Systems Tips for Transitions

by | Sep 1, 2021 | Systems, Time Management

The past few weeks have been a big time of transition for many of us.

If we have kids, we’ve said goodbye to summer and initiated a new routine.

If we traveled in August, we’re back in the office and settling in for the fall season.

If we thought we were pretty much done with covid, we’re digging out our masks again and trying to figure out what is going on and what to believe.

On a personal note, with our second daughter due in December, I’m bracing myself for one of the biggest life transitions yet.

I like routine (#systemsnerd), and changing things can feel temporarily destabilizing.

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we can use systems to navigate all the transitions in our lives, be they small or massive, expected or unexpected.

Here are a few things that have been really helpful for me during seasons of change:

Honestly and specifically articulate the new limitations and opportunities of a new season

In the past, I’ve been guilty of plowing into a new season with all the same expectations of the old one. I made homemade dinners before? I should keep doing that now. I worked 7 hours a day before? I work 7 hours a day now. It’s not a conscious choice…I just default to what I’m used to.

When life transitions, we have the opportunity to step back and question those assumptions just a little bit. Does this old way of doing things actually make sense anymore?

My daughter just shifted from 4 hours of in-home care three days a week to 3.5 hours of early preschool every day. I expected this shift to drop my working hours a bit, so I planned accordingly.

Turns out, I didn’t adjust enough. Averee used to eat lunch with her babysitter. Now, I oversee her toddler lunch journey. My babysitter used to come to the house. Now, I have a 20-minute round trip twice a day to take her to school. Those pieces together have knocked a solid 1.5 hours off of my working days in the middle of the week.

The only way to reduce my own angst about this is to honestly adjust my working schedule to match instead of trying to pull off the same hours as before.

Looking at your own transitions, where do you need to adjust your expectations? Where can you let go of some things?

Create space to mark and feel the transition

Transitions usually come with some level of emotion. We all know that the big transitions do – a major loss, a birth, a new business – but the small ones (like the end of an anticipated vacation) do too. People are naturally loss averse, and we often feel what we’re losing in a transition more acutely than what we may be gaining.

In my own experience, my fellow Americans and I aren’t always great at marking transitions to create space for those emotions. When I worked in the Philippines, we hosted a party to commemorate the end of every single month. It seemed overboard at the time, but I miss it now. Multiple cultures and religious traditions also have rituals and prayers to surround even the most regular transitions, like the turning of a season or the end of a week.

In my own family, I want to cultivate more of these rhythms to delineate the transition from one season to the next. Especially in an environment where there aren’t any natural boundaries between ‘work’ and ‘home,’ I want to create the types of mile markers to help us pause and feel both the good and bad of our transitions.

Make one adjustment at a time if you can

It’s a lot easier to ease in and out of transitions than to crash into them. Creating space to mark transitions and stepping back to consider what they will mean are both great ways to prepare for a transition in advance. They can also create the opportunity for us to ease into major adjustments.

Right now, four months before my due date, I’ve slightly increased the volume of blog posts I write each week to start getting ahead of schedule. I’ve also actively looked for ways to decrease my working hours now so the rhythms are in place before I completely drop off the map. Am I doing a ton yet? No, but the more I do now, the more natural the transition will be.

Even on the other side of a transition, it may be possible to let some things slide in the short term so you can make one adjustment at a time. If you have kids in school again, maybe it’s okay to send the littles with Lunchables for a bit while you focus on dialing in a morning routine. Or if you’re dealing with a family issue or new illness or injury, maybe you give yourself permission to not post anything new to social media while you recalibrate your client work. It’s okay to take things in stages!

I’d love to hear from you…where are you experiencing transition in your life? How are you feeling about it?