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Failure to Transition


Failure to Transition

Do you find it difficult to get ready and out of the house in the morning? Are you frequently late to appointments? Do you have difficulty making choices?Are you in awe of people who manage to get things done seemingly without much effort or anxiety? Do you keep lots of things out in the open so you won’t forget them? Have you been frustrated because you can’t seem to fix these problems? Well there’s good news. It’s not entirely your fault, and there are things you can do to improve!

The root problem is the failure to transition from one activity to another. This article will offer practical solutions to help you to manage your time better. If this doesn’t describe you, then chances are you know someone who could use this help.

Which Type of Person Are You?

There are two types of people in this world, monochrones and polychrones. Determining which one you are will explain a lot about yourself.

  • Monochrones see time in absolutes, are usually on time, and prefer to work on one project at a time.
  • Polychrones, on the other hand, see time as fluid, are committed to people not to time appointments, change plans often, and are usually working on more than one project at a time.

People who are polychrones have difficulty managing time not because they are lazy or inconsiderate, but because they are wired differently. It’s not good or bad. It just is. The key is for Polychrones to leverage their strengths and to learn skills that will help them overcome the challenges.

Leveraging Strengths

The strengths of Polychrones are their ability to work on more than one project at a time and their strong long term relationships. How can you leverage these? Seek out roles at work and elsewhere in your life that require these abilities. Try to stay clear of roles where you may get bored with only one or limited projects or lack of variety. You may want to find roles in which building long term relationships is important and avoid roles where you don’t have the opportunity to work with people over long periods of time, as this might be a source of frustration for you.

Solutions to Challenges

The main challenge for Polychrones in modern life is the ability to transition from one activity to the next. Polychrones are a perfect demonstration of Newton’s First Law of Motion: a body in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. If you’re a Polychrone, you’ve experienced this. You immersed in your work when the phone rings. This interruption causes you to “wake up” from your work and, looking at your watch, you panic as you realize you’re going to be late for a meeting. Argh! Is there any way to keep this from happening all the time? Yes and it’s all about learning how to stop, how to disengage. Here’s how:

1. Become Aware of Your Nature. By reading this article, you’ve probably had a light bulb turn on and you’re nodding your head saying, “Oh my, I had no idea!” Ok. Now you know why these things happen.

2. Decide You Want to Change How You Manage Time. If how you manage time doesn’t cause major problems in your life and you’re not motivated to change, then you may not need to. However if you want to stop: being late, letting people down, feeling anxiety when switching gears, and going into panic mode because you’re late again, then make a commitment mentally and read on.

3. Accept Transition Discomfort. For Polychrones there is mental discomfort when switching from one activity to the next and it can be as strong as a child reaching for his mother as she leaves him with a babysitter. Accept that this discomfort will be short lived if you allow yourself to become engaged in the next activity. Also the following steps will help minimize the transition discomfort as well.

4. Accept That Time Moves Faster Than You Realize. Yes, this is something you need to do. For people with many interests and for whom stopping is difficult, this is an important step. Accept that you can’t do everything you want in one day. You need to choose the things that are most important and then…go to Step #5.

5. Plan Your Day with Ultra Realistic Timeframes. Instead of simply jumping into your day, have a pen and paper near your bed. Plan out exactly what you will do today and next to each write down the realistic time it will take. This will help keep you from becoming distracted. Set leaving times 15-30 minutes ahead of when you think you need to leave. Carry your list around with you in the morning before you leave the house. Check things off as you go, and keep moving. Keep distractions at bay. Don’t watch TV or listen to the radio. Wait until you are commuting. You can listen to the radio or if on a train, read the paper then.

6. Nip Distractions in the Bud! As you are moving through your day and something grabs hold of your interest, ask yourself:

  • Do I have time for this now?
  • Is this important to me?

If it is important and you can’t fit it into 2 minutes, then WRITE IT DOWN and schedule it for later. Carry a capture notebook with you at all times. A PocketMod is a great tool for this because it is so small. Then each morning or evening when you plan your next day, you can schedule in those distractions for when you have time. And you may find that some of those things will not be important anymore. That’s OK.

7. Plan Your Transitions. Stopping is the problem. The solution is setting a plan in writing and in your mind where you can visualize how you will stop one activity before moving onto the next. This may sound very “kindegarten” to you, but it works!

