Transition Tamer: Beware the GAP!

Into, Out of
The Gap

© By Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T., MCC, SCAC
Excerpted from an upcoming book; all rights reserved
CLICK HERE to begin at the beginning

We start small

We begin with the tedium of to-dos – because the lessons learned will generalize to the bigger changes and transitions that we all must face.

Meanwhile, we must all learn the ways in which we, uniquely, “chop wood, carry water.” ~ mgh

Different Strokes for Different Folks

I developed the articles in my ongoing Trouble with Transitions Series to offer an explanation BESIDES conflicts-blocks-resistance and/or self-sabotage, disempowering beliefs, and procrastination for WHY so many of us struggle trying to get things done.

  • I don’t plan to leave you hung out to dry — giving you a new understanding of why you’ve been struggling, without also giving you some suggestions to work around your transition challenges.
  • Understanding the dynamic, however, is the first step on the road to knowing what YOU have to do to be able to move forward.

The first four articles in this Series introduced the transition-troubles concept and focused on identifying struggles transitioning into and transitioning out-of.  NOW it’s time to focus on the dreaded GAP.

As I said in The Truth about Transitions, the second article in the Series :

While those of us who struggle with transitions don’t find any of the phases of the transition process particularly effortless, we do tend to find one phase that is, fairly consistently, the biggest troublemaker.

  • Some of us struggle mightily with completions: wrapping thing up and moving on.
  • Others feel that the start-up tasks are the most troublesome.
  • Some get stuck smack dab in the middle!

That third group has the greatest difficulty with inertia and activation: you struggle most with the transition between doing nothing and doing much of anything at all.

For you gap-challenged critters, putting away ALL your toys before getting out what you need for the next activity won’t work at all, at all, at ALL!

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Stuck in the GAP

snoBoardJumpGapBegin to suspect that your trouble with transitions is primarily one of “transitioning the gap” IF YOU . . .

. . . seem to have equal difficulty with both of the more easily identified transitional phases.

. . .  often (maybe even usually) find yourself thinking of numerous additional items that keep you from completing tasks and moving on.


. . . frequently reach the original “end” of a task and suddenly have a great idea to make it even better, like maybe . . .

  • new fonts or formatting in a “completed” report
  • a new arrangement for the furniture “now that the room is clean”
  • a different piece to an outfit to elevate its style, even though
    you could walk out the door appropriately dressed NOW

If you suspect that you are one of the “gap guys,” the into and out of exercises of the last few articles will certainly help make transitions less troubling.

  • Expect to continue to have difficulties, however, until you follow the example of
    Hansel and Gretel: breadcrumbs
  • Those of you who get stuck in the gap will have to take the beginning steps of the new project before completing your current one to be able to finish the first so that you can hyperfocus on the next.

THIS article is going to give you an example of what I mean by that.

IMPORTANT: Don’t let anybody convince you it is important to finish one activity before starting the next, or try to make you feel disorganized because you try to do more than one project at a time.

Until you learn how to engage and disengage hyperfocus intentionally,
you will HAVE TO time-slice to get much of anything done at all.

Do whatever you must to AVOID THAT GAP!

Your subconscious knows you very well.

It will do anything it must to protect you from gap-quicksand.  If you don’t utilize a system to bypass that darned gap, it will keep moving the prior project’s finish line farther and farther away!

Heaven help you if you stop.  How WILL you get started again?

  • As I keep saying, if you are gap-challenged, you need to have a trail to follow, leading you through the gap and into the next task.
  • Not only that, but you need to “scatter your breadcrumbs” before you enter that gap —
  • which takes PLANNING! Think about that for a moment.


I’ll bet you HATE planning.  You might even be one of Einstein’s “crazy” people (doing the same thing, expecting a different result).

Here’s a test:

  • Are you someone who returns from the store with bags bulging
    full of everything BUT the item you went to the store to get?
  • Has this happened repeatedly?

Hmmmm . . .  I’ll bet I’m not the first to mention how helpful making a list could be.
Have you ever wondered why you balk at doing it?

Could it be, perhaps, that list-making adds several more transitions to the task that your subconscious is trying to help you avoid?

Guess what?  Your subconscious is not the boss of you!  

Now that you know, use your cognitive override.

  • Make it “easy by default” so that you WILL do it often enough to make it habitual.
  • Cognitive override has a tendency to fail when we feel rushed, but habits march on without our help.

My OWN Gap Epiphany

I find it extremely difficult to do anything having to do with power tools unless I leave them out, like breadcrumbs.  That includes, by the way, “power tools” like vacuum cleaners and leaf blowers, hand mixers and hair dryers — and anything with a cord.

Unless getting-out-the-tools and using them are distinct tasks on my mental To-Do list, I can find myself ruminating in the gap for days, unable to accomplish much of anything at all.

  • After all, I “should” be putting up the shelves in my office, or blowing the autumn leaves off the porch, or vacuuming, or whipping up my offering for the upcoming potluck, or washing and drying my hair . . .  ad naseum.
  • I certainly can’t allow myself to start something totally unrelated or I’ll never get “it” done.

trifold screenThe Birth of the Breadcrumb

Everything came into focus for me when I wanted a tri-fold screen that wasn’t in my budget. To my creative ADD brain, it seemed likely that I could make one with three long, louvered window shutters and specialty hinges.


FIRST I had to locate affordable shutters, purchase them, and get them home. Then I needed to repeat the process for the hinges.

