Be more productive with this simple, yet powerful tool: The Pause

As a 4th Sector Entrepreneur there are certainly stormy days and days of calm – even days of plain sailing. But throughout, what do you use for a compass, and a map – the ultimate points of reference?

As we talk about in our book 4th Sector Entrepreneurship, they have to be your personal and your enterprise’s Purpose, Vision and Values. Because however effective you are at organising your time and focusing on the important, and however personally productive you are, you can never know or control in advance everything that’s going to happen. But if you’ve internalised your enterprise’s Purpose, Vision and Values, ensuring they are congruent with your own, you will be able to respond with confidence to any specific moment, any specific demand, by referring with integrity to this inner compass.

So how might this work in practice?

We like a simple tool called The Pause. It really is a very powerful tool for productivity. To understand more consider these three scenarios.

  • Scenario 1 – A critic of Boss A’s social enterprise says something ill-informed about it on Twitter. Boss A is exasperated – this loud-mouthed ignoramus is causing trouble again – and immediately responds with a tweet putting the critic straight.
  • Scenario 2 – Boss B is involved in a long and detailed planning meeting when she gets a text from her biggest customer, furious that a delivery hasn’t arrived. She hurries out of the meeting to make a soothing phone call before trying to sort things out.
  • Scenario 3 – Boss C is about to leave work early to be home in time for a family event, when he gets a call from a customer – she’s furious that a delivery hasn’t arrived and demands that he sorts it out. Boss C promises to deal with it – but heads off home. This customer is always making trouble and the problem can wait.

Three scenarios, three bosses, three decisions. And all different – except for one thing. In each case, the boss was confronted with something unexpected – and simply reacted. With an angry Tweet in Scenario 1, and an instant decision to attend to a demanding customer in Scenario 2 or ignore her in Scenario 3.

Now, it’s impossible to say whether each decision was right or wrong – we don’t have enough information. But what is clear is that each decision would have benefited from The Pause – the ability to increase the space between the initial stimulus and the response to it. In fact, it’s The Pause that marks the difference between a reaction – something instant, habitual and often quite emotional – and a response, which is basically more considered.

The Pause allows you to really listen to a stimulus – whatever it is – and then connect with your Purpose, Vision and Values, so you can ask yourself:

  • What is the best use of my time right now based on these key elements and the 4Ds? (Do it straight away; Diarise it to set a definite date to do it; Delegate it to someone more qualified or suited; Dump it as it isn’t relevant to any of your goals).
  • Is this issue important or simply urgent – or neither?
  • Would it be consistent with my Purpose, Vision and Values if I said I’m busy and arranged another specific time to address the issue?

Experience shows that by using The Pause and responding to the situation – based on Purpose, Vision and Values – we’re more likely to find the courage and wisdom to make the best decision for everyone than if we simply and instantly react.

Why not give it a try next time you are interrupted and let us know how it works?