Dr Adam Fraser is a peak performance researcher – or as he describes himself, ‘a geek researcher’. He likes to unlock people’s potential almost as much as he likes heavy metal. (“Up till now the greatest moment in my life is being front row at an Iron Maiden concert.”)
When not thrashing about to heavy metal, he lives and breathes the fact that science – specifically, the inner workings of our minds – is where we can transform ourselves for the better.
While not many would disagree with this idea, when it comes to accessing the all-elusive ‘how’, Adam has the answer. And it’s called the Third Space.
Making time for the in-between
“I love research, it’s what I do,” says Adam in between meetings, but still giving his full attention. “And when we look at the idea of the research we’ve done into the Third Space, it’s best defined as the gap between what has just happened and what is coming next.
“Our research shows that by creating this space, you can help yourself to reach peak performance by effectively transitioning between changing roles and environments, and being able to fully focus on the task at hand.”
In collaboration with Deakin University, Adam’s company found that effective, high-performing people tend to be able to be make these transitions more easily. “It was amazing, their ability to rapidly transform from one interaction to another,” Adam says.
In doing this, these people could fully bring what was required of them to every single moment, for optimum peak performance – ”especially useful for those times when you feel like you’re being pulled at all ends.”
Optimised performance in practice
“Let’s say you’re catching up on some paperwork or compliance,” Adam continues. “Then you have to rush into a creative meeting, which all about innovation and ideas. It would be too easy to take this process-driven mindset into the next meeting, which obviously won’t help your performance.”
Adam will talk more about these concepts at Xerocon Melbourne. “Especially given how much accountants and bookkeepers are required to make so many transitions between activities, clients and meetings in the average day. Let alone wanting to transition successfully out of this work mindset when their day ends.
“Bookkeepers and accountants obviously need this ability to make these transitions. They need to become aware of the third space – possibly more than most as they are wearing so many hats in their days.”
So how does it work? Adam says any transition into the Third Space has three defined stages.
- Reflect: “This is how you reflect on what you’ve just been through. It’s where you close things down and leave it behind. But this is a learned skill, sometimes it’s not easy. Particularly if we have made a mistake or something has gone wrong.”
- Rest: “This is the capacity to come back to the present moment. Too often we’re thinking about what has just happened, or the future, and so we go into the next activity but we’re not actually in the moment. By creating this rest space it slows you down and allows you think clearer.”
- Reset: “This is the ability to think mindfully about the interaction you’re now moving into. Really think about how you want to show up. Say you’re having a bad day for example, It’s about having that self awareness to show up in the next activity – whether that’s at work or at home – without carrying that energy, so you’re not distracted.”
Find your Third Space at Xerocon Melbourne
Adam’s research also shows that distraction can be the enemy when it comes to creating your own Third Space. But it’s easily overcome when you know how to beat it.
“People want each other to be more mentally present and not distracted,” he says. “And this transition happens in the Third Space. Our studies showed that family members didn’t necessarily need more time with their loved ones; it was more about the connection. We found that balance was measured not by how much time you have, but by how you show up.”
If you want to learn how to enter the Third Space at any time, Adam will use his breakout session at Xerocon to lay bare the techniques he uses.
“The transition between each of these phases is a learned skill,” he says. “At Xerocon, we’ll go through the nuts and bolts of how we do this in multiple contexts – whether it’s on the way home after a bad day at work, or between meetings when emails are pinging and phones are ringing.
“The beautiful thing about this piece of research is how, once learned, it can be used in so many ways,” Adam, says. “We’ve worked with Triple-0 responders, small business owners, parents … basically anyone who is stretched and being everything to everyone.”