OPEC College

The Third Space

The New Year is upon us and resolutions are in the air! Many of us are looking for ways to perform more effectively in the workplace while ensuring that the stress and strain of the day does not bleed over into our post work life. If this sounds like you, consider the wisdom of Dr Adam Fraser’s ‘The Third Space’.

The Third Space is a mental tool for use during transition periods within the day, that enables us to compartmentalise more effectively to achieve better balance, greater positivity, and overall happiness.

It’s about intentionally using the moment of transition between a first activity and the one that follows it, known as ‘the third space’, to mentally ‘show up’ prepared, positive and ready for what comes next.

In the workplace, most of us multi-task throughout the day on different tasks. Different tasks require different actions, approaches and skills. And many of us habitually carry our mindset and emotional state from one activity to the next. When we do this, we can unconsciously bring negative emotions and thought processes to the next task, creating a repeating pattern of negativity. This approach can also cascade into your post work life, meaning you are not truly present, and your family and friends are not seeing the best version of you.

After interviewing hundreds of successful people, Dr Adam Fraser discovered a common theme. Successful people were able to successfully and seamlessly transition from one role they play in their lives to another.

How do they do this? They use the in-between time, between tasks, to transition.

Flipping the cognitive switch between work and post work life involves three simple steps:

Reflect. Think back on our day at work and try to make sense of it. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, consider these three questions: What went well today? What did I achieve today? How did I get better today? This optimistic mindset helps us to both deconstruct our day and positively reframe it. 

Rest. Take a break and calm our mind, so we do not have thoughts racing around our heads. This might involve taking a few long, deep breaths. It could be going for a quick walk, listening to your favourite song, or doing Sudoku on the train ride home. 

Reset. Think about the role we’re about to move into and how we want that to go. Is it your intention to enjoy some time with our family or friends? When we walk in the door, how do we want to be perceived? What do we need to do to convey that?

This simple technique can help us to better manage our busy lives and the various roles we juggle. While it is good to do it after work, we can also use this approach between various meetings and activities during the day. So, if you have had a difficult conversation with someone, use this technique to help reframe before the next meeting. 

Dr Fraser reminds us that there are two types of people in life—those who light up a room when they walk in, and those who light up a room when they walk out.

The question for all of us is…which one do you want to be?

Ref: Dr Adam Fraser, The Third Space – Using life’s little transitions to find balance and happiness.

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