Increasing your performance with micro-transitions.
About three years ago, I was on my way to a meeting to do a presentation to the President of our Asian region about my division’s strategy, when I had a phone call to say our house had been burgled. I asked the caller, my husband, a few quick questions about the damage and received scant details including “your jewellery drawer, front door kicked in, and iMac gone”. He was dealing with it so there wasn’t anything further I could do right now, but of course my mind was reeling. In that brief but critical moment I was transitioning from one activity to another. Back then however, I hadn’t read about The Third Space.
Fast forward to this week.
Meeting new and interesting people whilst enjoying your first latte of the day is such a great combination. I did that this week and re-discovered the work of Dr Adam Fraser. He is the author of a book called The Third Space. The “summary-in-a-few-sentences” of the book is this. We transition daily between dozens of different roles and tasks. How we transition has a huge impact on our happiness, performance, and balance, because we usually carry our thinking, emotions, and behaviours from one activity to the next. That space in between one activity and the next is called “the third space”.
The third space is about those micro-transitions that happen throughout our day, every day. This is not about those big life-changing transitions like a house move, career change, or starting a family.
Dr Fraser studied elite athletes for many years, in particular tennis players. Whilst they are all brilliant at the technical aspects of their game, where they differ is in between the points. The top players reflect on the previous point and then put it behind them. They create calm in their mind by relaxing, and then focus on the next point as though hitting a reset button. They manage their mindset in between points. This is the third space.
Many of us today lead hectic lives where we are literally lurching from one activity to another, one meeting to another, one conversation to another, and one role to another. We don’t feel like we’re giving any of them our full attention which means it’s highly likely we’re being unproductive and possibly even destructive. We’re more stressed than ever before. In the Australian Psychological Society’s annual “stress and wellbeing in Australia” survey, one of their key findings was “The half decade snapshot shows that Australians are faring worse than they were in 2011 when the survey began, reporting lower levels of wellbeing and workplace wellbeing and higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety symptoms.”
The third space gives us that brief moment to reflect, relax, and reset. Those three steps may happen within a few moments as we walk from one meeting room to another, or it may be whilst we’re in the car or on the bus, transitioning from the office to our home. How often have we walked in our front door at home with a conversation that hadn’t gone well at the office on continuous loop in our mind? How helpful is that mindset going to be as we try to have an enjoyable conversation with our flatmates or family.
I love the idea of the third space and I’ve started to be really conscious of it this week. As with everything, it’ll require effort before it becomes a habit. (And don’t say habits are broken or made in 21 days … that’s a myth.) The prize is surely worth the effort though. Being fully engaged with each new activity or conversation or role has to bring about positive thinking and behaviours.
You can read more about Dr Adam Fraser and the third space by visiting www.thethirdspace.com.au.