Here’s an example: Here’s your a portion of your day:

  • 10am until 12 noon – Work on Project X.
  • 12 noon – Lunch Date .

Time estimates:

  • 15 minutes to walk from your office to where your lunch appointment is.
  • 15 minutes to pack your briefcase, check your notes and use the bathroom before leaving.
  • 10 minutes to wind down your work on Project X for noting where you left off and what your next actions will be when you work on this again.
  • Total Time Needed before your lunch appointment: 40 minutes.

That means you can only work on Project X until 11:20am.
Set a reminder that you will hear and respond to! Suggestions:

Plan how you will stop for all major transitions of your day. Watch how much of a difference this will make!

8. Trick Yourself with Pre-Planned Interruptions. These are interruptions you can’t ignore. It might be having a friend come by your office or home. It might be a phone call with your friend. It could be you put your child or spouse in charge of the alarm clock. When it goes off have your child or spouse tell you it’s quitting time. Make sure you listen to them and thank them so that they will help you in the future. Set the interruption time for 5 minutes before you need to start the next activity. Let your interrupter know ahead of time that you will be taking 5 minutes or less to close up shop after they tag you. To be best prepared for this, when you start the activity, think about the steps you’ll need to take to stop. Even write them down if that helps. Over time, try to make it a goal to close up shop before they get there!

9. Discover the Benefits of Being Early. For many people who are chronically late, in addition to having trouble transitioning, there is the dislike of being early. If you share this feeling, then here is a simple solution. Always carry with you something you can do when you arrive early. This could be a notebook, a book, magazine, knitting, your web-enabled phone or whatever you can do in small amounts of time. Or carry nothing extra, and make a habit of taking a mini meditation nap while waiting.

10. Celebrate Success. You can chart your success or just start noting mentally each time you are early or on time for an appointment. Smile for each successful transition you complete. Reward yourself with fun time where you can daydream, waste time at will and browse all the interesting things of life. Just remember to plan how you’ll stop! 🙂

Resources:

For more information on this see Martha Beck’s article called Transition Anxiety in O, The Oprah Magazine.

Test to see if you are Monochrone or Polychrone over at O Magazine.

Getting Things Done by David Allen is a great system for anyone including Polychrones.

Getting Things Done Daily Guide in PocketMod format.

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25 Responses to Failure to Transition

  1. Gina July 31, 2007 at 1:27 am #

    Nice article. I believe that only a few of those people who work on several projects at the same time are able to focus on their project. Multitasking is not for everyone and would still be not enough even with practice.

  2. Lodewijkvdb July 31, 2007 at 5:30 am #

    I think this is more or less similar to the P/J axis in MBTI. P(Perceiving) is about letting the time come at you as it is, and J(Judging) is about controlling how time is used. Not the same but similar.

    Anyway I’m definitely a Polychrone! I read your article and the article on O Magazine and I recognized so many situations…

    Being a polychrone in a a monochrone culture is like being out of tune. Do you think it’s easier to learn monochonicity as a polychrone than the other way around? I feel that there are a lot of resources available on how to be a monochrone (or act as a monochrone maybe). Being on time, scheduling, GTD, time management and the likes are all monochrone-minded in my opinion.

    What kind of training would a monochrone in a polychrone-society follow? What articles would they read?

    Anyway, I’m converting myself 🙂 I’m training all kinds of monochronistic skills (starting to wake up early from tomorrow in my early bird challenge). I think that to really get things done, the monochronistic way is the most effective one. But being a polychrone at heart, I won’t neglect to enjoy the journey along the way 😉

  3. Urbanist July 31, 2007 at 5:35 am #

    Ahh early, if only I could be 🙂

  4. Ash July 31, 2007 at 6:24 pm #

    The ironic thing is that I, like most others, still “waste” time reading these than doing anything about it!

  5. Howie July 31, 2007 at 9:54 pm #

    Great suggestions. The best thing we can do it probably being aware of the situation. It would be useless to learn about it if we easily forget the lessons.

  6. Greg (Revenue Blogging) July 31, 2007 at 11:39 pm #

    I totally identify with what you are describing. I assumed I must have some form of undiagnosed ADD or something. I will seriously put some of your ideas in to practice.

  7. Sharm August 1, 2007 at 12:27 am #

    Hi there,

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    The aim of this blog is to prove to the world that differences in language, religion,race and nationality do not make us hate each other and we can make this world better if we express our opinions with respect to others.

