Regain Your Focus with a Purposeful Pause

Illustration of woman with feet up on desk

Maintaining focus. It’s challenging for many of us, and something most professionals identify as a problem in their work lives. “[Staying] focused for long stretches is one of my greatest weaknesses, too, and something I continually work to improve,” says Eric Johnson, MBA’01, executive career coach and executive director of the Kelley School of Business Graduate and Career Services.

Johnson says that what helps him the most—and what he feels can help others, too—is “the purposeful pause.” A purposeful pause happens when you take a moment to stop what you’re doing and acknowledge that your mind has drifted off. Then, after taking a couple of deep breaths, redirect your attention back to the present. Taking just two to three minutes to pause can help you in a couple of ways:

Make Better Decisions

A pause can help you manage your emotions when making decisions—both at work and at home. Before making your decision, allow some space and time. By taking a pause and breathing, you help temper your emotional response, which often leads to a more rational choice. Often, when you take the time to pause and think about a decision, you’re more confident with it, and it is better received by others.

Reshape Your Attitude

The pause can also stop your mind from wandering. It’s easy when you’re feeling overwhelmed to find a distraction or something else to focus on. These wastes of time can lead to frustration. Instead of giving into this impulse, try pausing. It will clear your mind and put you in a productive mindset.

Next time you’re faced with a decision, or when you feel your mind wandering off, stop what you’re doing and get back on track with a purposeful pause.

Written By
Lacy Nowling Whitaker
Lacy, a Bloomington native, earned two degrees from IU Bloomington (BA'08, MA'14) and is the Director of Content with the IU Alumni Association.