How to Nail Life’s Daily Transitions With Ease
Have you ever noticed that the most stressful times of your day seem to occur around transitioning from one thing to the next? For example, it might be leaving the calm of the car and walking into a bustling workplace where you are slammed with the day’s demands. Or, coming home after a long day to the people you love most and yet re-entry doesn’t go well. Perhaps you can think of other scenarios.
A friend recently commented that her mornings were consistently stressful and she finally put her finger on the culprit. Her young daughters were in the habit of joining her in bed in the wee hours of the morning with loud voices and bed-jumping—both of which adults try to avoid as they first wake up. As endearing as the gesture was intended to be, her violent transition out of bed was setting the day up poorly and the whole morning suffered.
The switching of gears that has to take place as we exit one role and enter another one can be a big tripwire for us. When we come home to our loved ones, we often notice that the evening is more combative than we’d hoped.
Why is it so hard to transition from one thing to the next when generally we enjoy both activities? Mostly because our different worlds require varying skill sets from us and turning one skill set ‘on’ and another ‘off’ is not as automatic as we might think.
For example, at work, we generally operate with our focus on performance, efficiency, and production. We tap into the parts of ourselves that multi-task, get-to-the-point, and crank through the never-ending ‘To-Do’ list.
When we pull into the driveway at the end of the day with this mode still in over-drive, it doesn’t usually go well in a family situation that requests connection, a present mind, and slow-paced conversation. It is a form of culture-clash, you might say. The gear we are in, which was so effective at work, is now bulldozing the room in the new environment.
So what can we do to improve our transitions?
Get started on the right foot: Our transitions often repeat themselves each day so we can begin to anticipate them. Before you get out of bed in the morning, take two minutes to ask yourself these questions: 1) What has the potential to trip me up today? 2) How can I bring the best of myself to that challenge? Now you have a plan-of-attack before you’re even out of bed.
Close up shop: Time is such a premium asset that we often try to maximize our minutes by sleeping in until the very last minute or working tirelessly until we have to run out of the office to be home on time. Knowing this doesn’t produce the results we want, we can be intentional about taking 5 minutes at the end of the workday to ‘close up shop.’ We can make a list of items left undone, straighten up our desk, and even mentally remind ourselves that this portion of the day is done.
Take a minute: Few of us are capable of making a smooth transition of this magnitude instantaneously. We need to give ourselves some buffer space between one activity and the next, even if it is just a few minutes. This could be listening to good music on the way home, instead of taking calls, to help you switch gears. Or, before you pick up the kids or walk into the house after work, taking a moment to mentally shelf the things on your mind. Remind yourself how thankful you are for the people you’re about to encounter and ask: “What do they need most from me right now and how can I give it to them?”
Connect first: When you enter a new environment, make a conscious effort to genuinely connect with the people in the room. Whether that’s a hug and kiss at home or a warm greeting and handshake in the boardroom, human connection integrates your brain and sends a surge of the natural hormone oxytocin through your body providing an overall sense of well-being. And plus, we are all at our best when we are mindful of the humanity in the room as we enter it.
Stay put: Even after we’ve successfully transitioned to a new environment, our minds can wander off and keep us from being fully present to those around us. Set boundaries for yourself, like no checking your phone until after 8 p.m., to keep yourself accountable. When you’re only half present, no one gets the best of you.
Learning to nail those daily transitions will give you the power to transform your days and will allow you to show up in all of your roles more effectively and enjoyably.
Brandi Murphy is the Founder and Content Curator of the online community, Connection Table, which provides space in our days to focus on what matters most. Believing that human connection is the birthplace of joy and meaning in life, the community curates the practical tools to help us live from a place of vulnerability, courage, and compassion. Join along at: instagram.com/connectiontable
This essay was featured in the June 23rd edition of The Sunday Paper. The Sunday Paper is the paper of record for individuals who want to be Architects of Change, lead meaningful lives and Move Humanity Forward. To get inspiring and informative content like this essay delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.