    If you agree to join us please send e-mail with your nick name , age , country and your blog address to sharm_lover@hotmail.com where you will be sent an activation mail which makes you entitled to contribute in WUB, your name as one of the contributor will automatically be updated.Please read the rules before you start any posting in WUB where you will also find the aims of this WUB.

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  8. agentsully August 4, 2007 at 3:25 pm #

    @Gina – thank you!

    @Lodewijkvdb – what an interesting comment: “What kind of training would a monochrone in a polychrone-society follow? What articles would they read?” What a delightful thought!

    @Urbanist – me too. I just always try to shoot for being 15 minutes early which puts me there on time. 🙂

    @Ash – ironic, huh? 🙂

    @Howie – thanks for your comment!

    @Greg – I guess it’s another way of looking at ADD. With focus and practice we polychrones can make changes that help us integrate better in a monochrone society, but without taking away from our true nature.

    @Sharm – Welcome.

    thanks everyone for your comments.

  9. Joni October 25, 2007 at 2:48 am #

    I couldn’t help but look this up the moment I read about it in this months issue of “O”. I can’t remember the last time that I was actually on time or,God forbid early, to an appointment!! I pad my Dr’s appointments, I try my very best to set my alarm clock earlier, you name it, I have done it, in attempt to be on time! But I am always late! I am going to try out the suggestions that are listed above….wish me luck! :c)

  10. Kelli June 11, 2008 at 1:07 am #

    I see myself and my youngest daughter here…I didn’t realize why it is so hard for me to stop one activity and start another…
    Both I and youngest daughter frustrate the heck out of my oldest daughter who is always on schedule…or would be if she wasn’t 8 and not allowed to leave the house on her own.
    She brilliantly learned how to get me to the next activity…she goes to wait for me in the car.

  11. carolined September 3, 2009 at 1:42 am #

    So appreciate this article. It was written in a way that a Polychrone like me and keep on track with. 🙂 I was just speaking the other day to someone about how I’ve realized that don’t transition well. Thank you for these practicle tips! I’m going to bookmark this page for future reminding. 🙂

    • agentsully September 29, 2009 at 5:54 pm #

      @Carolined – That’s awesome! Thanks for letting me know! Wishing you all the best! Hope to see you “around here” again!

  12. Jennifer April 7, 2010 at 5:42 pm #

    I think there really are societies that are “polychrone” in nature. (Think “Hawaiian Time” or whatever your preferred laid-back society may be.) Perhaps those of us with a polychrone nature need to find a way to locate ourselves within such societies. Ah, another daydream to distract me from my work … 😉

    • AgentSully October 24, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

      You and me both, Jennifer! 🙂

  13. Jurand Ciechanów May 3, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Glad to be one of several visitants on this awesome web site : D.

  14. Ronnie October 4, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    I meditate (20 min) in the morning before I go to work, I believe it has helped me get in touch with my inner strength. This article has been doing the rounds since 2007, very powerful stuff. I will be coming back here more often. 🙂

  15. Ariel Dunes condos November 23, 2011 at 3:43 am #

    I just want to say that i had this problem 3 months ago and setting up a reminder helps me overcame this problem.

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  1. […] Of course you do! We all do! Whether you have attention deficit disorder or you are a polychrone or you simply suffer from information overload, it can be difficult to keep your mind focused on […]

  2. […] each item into a time slot for the day. Be realistic about your time frames and be sure to include transition and buffer time in between activities. Keep some time open for unplanned items. When your other tasks have been […]

  3. […] Transitions. Make sure you plan in enough time between activities and appointments, and find ways to fail proof being on time. […]

  4. […] Transitions. Make sure you plan in enough time between activities and appointments, and find ways to fail proof being on time. […]

  5. […] Failure to Transition | Life Learning Today – Failure to Transition Do you find it difficult to get ready and out of the house in the morning? Are you frequently late to appointments? Do you have. […]

  6. […] realistic about transition times between […]

  7. […] say that all that takes about 1 hour. Then your bed time would 10:15pm. Most of us discount this transition time and therefore lose out on as much as an extra hour of sleep. Only the first few days may be […]

  8. […] Of course you do! We all do! Whether you have attention deficit disorder or you are a polychrone or you simply suffer from information overload, it can be difficult to keep your mind focused on […]

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