We all play multiple roles throughout the day.
For many women, that’s usually some version of, and a uniquely personal split between, career, home, family, friend, and self.
Integrating those broader life roles is challenging enough, but really, our roles only get more specialized from there – even if we’re in a place where we have a defined professional day where we can stay in that career role straight through, we might then play the role of salesperson, marketer, employee, manager, mentor, student, creator, and more in the space of eight or ten hours.
It can be a lot to manage, and I honestly don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for doing it.
So here’s where you take a deep breath and allow yourself to see and acknowledge how much you’re constantly handling and integrating.
I often hear that the most challenging piece of managing our roles and the tasks associated with them is transitioning. It’s not easy to go from dealing with a difficult client confrontation at work to picking up a sick kiddo from school. Vice versa is perhaps even harder. It’s tricky to go from doing laundry to feeling sexy. And so often, those transitions feel impossible, or frankly – they don’t exist at all. We struggle to find a good way to bridge from one role or task to another, and in this life where it’s frequently inevitable, that’s something to consider.
Think about it in terms of something as simple as switching between tasks at work. Do you have a task-switcher? Mine is email. Every time I go from one thing to another, like a client call to filming a video, I check my email in between. It’s a terrible habit, and a terrible task-switcher. It sucks time and focus, every time, and sometimes even robs me of the ability to complete the next task. Not a great option for managing my transitions.
Social media is another big one, and it has much the same effect as checking email – sucking time and attention. (For the record, this used to be my go-to, but since my social media sabbatical, I thankfully haven’t gone back to it.) I hear this one all the time – “I just opened up my Facebook/Instagram/whatever app to check for a minute, and all of a sudden, thirty minutes had gone by!” Yeah, not a great task-switcher.
So, as you think about your typical task-switcher, can you think about switching it? What if you spent even equal time on a different task switcher? Would it affect your transition and next task in a different, possibly more positive way?
For instance, a better option for my task-switcher would probably be something like getting up and taking a quick walk through my house or office, filling up my water bottle, maybe even reading a couple pages of a book or grabbing my journal and reflecting on some recent notes and priorities to ground myself. Any of those things would take equal time or less than checking my email, but would provide some mental separation between tasks that require different focus without getting absorbed into the task-switcher itself. Any of those things would set me up for a smoother transition.
Now, if you think about this in a broader sense, it makes a lot of sense that we struggle with transitions between bigger roles, beyond just laundry to dinner, or an investor pitch to firing an employee, or one kiddo’s soccer game to another kiddo’s chess match. We frequently see this picture that people are handling it all so easily, switching between roles with no resistance. But I’m not so sure that’s true, and I suspect those people are white-knuckling their way through more often than not. Because it’s not always easy to let go immediately. It’s not always easy to detach and refocus on an entirely different life bucket. It can feel nearly impossible to go from hard to soft, slow to fast, aggressive to gentle – and the reverse – on a dime. That seems to happen a lot in real life though, so it’s no wonder we lose a lot in the transitions.
Point is – there’s value in the transition.
The transition is affecting the tasks and roles more than we think. So, how do we make it count? Make it a little more effortless? Capitalize on the value in the transition?
Start with one breath. Before your twitchy fingers itch over to that task-switcher (or even as they do!), take one breath. Close your eyes if you need to. Ask yourself, do I really need to do this? Is this an effective way for me to transition between my tasks or roles right now? Is this making good use of the time and energy I have available? Imagine how you want to show up for that next task or role, visualize it, and ask yourself, will this set me up to be my best possible self on the other side of the transition?
All of that can likely be accomplished in the space of a minute or two. And if you don’t feel like you have a minute or two for your transitions, that’s probably even more reason to take that time.
In giving yourself just that breath, one minute of reflection, you might in fact create enough of a transition that you eradicate the need for a task-switcher altogether. And if not, it’ll likely become a lot clearer what’s going to make for a better transition.
That could mean closing the door to your office to do a sun salutation. It could mean going out to your car and blasting Thunderstruck. It could mean taking a shower. Maybe it’s throwing a toy for your dog for a few minutes. Hell, changing your underwear. What you need to do in this transition is unique to you, to your situation, your roles, and even each of your days. But what is not unique is that you need to recognize the magnitude of the transition itself and be intentional about it.
In this conversation with clients, I often get asked directly for help with and suggestions on how to better transition between roles. Some version of, “how do I go from one thing to another?!?” It should be pretty clear now that that’s not a simple answer or formula. I don’t know what makes a smooth transition for you.
I do know that making room for the transition itself, treating it as an important part of your day and your care for yourself, a piece of the puzzle that enhances all the others, is paramount. And I can certainly facilitate you finding what that looks like for you.
But no matter how you make the switch, if you make it purposeful, every task you accomplish and every role you embody will shine.
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