The Truth about Transitions
Saturday, May 12, 2012 2 Comments
by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
As I said in Trouble with Transitions, the first article in the Transitions Series:
One of the primary reasons that transitions are so tricky is that we have only one word to describe THREE phases of the same darned task:
COMPLETION – transitioning out of
– “putting away your toys”
PREPARATION – transitioning into
– “getting out the pieces of the new puzzle”
THE GAP – that “toy free”
period between the two.
The Moralizing Majority
Most people notice they struggle with each of the three phases sometimes.
Almost everyone has difficulties with particular types of transitions, task-specific combinations, and during times when, for one atypical reason or another, they are not able to play at the top of their respective games.
When, for example:
- They’ve been ill and are still recovering
- They haven’t been getting nearly enough sleep
- They’re dealing with a personal crises (their own, or a loved one’s).
THEN there are the rest of us . . .
Whether we are conciously aware of it or not, there is a sub-group that struggles with one or more of the three transition phases most of the time – although we have probably been blaming it on something else entirely:
- We’re such perfectionists — or procrastinators
- We can’t say no, so we always have too much to do and too litle time
- We have lousy follow-through skills
- We’re disorganized, not smart enough, or not trying hard enough.
Although those labels may seem to present an adequate description of our emotions or our behaviors, when everybody stops judging and starts paying close enough attention to allow us to distinguish areas where we function effectively from areas of predictable “underfunctioning,” it frequently boils down to Trouble with Transitions.
I know that when I have a day with few appointments forcing me to stop and start (a day when I can hit my stride and stay there), I amaze myself with how much I can accomplish, relatively easily.
It’s an entirely different story if you make me chop my efforts into little pieces and squeeze them into a day when I feel like I barely get a task started before I have to stop to do something else
- I accomplish so little it barely seems worth the effort to make the attempt.
- So I don’t.
- It only took me a few years of observing that sad reality
to stop listening to “conventional ‘wisdom.’”
Different Strokes and Different Struggles
While those of us who struggle with transitions don’t find any of the phases of the process particularly effortless, there are people who struggle mightily with completions, and others for whom start-ups are the most troublesome part of transitioning. Then there are those poor souls for whom that “gap” is exactly where the transition breaks down.
Some people have a greatest difficulty with the transition between
doing nothing and doing something.
For those people, navigating that particular part of the transition feels more like forcing themselves to catapult out of a hammock on a hot day – leaving behind a good read and a a tall glass of iced tea - to run to the house at the other end of the lawn to attempt to answer a telephone before it stops ringing.
They just can’t motivate themselves to go for it.
Jumping the GAP
If you know you are one of the “gap people”, the “into” and “out of” exercises to come will certainly help make your transitions less troubling. You will continue to have difficulties, however, until you follow the example of Hansel and Gretel: breadcrumbs.
You need to have a trail to follow to lead you through the gap and into the next task – and you need to “scatter your breadcrumbs” before you reach the gap.
For you gap-challenged folks, putting away ALL your toys before getting out the stuff for the next activity won’t work at all, at all, at ALL!
IMPORTANT CONCEPT: Don’t let anybody convince you it is essential to finish one activity before starting the next, or make you feel foolish because you try to do pieces of more than one task at a time.
Those of you who get stuck in the gap will have to take the beginning steps of the new project before completing your current one to be able to finish the first so that you can move on to the next.
Until you learn how to engage and disengage hyperfocus intentionally, you “gap” people HAVE TO “multitask and timeslice” to get anything done at all.
You Can’t Fool YOU
Your subconscious knows you very well, and it will do anything it must to keep you out of gap- quicksand – so it will keep moving that finish line farther and farther away if you don’t utilize a system to bypass that darned gap!
If you often (usually?) find yourself thinking of numerous additional items that keep you from completing tasks, or if it seems that you have equal difficulty with both of the more easily identified transitional phases, begin to suspect that your trouble with transitions just might be, primarily, one of “transitioning the gap.”
For now, do whatever you must to AVOID THAT GAP!
In an upcoming article, I am going to ask you to make a list of transitions that are particularly difficult for you. If you’re not sure, ask your loved ones. They’ll be able to tell you in a heartbeat.
I’ll jumpstart your thinking with a few that many ADDers list:
- Going to bed
- Falling asleep
- Waking up
- Getting out the door
- Getting off the phone and back to what you were doing before it rang
- Leaving work (on time)
The Great Divide
Then you are going to divide your list into two categories. On a sheet of paper you will write the title Transitional Modes, and the following two headings: Coming Out Of and Going Into. You will then copy each difficult transition under its more appropriate heading (like my example below).
Both modes can be difficult for you, but chances are good that you have greater difficulty with one mode or the other for each particular transition. If you start now, use a PENCIL.
Coming Out of
|Going to sleep||Waking up|
|Leaving Work||Getting out the door|
Trust your first instinct for now – don’t agonize. We’ll go into more detail as we work through the series, so it will be easier to clarify the places that you struggle and which of the two modes is your sand trap.
Chocolate or Vanilla?
The initial step that will make the biggest difference is to agree to deal with improving ONE transitional mode at a time.
If you’re having a great deal of trouble going into,
you can’t simultaneously master the
re-orientation of coming out of.
You’ll be left not wanting to do anything except sit in your boggle room and cry.
Flip a coin if you must, but pick ONE mode to work with first.
The Priming Effect
“For example, if a person reads a list of words including the word table, and is later asked to complete a word starting with tab, the probability that he or she will answer table is greater than if not so primed.
Another example is if people see an incomplete sketch that they are unable to identify and they are shown more of the sketch until they recognize the picture, later they will identify the sketch at an earlier stage than was possible for them the first time.”
Playing fast and loose with the explanation of priming, your brain more readily makes links to information it has seen before, so mental rehearsal actually improves performance. There are quite a few journal-published studies that appear to support the credibility of the priming effect, although one is currently the subject of heated debate. Let’s not go there.
At the risk of opening a can of worms in the comments section, whether the priming effect is scienfically defensible or not, I want you to pay attention to how much easier the concept of dividing difficult transitions by mode will seem when you see it again.
Anecdotal though it may be, my clients tell me that “sneak previews” help them complete their coaching homework more easily (and yes, I know I’m stretching the frame around the term). Just see if it works for YOU.
IN ANY CASE, stay tuned. There’s a lot more to come.
As always, if you want notification of new articles in this series – or any new posts on this blog – give your name and email to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too) STRICT No Spam Policy
The Transition Series
(links turn red on mouseover, ONLY when they’re ready to go)
Related articles on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
- Sherlocking ADD Challenges
- Nine Challenges — What are they?
- Taking Your Functional Temperature
- Types of Attentional Deficits
- Linear vs. Holographic Thinkers
- Transition(from “Pretty Ugly” The Poetry and Writings of Bryant Cross)