Effectively managing transitions throughout the day isn’t just important for kids. Let’s face it. As adults, we’re bouncing from one thing to the next, with little awareness. We do this without even thinking.
If you’re stressed mindlessly moving from one thing to the next every day, it’s a sign you could be suffering from a transition deficit.
If ADHD is it play for you, a typical work day can feel like an endless series of disorienting and potentially derailing transitions. Executive function deficits complicate processes like getting ready for bed or waking up; time blindness sabotages productivity; and working memory deficits cloud the view from here to what’s next.
Think about how great it feels when you have an organized desk, closet, car, pantry or dare I say an organized mind. Organizing our behaviors is no different. It offers you calm. You know what to expect.
Besides their basic organizing function, transitions and routines have many other benefits.
According to WHO, healthy lifestyle habits and routines and the ability to stick to them consistently are tremendously important for maintaining good mental and physical wellbeing,
Whether it’s a multi-step routine or one tiny act that tells your brain it’s time to get into work mode (or whatever mode is needed), high achievers tend to find transitions and routines that work for them and that they can stick to—it’s typically something they credit as core to their success.
The most common transition pain points include:
#1. Moving between sleep to starting your day.
#2. Moving between work and post work
#3. Moving between ending your day and sleep.
Let’s smooth out each of these transitions together.
Transition from sleep to starting your day.
The morning routine is a transition. It’s the buffer between sleep and starting our day.
You don’t want to wake up and go full throttle.
Think about this like you do a workout. There’s a warm up, the work-out and a cool-down. The most important part of the workout are the transitions or buffers on both the ends, the warm up and cool down.
Your morning routine is the warm up for your day.
Keep your routines simple. The point isn’t to make this a to-do-list.
Here’s an example of a simple morning routine.
- Get up immediately when the alarm goes off. (No hitting the snooze button)
- Make your bed: This signals to your brain that sleep time is over and it’s time to start your day.
- Brush your teeth, shower etc. Self-care is the most loving thing you can do for yourself when you wake.
- Fuel your body. Whatever it is that gets you going; eat some protein, drink warm lemon water, tea or coffee.
I know lots of people that like to add on even more stuff to their morning routine, like journaling, meditating or exercising. Do what works for you. Keep it manageable. Remember the point is to create a stress-free transition from sleeping to starting your day.
The transition between work and post-work.
This is going to look different for everyone. Do you suffer from thinking about work when you’re at home and home when you’re working? Transitions help with that.
If you work in the office your commute home may be your transition. But just because you have a commute doesn’t mean that it’s a stress-free transition. It could be the most stressful part of your day. If so, how can you make it smoother? Listen to your favorite music or podcast, call a friend, or read a book if you’re on the train?
Maybe you have a 2-minute transition when you pull into your garage, close your eyes and take some deep breaths before going inside. Transitions don’t have to be long. Only long enough to clear the stress of what you’re leaving to being fully present to where you’re going next.
If you work from home, a transition can look like, powering off your computer, leaving your office and closing the door, or walking the dog.
No matter where you work, what you do in the last 15 minutes of your workday to help you transition from work to what’s next in your day is critical. This is 15 minutes to clear your mind.
Take 15 minutes at the end of your work day to wrap things up. Make a plan for where you’re going to start tomorrow. This calms your mind and lessens the chances of you thinking that you missed something, or overthinking and worrying about work at home.
This allows you to close the door on this part of your day allowing you to be present for what’s next.
Transition from ending your day to sleep.
The night time routine is a transition. It’s the buffer between ending your day and sleeping.
You don’t want to be going full-throttle and toss yourself in bed. You can’t expect that your body is going to calm down without a gentle transition.
Let’s use the workout analogy again. There’s a warm up, the work-out and a cool-down. The most important part of the workout are the transitions or buffers on both the ends, the warm up and cool down.
A night time routine is the cool-down.
Here’s an example of a simple night time routine.
It allows your body to start calming down so you can rest and sleep better.
- Tidy up. Spending just 10 to 20 minutes a night tidying up will help reduce stress in the mornings
- Prep for the morning. Pick out the clothes you’ll wear, pack the food you’ll eat, prep the coffeemaker, and organize any work-related materials you need to bring. If you’re going to the gym, lay out your workout clothes and water bottle.
- Brush your teeth, wash your face etc. Self-care is the most loving thing you can do for yourself at the end of your day.
- Light a candle and read for enjoyment (no phone or social media)
- Clear your head. Meditate, journal on what you’re grateful for.
- Reflect on and celebrate your wins for the day.
- Listen to soothing music.
You can have 2 or 20 transitions in a day. They don’t have to be long. They can be 1 minute. Take one minute to close your eyes and breathe deeply before going into your next meeting or starting on your next task. This tells your body we’re moving on. We’re not doing this thing anymore. We’re moving on to something else. Your body and mind will be better for it.
According to a study by researchers at Tel Aviv University, predictable, repetitive transitions and routines are calming and help reduce anxiety.
Setting up smooth transitions and routines can seem like a big challenge. But you know what is harder? Trying to function in the chaos of the world and our minds.
Pay attention to the times in your day when you feel most stressed.
Where can you add transitions into your day?
What are your bumpiest transitions? What can you do to smooth them out?