I once knew a person who said to me: “When I drive over the Harbour Bridge I leave work at work, and don’t think of anything else”. That’s it. It sounds simple and easy enough; for some at least.
I don’t know if it’s because this person mentally knew how to program their mind to push aside all their work stress, or they just had a pretty simple stress-free job (they didn’t); nonetheless, the way they did it is something I still struggle to do myself. Taking your work problems home can make the desired dream of a work/life balance more impossible than attainable.
You are taking your problems home with you.
‘What exactly are am I taking home with me?’
This doesn’t mean the literal sense of your work bag and lunch container, but more regarding the failures and mistakes you encounter at work, and how you are subconsciously allowing these problems to come home with you. It’s hard for a person to leave their place of work and ignore the reality of having a terrible day.
It can even go the other way around. You have a terrible day at home and then bring it with you to work. Your boss will tell you “leave your problems at home” – sounds easy enough right? Reality hits, you’re human, and you can’t always be mentally impenetrable.
A brilliant TEDxQUT talk that inspired me to write this blog comes from Australian performance consultant and researcher Adam Fraser. He spoke about creating a “third space” that forms the transition between your work-life and home-life. Not the physical sense of space, but the mental transition between the two different environments. He spoke about how people can “run home like I run my office”, where you come home like an “angry hurricane leaving a trail of destruction behind”. Sound familiar?
The critical thing to remember is to ask yourself, “how will I show up when I walk through that door?” It even applies if you live alone; there are no restrictions in creating your third space. “How you transition home determines whether you unwind, relax and socialise, or obsess and worry about the day – it’s all about the transition,” said Fraser.
Balance your work/home life
Do you ever notice that when you get home, you’re still in work mode? You rush around trying to get things done so you can go back to business, and during the process, you ignore the people in your own home.
You see your children as an inconvenience, and more of a task to complete so you can get back to your emails. You don’t stop to ask how was everyone’s day or what you can do to help; you’re slowly becoming the least favourite person in the house.
Fraser taught me that the importance of getting home on time isn’t what’s essential, as the mood you bring to the home environment has a more significant effect; “it’s not when you show up, but how you show up”.
The balance you want to bring from work to home is merely to be happy and have good relationships. By being in a good mood as you engage with others, it can help you in creating that desired work/life balance.
Now, when it comes to this so-called ‘third space’, you may still be wondering what exactly is it. The third space is the time you spend, and the mental space you create to prepare yourself from getting off the work rollercoaster. This can translate to your journey home and unwinding with music, reading a book or listening to a podcast. Exercising and taking the dog for a walk can also help create your third space.
According to a three-year study and a one month trial with 600 senior business workers, Fraser discovered that by using the third space, a 41% improvement to your home life can be experienced. This massive statistic proves and shows just how powerful the third space is, and hopefully, with this information, the public can learn how to use it and see the results for themselves.
Fraser recommends these three steps in achieving the third space.
Reflect on your day, and ask yourself these three questions. What went well? What did I achieve? And how did I get better? By taking this first step, it gives you the time to look back and reflect on your achievements and also learn from your mistakes.
It prepares you for the next day and helps to remind you that you’re not perfect, and you did the best you could. Tomorrow is always a new day, so let things go and promise to yourself that you will do better.
Rest and do something that can help you become mentally still and present. As mentioned before, listening to music, reading a book on the train home and even having a shower can help you unwind and focus on the present. Exercise and engage socially with others to rest your working brain and focus on your creative and emotional side.
Be playful and spend time with your family without the distraction of work; you could even put your phone away in a drawer like Adam does when he comes home to his family. Whatever method works best for you, try it and see the drastic improvements it can have for your home life.
Reset and ask yourself “how do I want to be when I open my front door?” The way you show up when you walk through that door needs to display an entrance that says you’re cool, calm and collected.
You don’t need to spend an hour getting to this mindset; it can take as little as 15-20 minutes. Everyone has their little tips and tricks on transitioning from a crazy businessperson to a relaxed, fun and approachable person; the way you achieve this can be unique.
A brilliant line that Adam Fraser shared that spread laughter throughout the TED talk arena was this: “There are two types of people in life. The type of person that lights up a room when they walk in, and the type of person that lights up a room when they walk out“.
What kind of person do you want to be, and how will you use your third space to change this? Discover it for yourself.