When it comes to pivots & new beginnings, there’s one common mistake I see people making over & over again (and it’s a habit I repeated myself for years). We’re talking about trying to do it all.

When we make lots of big plans and jump in at full speed the very first week, we’re not setting ourselves up for success in the long run. Keep reading to learn the 3 simple things you can do to feel better, practice self-kindness and actually be more productive.

shifting your mindset during a big transition

Anyone else feel like this is the summer of transitions? Many people are moving, changing jobs, taking on new roles, trying to return to routines, and shaking up their habits.

Trying to do too much, too soon after a big transition is when I find that perfectionist-based thinking creeps in. And it’s so common, we might not even notice we’re doing it. So I’m sharing this feel good strategy with you so you can change those patterns & do things a little differently this season.

“it’s science – that if you give yourself room & space to process, you actually will be more productive in the long run”

Robyn Conley Downs
jumping in too soon after a big transition

Several years ago, I was in a master’s program, followed by a doctoral program. I struggled with college, another story for another day, but I had managed to get into graduate programs and started to turn things in my life around. I was very focused and serious about graduating and performing well in that program. 

This was my early twenties and we had just moved to Ellensburg, Washington at Central Washington University. My partner had gotten his first academic job at this university as a psychology professor. Here, I also started my master’s program.

At the very beginning of each term, I would get all my course syllabi and mark exams and assignment due dates in my calendar. I would jump right in, but at the end of the first week, I definitely had a meltdown and felt so overwhelmed.

The mistake wasn’t putting everything in my calendar, but it was that I had jumped in right at the beginning and tried to do everything at once. The truth was that I had ten weeks to complete all that work, but in my brain at that moment, I was trying to do it all in the first five days. 

without a change in mindset, the cycle repeats itself

I actually repeated this behavior and pattern for years, doing it at the beginning of every single term of my master’s program and then again in my doctoral program. Each time, I jumped right in, quickly became overwhelmed, had a meltdown, and then recovered and did all of the things I needed to do. I wish I could say this was the point at which I learned my lesson, but it’s not.

I left my doctoral program right before completing my dissertation after my daughter was born. I ended up translating this behavior into transitions around motherhood.

At each point of transition (like my daughter starting daycare, or school, or summer camp), I would make so many plans for productivity during the first week. What would actually happen, though, was different than what I planned for. She would go back to school and she would end up needing some support in the transition. Or it took longer to get her all set and ready. Or I would become emotionally drained, etc.

Ultimately I made too many plans during the first week, which I wasn’t able to do all of, and I would end up feeling like a complete failure. If you have ever heard yourself say, “I was so busy that I got nothing done today”, then this strategy is definitely for you too.

breaking free of the striving mindset & perfectionist-based thinking

It was never that I got nothing done during those weeks, it was that I had planned way too much all at once. 

It comes back to perfectionist-based thinking. Our mindset impacts our behavior, actions, and results. When we get stuck in a striving mindset, which is perfection-based, all or nothing, or comparison thinking, it gives us one set of actions and habits and a set of results. Or we can embrace the feel-good mindset, which is self-compassion, gratitude, and flexible thinking, opening ourselves up to a different outcome.

My insistence on getting everything done the week I hit a transition was really perfection-based thinking, setting myself up for impossible standards. This mindset ends up leaving us feeling like we failed, when the standards and expectations were never actually realistic to begin with. It also gets us into a future-oriented state, versus focusing on what we need to do right now.

“it’s perfectionist-based thinking. it sets us up for failure when we’re not failing at all, and robs us of the joy of the actual moment”

Robyn Conley Downs
here’s what to do instead

The strategy I am teaching today is really simple, the most difficult part being the mindset shifting. 

1 | name it for what it is: a transition week (or month, depending on how big the thing was that happened)

Call it what it is: which is a transition period. A transition week, month, or period can happen after a big transition, like a move, after a job transition, after a kid leaves or returns to the house, when family members enter your family, losing someone, getting a pet, or any situation in which something gets added or taken away.

2 | holding space: resist the urge to try to do everything on day one

Just because you do have extra time does not mean you are going to be the most productive person you have ever been on day one, for several reasons. First, we are human beings with human emotions. You might be emotionally processing whatever transition just occurred. 

Hold space for whatever is going on. Allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel – doing this actually will help your productivity in the long run. Practice self-kindness.

3 | listen to your life, pay attention

Another mistake we often make is not paying attention to what’s happening in our day. We try to plan for a productive day without taking into account what is actually, organically happening during the day. The gap between what we want to happen and what actually happens is where we find a feeling of failure. 

Listen to yourself, pay attention on purpose. Reflect on what is happening in your everyday life. How long does it actually take for your kid to get ready in the morning? How long does it honestly take you to get ready? How long does pick up/drop off take? Where is your time and attention going during the day? Notice without judgment and take those things into account when you are actually planning your day.

“One of the things we know about health and happiness and habits for health and happiness is that it helps to know you are connected to a community.”

Robyn Conley Downs
pink background with navy text that reads transition week with robyn conley downs
other feel good episodes you’ll love

When All-or-Nothing Thinking Doesn’t Work, Do This Instead

The 80/20 Rule (and How to Use It to Be Brilliant at the Basics)

How to Good Your “Should”

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