Ice Ice Baby...[play music]
"All right stop! Collaborate and listen..."
Those famous opening words from Vanilla Ice’s chart topping rap “Ice Ice Baby” could not ring truer now, especially at a time when we are constantly on the go, in back-to-back meetings, quickly checking and responding to communication on mobile devices without thoroughly processing the information we are taking in, and generally being in constant “react” mode.
Can we please just stop and pause for a minute?
As we get close to the end of the first quarter of 2018, and many of us have a million things racing through our minds, in addition to (potentially) several New Year’s resolutions - which may or may not last - I find this topic appropriate for several reasons.
Often, we are processing a reaction in response to some information we are absorbing, be it a text, email or tweet – someplace where there's a vacuum to fill with some bit of information that (we feel) can be filled by us.
Instead, we forget to process the essence and actuality of the stimulus that first prompted the response (Confusing? Yes. I know).
A poignant example that has stuck with me through the years was when I had read responses to two very “thought out” - and separate - email threads. Here, the same leaders (on both threads) had responded by literally repeating the content of the previous message and then asked the exact same questions that had already been clearly outlined to the same group of recipients.
I was baffled! Or was I mis-reading?
I re-read the responses at least three times to confirm the content.
It seems we have become so used to seeing things being repeated redundantly that it’s no wonder that we are refusing to process all the information that appears in front of us and ultimately end up skipping these bits of information and jumping to the next thing that appears unique or calls for our attention!
Are we stuck in a cycle as such? I think we are.
This isn’t just about what I had experienced. I realize that it’s an ongoing pattern. And I’ve noticed it at many organizational layers, in various areas, over many years – even outside the professional world.
So what must we do to bring ourselves into the present in order to thoroughly process that which is placed in front of us?
Stopping to pause is definitely a start. This may sound incongruous. How does one stop and pause?
Just like that! Actually, make a complete stop with your thoughts – just like a period (or full stop for my friends across the pond) in a sentence, followed by a comma – before beginning to respond.
While this certainly violates the rules of punctuation, we need to be more ever-present in order to take a moment to listen, process and be aware of our surroundings or situation in the moment. Consider it generating a level of self-awareness where we really stop and think.
A conscious effort of stopping and pausing allows for a focused intake of stimulus. This is even supported by the science of working memory: the number of objects that can be held in working memory by the average human is 7, plus or minus 2 (George A. Miller).
Growing up, I remember being taught in my British public school education to "stop and think" in class. Also hearing a whistle blow followed by a bellowing "Stooooop!" before getting the next set of instructions during game time on the play ground. Yet, somewhere along the way, that advice dissolved into a blur and now it takes a moment of mindfulness!
Try this: After stopping, turn the comma/pause into a focused breath before hitting send on an email or allowing words to exit your throat. You may just find that you will start doing less, while achieving more – not to mention maintaining some sanity.
I welcome your thoughts and experiences with similar techniques.
Happy stopping & pausing!