, you can pause.

What Dreams May Come

What is the use of a pause, you might ask? Certainly that’s what productivity experts used to say. In business, the practice of “kanban” makes many executives and managers cringe because of it’s emphasis on stopping and thinking about where you are, what you’re doing, and where you’re going.

They mentally write off the whole concept of Kanban because “they don’t want anyone sitting idle.” What skeptics call “sitting idle” is often referred to as slack in the system.” – Julia Wester,

Ms. Wester goes on to describe how in those “pauses” great things can happen – and she names them: swarm, maintain, think, and innovate. Taking them out of the business context, here’s what these things can add to your life:

  • Swarm: That project that you’ve been putting off – or that list of little things that keep not getting done – or maybe just the clutter on your desk or the chaos of a bookshelf. In the pause you can attack that unsuspecting task or obstacle and overwhelm it with the power of your sudden free time.
  • Maintain: One of the main reason things like oil changes and catboxes and recycling is so annoying is not so much because they are hard or even terribly unpleasant – it’s because they interrupt the rest of your life and the Important Stuff. In the pauses, the Important Stuff gets out of the way and you can mindfully take care of the base chores of life.
  • Think: This is the big one, to me. Just a little bit more thought, a little bit more planning, a little reflection on actions can have huge effects when you decide to un-pause your life and start up again with the Important Stuff. It’s easy to let the Next Thing just take over. Instead, take a dramatic pause, and use the time to make your Next Action the most effective it can be.
  • Innovate: If you’re busy playing catch-up, you don’t have the time to come up with new ideas and new ways of doing things. Daily work, routine, and putting out fires are great distractions from coming up with new ideas, better methodologies, or interesting experiments. Even if the ideas aren’t ever brought to fruition, it’s better to get in the practice of having them.

Here’s the secret, though: to be most effective at these things, you have to be unintentional. I’m just giving you these words so that if someone accuses you of wasting (or worse, killing) time, you can feed them one of those buzzwords so they leave you alone.

Really, the pause is all about the potential energy that is within it. Watch this tango, and you’ll see how the power of the pause is essential to the dance, especially at 1:55-2:10:

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