mindfulness tips for work life balance
Adam Fraser is a peak performance researcher and author of the book The Third Space: Using Life’s Little Transitions to Find Balance and Happiness. Here he discusses how The Third Space method has helped him cope with the ups and downs of the pandemic, and how this thinking can be applied to a myriad of personal situations, for better outcomes.
It is understandably difficult to not dwell on the stressors of life. With so many issues that continue to pop into our lives, falling back into the looming arms of worry and stress might seem like the only option.
This is especially apparent in regards to the pandemic, as this unprecedented time in our lives calls us to re-examine ourselves as an individual, friend and family member. There is no time like a pandemic for society to collectively stop and reflect, rest and reset.
Reflect, rest and reset are the key elements that allow people to take control of their own happiness and performance, ultimately reducing stress in our every day lives.
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These three elements create a transitional gap between our many environments and roles throughout the day. This realisation inspired me to write a book investigating the importance of the transitional gap in between what we do. I call this gap the Third Space.
The research blew my mind. It showed that it’s not what we do, it’s what we do in between what we do that is most important.
The best sales people used the Third Space between calls to get over the previous call and move into the next one with optimism and enthusiasm. The best leaders used the Third Space between meetings to compose themselves and get their head space right and intentions clear for the next meeting.
Those who have successfully adopted the Third Space into their lives have recorded a fundamental change in their work/life balance. The Third Space has always been a constant in my life, helping me through failures and pushing me higher in my successes. Covid-19 reaffirmed the idea that, like every normal facet of life, the Third Space needed to evolve according to my changing needs.
The Third Space might have been once famed for being used by thought-provoking leaders in a business context, however this pandemic highlights that it can be used in a personal, professional, or social environment.
After hundreds of interviews and many research projects over five years I discovered that there are three key elements to effective transitions.
Step 1: Reflect
This step is where people reflect on the previous space and look at what they achieved and how they have gotten better. This helps to shift our mindset into a more positive one and stops us carrying any baggage from the previous space.
Humans have a deep need to understand how they are improving and achieving. If you regularly practice Reflect you will drive up your level of happiness. All too often when we transition out of a space we only focus on what has gone wrong and what we are unhappy with, so we must dedicate time to analyse the day to focus on achievements and what has gone right.
For example: Compliment yourself on the positives from your meetings, acknowledge anything you could have improved on, and then move on. Do not focus on the negatives.
Step 2: Rest
This phase is simply where people pause, relax, and clear their mind. Rest is a chance for them to catch their breath before the next activity. Depending on their circumstances the amount of time for rest changes dramatically.
Sometimes it is a deep breath between meetings, or a yoga class before coming home. People feel that the clarity of thought that comes from Rest helps them be more composed. Allocating a time to unwind allows them to be calm and present for their next space, permitting their physiology to recover from a stressful day.
New research in the area of stress management is showing that short regular pauses in our day on a consistent basis leads to a dramatic drop in stress, anxiety and depression. For example: After a stressful meeting, excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and take a couple of breaths before you rejoin your colleagues with a better mindset.
Step 3: Reset
This is the final part of the Third Space where you prepare for the next space. Reset is used to clarify your intention for the next space and what exact behaviours you need to exhibit to make the intention a reality. For example, when coming home from work, this is where people establish their intention for the home space and the specific behaviours they want to exhibit once they cross the threshold.
Due to our hyperkinetic society where we feel that we are on a roller coaster stuck on repeat, we often lose sight of the outcome we are after. The Reset phase allows us to get clear, heightening our sense of control. The articulation of behaviour is also crucial. If we want to change and grow it starts with altering behaviours.
For example: Once you are done with your meetings, let go of that nervous energy and reinvigorate your mindset once you step outside the door. People who practice this technique in their day report a remarkable increase in happiness and performance, as well as reductions in stress.
One of the most powerful areas in which the Third Space works is in the area of work/life balance.
We partnered with Deakin University on a research project where we took a mix of 250 small business owners and corporate employees and measured their mood and behaviour in the home. The initial survey did not paint a pretty picture. Only 29 percent said that they came home in a good mood, with a positive mindset and exhibited constructive behaviour.
We then asked them to perform the three simple behaviours (reflect, rest, reset) in the Third Space between work and home.
After a month of the participants applying these principles, we saw a whopping 41 per cent improvement in behaviour at home. When interviewed, those surveyed conveyed that the improved interactions they had with friends and family led to a greater feeling of overall balance.
As you make life’s little transitions, pause to consider how are you using the Third Space to ensure you show up at your best.