Time and Transition

Where do you invest your time?  Seems like an overly simplistic question doesn’t it?   Time.  I am in a zone where every minute matters so I am regularly thinking about time.  Does your time allocation say anything about where you are in your transition?

 Swiss Moment

Swiss Moment

Not long ago I attended an event for The Commonwealth Institute in Boston.  Gloria Steinem was the speaker.  This was no intimate gathering…hundreds of women were in attendance.   Silverware clattered all throughout her remarks.  Steinem’s talk was broadly about women and progress.  She used the podium to also comment on women and money.  She asked those in attendance what our checkbook registers said about us?  Our priorities?

Mortgages, college tuitions, vacations, the light bill, or new hockey equipment for Jasmine?  It was an overly simplistic test.  But it was powerful.  She wanted to know what percentage of our checkbook register reflected that which we cared about?  Did the dollars align for those who professed community commitments or advocacy on women’s issues?  Many quickly made the argument that personal or family demands greatly impacted disposable income and therefore the percentages.  I agreed.  But I still liked the test.

Borrowing from this test what does your calendar say about your priorities?  Does transition rate?  Its presence or absence may have a fair amount to do with other demands on your time.  But it may also reflect where you are in the process of transition.

I’ve learned that transition has a few phases each with differing time commitments.

First, there is a ‘decisioning phase’ during which you evaluate how to respond to a trigger.   Triggers come in all shapes and sizes like a miscarriage, a remarriage, a marriage, an empty nest, an unexpected job change, a career change, a geographic move, a baby, a sick parent or family member.  Decisioning requires you to make a judgement call in response to a trigger.   Should I change or should I transition?   Either decision is fine.  There is no right answer.

For those who need a little outtake today….I can’t help but hear the lyrics to the 1980’s hit  Should I stay or should I go?  by The Clash when I think about the decision…to change or to transition.   If you remove the romantic undertones of the song maybe you’ll get a chuckle…..

If decisioning leads you to transition then you enter a phase of reflection.  In it you  re-examine the primary components of who you are…your identity, capacity and/or values.  This phase typically ends with some very structured activities all meant to envision a future that is more aligned with your updated thinking.

The final phase of transition is series of validation activities all meant to bring further clarity to your previously developed vision about the future.  This stage is full of experimentation and learning.  Neither of which is easy.  Both are time-consuming.  Welcome to my world…

The first two phases – decisioning and envisioning – can be minimally invasive on your time.  You can process this thinking in parallel to other demands.  I’ve found, however, that there is an emotional availability required to work through these steps.  If the demands on your time eliminate any access to this emotional availability then time becomes a real issue for these stages.

The validation phase has real-time commitment challenges – which can be a gate.  While burdensome I would argue that the time spent in this stage can also be an important tool, a risk mitigation tool.   Let me explain:

Some may want to rush through validation eager to adopt their newly imagined future.  What I’ve found in talking with women is that skipping this phase is risky.  For example a post-retirement grandmother from the mid-west shared with me recently that she struggled with the transition from working to not working.  “It  was really scary,” she said.   In response to that fear she shared, “I did things that I probably shouldn’t have done. I made an early bad decision.”

When she retired she immediately agreed to take on a professorship role at a local university. “I had to engage with teams of graduate students who were doing field projects for real companies. Academia was very different. I struggled.”

Validation and refinement may seem taxing to our calendars but skipping it can also introduce risk.   The great news is that some validation can be achieved with minimal impact on our calendars.  Think networking conversations via Skype, a TedTalk, a MOOC (free online college course).  All achieved via a functioning internet connection from your living room.

The demands on our time in transition have seasons.  The first step is recognizing that your commitment level while required is not always constant.

As you head into the holiday season may the demands on your time be manageable.  So too, may you find a few blissful moments of unfilled time to use for you….regardless of what transition stage you are in.


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