During the course of any day we all fulfill a variety of roles whether it’s as a partner, a parent, a colleague, a sibling, a daughter, a boss or a friend. Most of those roles require us to wear a different hat but sometimes we try and squeeze another hat on while still wearing the other and all kind of chaos results.
In his book The Third Space Dr Adam Fraser discusses the transition we go through between roles and how in our time-poor state, we move too quickly, without concluding the last before entering the next. Research conducted by Dr Fraser in conjunction with Deakin University, showed that all too often we carry the mindset and emotional state from one activity to the next. Sound familiar?
The Third Space is the gap or short burst of time that we have as we transition between roles. It’s the time on the train or the bus heading home from the office. It’s the walk to school for the 3pm bell. It’s the drive from home to meet friends for an evening out. And it’s during this time we have the opportunity to let go of the stress, focus or energy required for that role, and to hit “refresh”. And instead of bringing home any negative emotions, we have the opportunity to carefully take off one hat, and then gently put on another. As a result we show up in our next role and we show up well.
This can be applied to many scenarios. Working from home, when school pick-up looms, I’m often still working in the car while I wait for the school bell, and perhaps feel ever so slightly regretful when my boys bounce out of school ready for me be 100% present as their Mum. I often leave myself no time to finish one role before starting my next. Instead my transition is done in the presence of my children, as I sneakily check emails, while chatting about their days.
Similarly for those working mothers, if they haven’t transitioned as they head home from the office, the change in role to mother, partner, cleaner, taxi driver, pizza maker, washing folder’er, homework nagger, bedtime book reader, can be confronting and leave many with the feeling they are doing neither role well enough.
As we transition between our different roles – from employee to mother, from mother to friend, from friend to partner, each stage requires a recalibration of emotions, of energy and of focus. However brief that time can be used wisely to ensure we show up to each role with intent, clarity and purpose.
Dr Fraser suggests there are three techniques to be used during the transition period to ensure you show up in your next role.
Reflect: How was your day, your time and what wins did you have? This is the time for reflecting on what you’ve achieved.
Rest: This could be a few moments or a period of time to switch off, to be in a neutral zone, to read a book, listen to music, to breathe deeply and to be calm and relaxed. To just be.
Reset: Ok time for the new game face, but this is about planning how you want to be in that new role, how you want to show up. This is a biggie. This is about that internal voice saying, “I’m going to be a happy/calm/focused/ colleague/mum/partner/friend”. And on holding that image with both hands tightly and not letting any of the other emotions from previous hats you’ve worn, slip back in and impact this.
How many people do you see on the bus or train heading to work or back home, with phones in their hands, focused intently? This could be the perfect time for reflecting and resting. And yes, there will be many having a quick game of Candy Crush Saga, but there will be just as many finishing work emails, or making notes, and still, well … working. The opportunity for transitioning is not being used but is in fact extending that role rather than recalibrating for the next.
Reflect. Rest. Reset.
It’s not just about showing up, it’s about how you show up. And if that means taking a few minutes to make sure you show up well, then that’s a perfect use of time.