A Smart Stop

Jan 13, 2020

Has it happened yet? 

Have you slipped back into unhelpful habits you hoped to leave in 2019?  

We know it’s still early in the year, but we’ve already heard from some of you that this new year has been anything but new. 

We have a tool that can help give you a fresh perspective. It’s our “2020 Personal Pledge” and you’re right on time to join us on this journey!

But even when you see things with a fresh point of view, there’s always the question of what to do when your get-up-and-go is stuck in the muck.

So, what do you do when your mood and your motivation don’t show up for work?


Just the other day I (Alyssa) caught myself in a mood. And I mean a mood.

The day was grey and cold. It was after lunch. I was still in my pajamas and fuzzy socks. I work remotely, so my home is my office most days. 

My patience was short. My energy flat. My focus absent. And though I was in motion, my motivation had stayed in bed.

After my sixth trip to the kitchen for more coffee and chocolate, I had an epiphany.

I was stuck.

Not a life-changing stuck. Just the kind that wastes valuable time.

Do you know the feeling? 


I used to muscle through a moment like this. I’d put on a movie score playlist, close the study door, and do my best to get focused and stay focused. The results were usually passable. Rarely stellar.

Conventional wisdom offers some great tasks as a way to help you refocus. 

Tips often include setting an alarm to stay focused for short periods of time. Switch your focus to something like email or missed calls, then come back to the project. Take five minutes to sit back, review lists and regroup. Eliminate distractions. Doodle. Drink water or close your eyes and take several deep, long breaths. And, of course, grab more coffee.

If you’ve done some of these strategies, you know they can work and often do. But there are times when coffee and doodling just isn’t enough. 

In moments like these, you need something more — something that breaks with conventional wisdom. 

We call it the smart stop, and it’s a game-changing tool for your personal leadership toolbox.


There are two things you cannot take back in life: time poorly spent and words poorly spoken. 

A smart stop is a way to reset so you can reclaim your time (and sometimes even your words!).

Unlike a quick break or a task to reclaim your focus, a smart stop requires you to shift gears entirely — to move from what you’re currently doing to something totally different. The basic premise is that your mind, like your muscles, needs a break from doing the same exercises or work over and over again.

In this mental break, you allow your mind to rest. This creates space for fresh ideas and renewed energy. It’s a way to recover and reset.

Your smart stop may look something like this.

Your creativity is stalled, so you step away from the project and from all your other work to take a walk. 

You can’t fit your shoes back into your closet after your Marie Kondo makeover, so you step away from the mess and read (and not about organizing!). 

You’re trying to help a family member in need and you’ve run out of ideas, so you step away from your own thoughts and talk to a trusted friend who can help you process.

Each “step away” moment represents a shift asking you to give time to something that’s not directly connected to what needs to be done or figured out. That’s the point. 

A smart stop is not an “I quit because it's too hard” kind of thing. It’s a calculated, purposeful breather to reset your focus and perspective — a way of letting your mind rest between reps so you can be more engaged.

A smart stop is an essential tool for maximizing creativity, strategy, and wise decision-making in all areas of life. 

We learned about this kind of stop from Jesus. He talked about it in Luke 14.

While teaching to a large group of people, Jesus challenged them to stop and figure (count) the cost before going all-in to follow Him. Luke 14:28-29 (MSG) captures His practical wisdom.

Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish.

Sounds like common sense, but have you ever been around someone who was building or remodeling their house? The temptation to keep adding and adjusting is ever-present! There’s always more to consider. If you don’t count the cost up front and know how far you’re willing to go with your spending, you’ll end up frustrated and in over your head.

In building and in life, a smart stop gives you the space to make wise decisions to build life well. It’s based on the idea that the best decisions are made when you can pause to see the details and the way they work within the big picture.


Counting the cost is a way of taking a smart stop. 

It keeps you from going in circles, overextending yourself and wasting your most precious non-renewable resource — time.


On days where deadlines loom and you’re moving at the speed of technology yet getting nowhere, a smart stop is, quite possibly, the best thing you can do for yourself and your productivity.

A smart stop will keep you from getting stuck, and staying stuck. 

When your mood and motivation don’t show up to work, take a smart stop. Reset. Then get moving!


Until next time... keep building life well.


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