There seem to be two ways of orienting to any new task. The first way is to jump in head-first without a pause and the second is to pause and understand the structure of the task, and our role and skills in relation to it. The pause-less action may be because of well-earned confidence or lack of awareness. If we take a pause, it may be short or long, noticeable or invisible even to us.
Like everyone else I’ve followed both approaches at different times but I’ve never really reflected on this because my approach to a task wasn’t the noteworthy part, the task was. I’ve recently experienced the comfort of doing something hard without thinking much and the discomfort of feeling unprepared and stuck mid-task. I’ve had to perch above my shoulders as I worked to observe what I was doing and what needed to change. I’ve had to pause and reflect on whether I had the tools, skills, information, context and mindset that I needed.
How do we know that a pause is in order and how can we make this process instinctive without overthinking? Two tell-tales have been helpful to me:
- Is the next task sufficiently different from what I’m doing or anything I’ve ever done? In other words, am I crossing a threshold?
- Am I stuck spinning my wheels?
“People who wonder whether the glass is half empty or half full miss the point. The glass is refillable.”— Simon Sinek, author