Know When and How to Strategically Take a Time Out


If you are a sports fan of any kind then you understand the importance of strategically taking time outs. If you take them too soon, you may minimize the impact because you didn’t give your team the chance to “play through” an issue. If you wait too long to call the time out, then you may be too late to have a positive effect on the situation. A strategically placed time out allows a team to step away from the action, course correct, and refocus.

The same is true in our lives. Taking an appropriate time out will re-energize and nourish us as individuals, also making a positive impact on those around us. The key is to use time outs strategically. Here’s how.

1.Be aware

Being aware enough to understand when you do and do not need a time out is important. There are a lot of times our body will let us know when it needs a time out. Feeling mentally or physically drained, having a cold that you just can’t shake, and not being able to concentrate are all indications that we need a time out. And the severity of these indications will determine the length of the time out. You may only need a five minute time out if you are struggling to focus but you may need a full day or full week time out if you are mentally fatigued.

I live in Charleston, SC and the spring pollen is unbearable at times. Last week my allergies were so bad that I could barely function. My sore throat, sneezing, coughing, and inability to breathe at night made sleeping very difficult. The lack of sleep was making it difficult to focus when I sat down to write and I was struggling to move forward. Even though I had a lot to do one morning, I took a time out. I went back to bed for two hours and I can’t tell you how much of a difference it made. I was able to power through the rest of my day with a clearer head instead of just slogging through it.

Not everyone can just decide to go back to bed at 7 AM and sleep for two hours but you do have other options for time outs if you aren’t comfortable going in to work a little late. Protect a couple of hours in the evening for you to find a quiet place to read, relax, or even just go to bed early. If you live by yourself, decide that it is okay not to finish the dishes or laundry and just take care of yourself. If you have family responsibilities then ask your partner for some help so you can get the time out that you need.

This works the same when you are mentally fatigued as well. If you are having problems focusing or your patience is wearing thin, then acknowledge the fact that you need a time out and plan to take one – sooner not later.

Also be aware when you don’t need a time out. Taking time out as a procrastination technique is not going to be helpful to you. There is a difference between not being able to focus and not wanting to focus. Taking a time out as an avoidance technique will never work because you need to “play through” whatever block you are experiencing in order to keep progressing forward.


Once you understand that you need a time out, the next step is to learn how to stop. Just recognizing that a time out is needed is not the same as taking a time out. A lot of times we feel guilty for taking time or feel inadequate because we need one. If you know a time out is in order, then give yourself permission to take it. Then breathe. Take a deep, belly breath. We rarely breathe from this spot deep in our belly and it helps clear our minds, especially when we are feeling mentally fatigued. Connect with the fullness of taking that breath. It will fill you up and allow you to move into your next thing.

3.Reset your intentions

After you spend a couple of minutes breathing, revisit your intention. If you lack focus during a task, what is your intention for that task? What do you want from completing the task? Why do you want it? How will you feel at its completion? You will either discover a new energy for the task that will allow you to refocus and complete it or you will discover that the task is not necessary that that’s why it is draining your energy.

Same questions apply when you are mentally drained. Why are you doing what you are doing? What do you want out of your actions? Do your actions support your intention and your core? If ‘yes’ you will feel a new excitement around your life. If ‘no’ the time out will give you the opportunity to re-evaluate and re-prioritize your actions. If you are feeling run down or ill, your intention will be to give yourself some time to recover so that you can get back to being your best self.

Taking a time out is not a cop out or an indication that you can’t handle things. Our bodies know when we need a break and communicate very clearly with us if we will just take time to listen. Acknowledging that you need a time out and then giving yourself permission to take one shows that you are smart, intuitive, and resourceful. Your body will thank you. Honestly, everyone around you will thank you, too.

Strategic time outs are effective at re-energizing and re-focusing your efforts. Waiting too long to call one will minimize its impact and you may miss your opportunity to step away from the action, course correct, and get back into the game a better version of you.


2 thoughts on “Know When and How to Strategically Take a Time Out

  1. I took a time-out yesterday and was combating the tendency to feel guilty about it. Reading this has helped solidify my decision. It’s so important! Thanks.


    1. I’m so glad you could fight through those nasty feelings of guilt that always creep up on us when we take time out for ourselves. Hopefully you got the most out of your time out and are now ready to conquer whatever stands in your way. Thank you for the nice note and words of encouragement.


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