How to Know What to Do Next — The Pause That Refreshes

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Like many, my first inclination is to move from task to task quickly, as if they all had to be done at once. This can even happen with writing. I’ll run right past some confusion I have about what’s next in the story or what word is the right one. I do this because I’m not really paying attention and because I think, even feel like I don’t have enough time.

The problem is this approach really doesn’t work well. I often have much more editing to do as a result of this slap dash approach. My word choice is sloppy, my sentences awkward and my ‘creative’ spelling worse than usual.

There’s another way

When I’m not sure what to do next, even though I’ve got a to-do list and a schedule, I’ve learned to stop, often literally just stop where I am and ask what I’m to do.

Ask who or what?

An obvious question. That’s up to you. If you’re religiously inclined you may want to ask in the name of a deity or saint. If you’re not, call it your intuition or gut feeling. If like many you’re somewhere in between, thinking of it as your still small voice might do the trick. It might be yourself you’re asking. I’ve used all of these approaches at one time or another, and they’ve all worked. They’ve worked, that is, if I’ve truly paused and am willing to listen to the answer. These days an answer almost always comes; if it doesn’t I figure I need to slow down even more.

A Mini Meditation

I’ve come to think of these pauses I do as mini meditations. As I understand it, the first goal of mediation is to calm the mind.

Now I’m aware there are many nuances to meditation. For example I practiced Zen meditation for years, and still do from time-to-time.

These days I’m more likely to work with guided meditations from Joe Dispenza via YouTube. Although I tend to feel these morning meditations make it easier to pause when I need to and ask what’s next, they, perhaps obviously, aren’t the same thing. They might be of the same family as it were.

The pause I’m talking about, and yes, even the paws if I take time to pet the cat, is more of a cooling of my mind so new ideas can come through or be heard.

You don’t need any particular belief or philosophy to benefit from the pause. In fact, if I wrote this next week I might express this quite differently.

Truly, the best approach if you want to try this is just to try it. Next time you notice you’re confused about what to do or what to write, stop. Take a moment to ask yourself ‘what’s next?’ or ‘what word is next?’ It can help if you take a deep breath or two as or before, or after you ask. For the next few moments notice what thoughts come to you. The chances are it will be some idea or action that will give you direction. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that.

I’ve also found this pause helps in difficult conversations, when I can’t decide what I want for lunch, etc. Try it. I can’t hurt and it may help.

Write often and live well,

Writer, life and writing coach, book ghostwriter, Grandmother, Buddhist. Liberal who listens to the other side, political

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