One of the things I just wasn’t prepared for when I became a working mother was the abrupt switching between roles of professional and parent.
Before having my children, I could focus on my professional life during the day and then have a long and leisurely drive home from work, where I would transition into my personal life in the evening.
Although I had a demanding career, the transition from my professional to personal life was clear and often linear.
There were defined boundaries that made the mental and emotional transition simpler.
After children, I found that transition hard.
I’d need to leave my work to go and dash to collect my child from childcare whilst my mind would be occupied with unread emails in my inbox.
Or I’d be focused on getting my children out of the house in the morning (no easy feat, as any parent will know) to suddenly have to switch into my professional mode for a conference call with a client.
I underestimated how taxing and challenging those transitions would be.
I found myself reacting to each part of my life rather than having control over it.
Can you relate?
Do you feel you have all these different roles in your life, but you’re not keeping anyone happy in them?
Do you sometimes feel like your life is like being on a freight train?
Like it’s non-stop and has a sense of urgency and intensity that’s hard to control?
What if I could share with you a micro-strategy that would improve your quality of life?
That strategy is the importance of micro-transitions.
Your day is a series of micro-transitions.
As you move between your different roles, tasks and environments.
But are you effectively transitioning between each role you fulfil?
My guess is that if you’ve not given this intentional focus, then you won’t be.
How do I know that? Because our lives have accelerated at such a pace that our role switching is now higher than at any time in history. And because I wasn’t! I could feel the impact on my life.
Does this sound familiar to you?
You get the kids ready in the morning and notice an email ping on your smartphone from your boss asking to see a copy of the presentation you’re giving to the board next week.
Your mind drifts to work needed to get your presentation up to standard before you can share it as you hear your child shout that they can’t find their school shoes.
You get to work and focus on designing your slides for your presentation when the phone rings. It’s HR, and they want to meet with you due to a complaint of bullying against one of your direct reports.
As you attempt to put out that fire, you realise that you’re 10 minutes late for a meeting with your operations team about a broken sales process which has led to customer complaints. Your contribution in that meeting is impacted as your thoughts are consumed with rehearsing the conversation with your CEO when you have to tell them that your top sales manager has been accused of bullying.
You receive an urgent email in the meeting from one of your Account Directors telling you that one of your top customers is about to jump ship to the competition after a series of product quality issues.
In what seems like a blink of an eye, you’re behind the wheel of your car, dashing to pick the kids up from their extra-curricular activities. You try to listen as they recall their day, but your mind is occupied with the events of your own day.
You get home, greeted by a messy house. And I know you know the rest of this story, and it’s all too common.
As Dr Adam Fraser states:
“I can guarantee that if you improve the quality of your micro-transitions, you will be less stressed, have more balance and be happier in your life.”
Dr Fraser makes it clear that we make the mistake of focussing on the major transitions in life – the house move, handling a restructuring at work after a round of redundancies, a divorce – but ignoring our micro-transitions.
If our everyday life is made up of these micro-transitions, then paying attention to these can make a significant difference.
Dr Fraser refers to our roles, environments and different tasks as spaces.
We spend our day transitioning between other spaces.
The First Space is the role/environment/task that you’re in right now
The Second Space is the role/environment/task you are transitioning into
The Third Space is the transitional gap between the First and Second
What we do in that transitional space will determine our level of success in the Second space.
It’s the gap where we learn from and recover from the First Space while preparing for optimal performance in the Second Space.
Adam Fraser claims:
“The ability to transition rapidly – to inhabit the Third Space fully and effectively and to step up and handle the next space – is one of the most important skills you need to survive and thrive in both your work and personal lives.”
Often, the spaces we transition between require very different and specific mindsets.
Work has a different mindset from home.
An internal meeting has a different mindset from a meeting with a client.
This concept of managing our micro-transitions is even more vital for us as women.
The research shows that role overload is a real issue for women as we often have to move between many roles with competing demands. Role overload shows a stronger relationship to mental health than other sociodemographic variables, including income.
So managing the transitions between these competing roles and demands is even more vital for us as working mums if we want to thrive.
There are two reasons we struggle with micro transitions:
We often lack the flexibility to change our mindset and behaviour to suit the next space we move into, and the challenge is showing up with the right attitude and leaving the baggage behind.
Most of our daily lives are run on autopilot. We can unconsciously and unintentionally react to each space we find ourselves in rather than consciously choosing how we show up.
So what can we do to purposefully and successfully manage these micro-transitions?
- The first step is to REFLECT:
Take a moment to learn from the previous space
Consciously carry positive experiences from the previous space over to the next space (what went well)
Leave behind negative experiences in the previous space (leave your baggage behind)
- The second step is to REST:
Take a moment of stillness to focus and become present
Slow down your breathing to trigger your parasympathetic nervous system
Focus on your body, perhaps feel your feet on the ground, to unhook your mind
- The third step is to RESET:
Consciously choose how you want to show up in the next space
Ask yourself, “When I get to the next space, how will I show up?”
Connect with your purpose and values to guide your behaviour
These three steps may happen in less than a minute. Or, if you have the luxury of more time, you can lean into the space of each of them. The amount of time isn’t necessarily significant; it’s more about the intention and making it work for you.
When you meet each of life’s micro-transitions, remember to REFLECT, REST and RESET.
The key to a happy and fulfilled life is embracing and making the most of each space we find ourselves in; in our fast-paced lives, we can positively influence our daily experience by focussing on the small spaces we move between.
Here’s to embracing the micro-transitions in our lives and building meaningful spaces moment-to-moment.
We’re genuine, like-minded women, just like you!
We’re a community, reinventing how we combine work and motherhood without sacrificing our sanity and wellbeing.