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19 Jun

Stop, look, listen and smell

Date: 2017-06-19 16:19 Comments: 0 st

One of the goals of being and working structured is that we to a greater extent do the right thing at the right time, and spend the right amount of time on the right task. The one who acts consciously and chooses what to work on and when, will be much more successful than he who acts reactively and does whatever comes his way or is calling for his attention.

Spinning out of hand
When things are busy, which we all know they can get, it is easy to lose grip of our structure and conscious prioritization and solve all kinds of situations and tasks on the fly. Since we then in the heat of the moment might do things that could, or should, be done later and thus postpone tasks that actually have a higher priority, but which just did not call for our attention like that other task, more of our tasks will become urgent before we get around to doing them.

This in turn means that our life becomes even more intense, hectic and stressful as the pace picks up and the workload increases. This is definitely when we will want to regain focus and clear our minds so that we can make better decisions and prioritize in such a way that we are grateful later on for having prioritized like we did.

Focus for civilians as well
A while back I found a simple technique we can use to regain focus and clearing our minds when everything is spinning fast and we are being much more reactive than we would like. Jerry Harrison, who has a past in the US army, described how they often took a SLLS-break out in the field - meaning a Stop-Look-Listen-Smell-break. This simple exercise made them more acutely aware of the situation they were in and what relevant information they had available right in front of them that was worth noticing. And just like that, they had regained their focus and mental presence.

I tried the method myself the other day. As I wanted to get a whole bunch of things done while sitting on an airplane but my mind was racing in all directions, I stopped, looked around, listen and smelled. I took a SLLS-break, if you will. And I liked it. Instantly my mind fell silent, I felt sharper, calm and what do you know, focused. Perhaps this method will do you some good as well.

Try it
If you feel compelled to, try taking a SLLS-break as well. Right now.

What did you experience? Do you feel refreshed? If it felt good, you could for instance begin taking SLLS-breaks throughout your day. Three possible ways to introduce the method come to mind right now:

  • Set a reminder to take a SLLS-break every hour, or every other hour.
  • Take a spontaneous SLLS-break when you notice the stress level rising. You always have time for a one-minute-break, even if you have a lot going on.
  • Make it a habit of always taking a SLLS-break whenever you pause after working for those 25 minutes that constitute a ”pomodoro”, if you are a fan of the Pomodoro-method.
  • Or, do something else that suits you better.

Gently realigning
If you are anything like myself when it comes to this, you will find that this short little break easily refocuses you whenever you need to realign and become more present in the moment. Instead of scurrying off ”in the wrong direction” and make one wrong choice after another, you will gather your thoughts and consciously determine where you are heading without being too harsh on yourself. It will be easier to stick to what you decided to work on at the moment, even if you are doing something uncomfortable or boring. It is a tremendously simple trick that is definitely worth trying, if you ask me.

Any other tips or tricks?
What tricks do you use to touch ground again, regain focus and gather your thoughts when you are stressed and feeling scattered? Leave a comment and share. 

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