And screws — strong enough to keep the screen together through more than a couple of move-arounds, small enough to keep from splitting the wood or protruding into the louvers, with heads large enough to secure the hinges.

Not slot, phillips head screws. I have girl-hands.

  • I needed to use my cordless drill and a screwdriver bit to put it all together.
  • Oh yeah, I needed one of those bits that fit the heads of the screws I found.

And then, the snag

All that work and ALL that follow-through — potentially wasted, because I simply couldn’t seem to “find the time” for the part where I actually put it all together.

The project looked like it was about to be my undoing – so many tiers to the task, meaning so many transitions.

THAT’s when I had my aha!

AND THIS is how I taught myself to do it – in five easy steps

(because I really wanted to use that tri-fold screen —  and my partner at the time really wanted the shutters out of the hallway)

  1. I built in a stopping point in an earlier activity to get out the drill
  2. A subsequent stopping point was used to retrieve the screws from the silverware drawer I cleverly choose for their temporary home — handy, because I knew I’d want to run to the kitchen to’nuke a cup of coffee at some point, and figured I’d be in and out of that drawer many times every day, so I wouldn’t forget where I’d put them.
  3. I took the time to locate the hinges on my way back from the bathroom, still mid-task on something else.
  4. On my way back from my next potty-break I popped the battery for my drill into the charger to make sure it could make it through the entire process without dying on me.
  5. Popping the battery back on the drill was my “entry task” to get me across the gap the minute my last coaching client hung up the phone.

Once all the tools were assembled, I had no trouble at all “finding the 20 minutes” it took me to put the darned thing together all by myself — wedging the shutters between two chairs until I had them stabilized with top and bottom hinges.

There’s nothing like a bit of mental rehearsal
to make it easy to scatter the breadcrumbs!

Cooperation and SUPPORT

For some of you, getting those you live with to support you as you experiment will be the trickiest part.

If I happened to have been living with a “neat freak” who ranted and raved about my technique, making me wrong if I didn’t wait until I was actually going to use the tools to get them out, it probably wouldn’t have worked.  (Nor would it have worked if I had left my “tools” littering the landscape for days, by the way – respect goes both ways!)

Had I met with strong opposition to my one-day test, I probably wouldn’t have been convinced enough it would work to protect myself from doubts and second-guessing.

At the time, I doubt I could have set the “You must STOP insisting that I do things your way, then jumping down my throat when I can’t get things done” boundary around something I wasn’t 100% positive would be successful without further tweaking.

I probably would have abandoned my own self-interest under the pressure of his, and I never would have had the chance to enjoy that screen OR the early stages of my technique that works with gap transitions.

 Now I know better.

  • I wouldn’t make that mistake today, especially now that I know what I need to show up powerfully, and have proof that it works.
  • The person I have become wouldn’t put up with that controlling and complaining nonsense for a nano-second.
  • It’s mean-spirited as well as ineffective — and inexcusable behavior from anyone who claims to love me!

NEVER allow yourself to be bullied into attempting to squeeze
your own cognitive style into anyone else’s mold!


And you know what’s really sad?

If I had attempted tasks in a manner that unnecessarily amplified my cognitive challenges, the litter of unfinished projects might have made it seem to Beloved as if the source of my problem was chronic procrastination or passive aggression!

  • Before I figured out what was going on, it might have seemed that way to me too.
  • If I couldn’t understand why I was putting off something I really wanted to get done, like that tri-fold screen . . .
  • I might well have concluded that I was ambivalent about the screen itself.

NOT SO! I’m not ambivalent about any of my goals – all evidence to the contrary sometimes.

If I say I want to do something I’m not doing, I’m stuck on a stopper,
NOT “procrastinating”– and I’ll bet that’s true in YOUR life too.

Some Powerful Questions for you to consider

  • If you’re wondering if being stuck in the Gap could be the source of a few of your own struggles with follow-through, what would it take to get you to try something different?
  • How could you use the breadcrumb approach to, for example, make a list before you walk out the door to continue your “insanity?”
  • Who has to be okay with a sticky note on the door you plan to exit through on your way to the store?
  • When will you take the time to locate your keys and your wallet?
  • Where will you put them so that you don’t forget about the note in the scramble to locate them later?
  • Who has to know not to TOUCH your breadcrumbs?
  • How will you explain the importance of what you are trying to do so that they don’t?
  • How will you remember to put your list with your money BEFORE you walk out the door?

BREAD CRUMBS!!  And mental rehearsal.

Stay tuned.  In upcoming articles we’ll begin to work on the other two transitional modes.  Once you understand your transitional challenges, we’ll expand the concept to help you manage a whole lot more than your to-do list.

If you need some help dealing with stuff NOW, check out Domino Problems
(also linked below) for an explanation of “the terror of tiered tasks” and the basics
of ADD/EFD decision making.

Watch for a TTTT Announcement: Keep an eye out for news of an upcoming beta version of a TeleClass where we’ll work through troublesome transitions in a group format: The Transition Tamer TeleClass, Coaching Groups aren’t free, but they ARE a cost-effective way to get more coaching than you might be able to afford one-on-one – and the first time I offer a class is ALWAYS the best deal.

As always, if you want notification of new articles in the Transitions Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy

If you’d like some one-on-one (couples or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this article (either for your own life, that of a loved one, or as coaching skills development), scroll down to the Brain-based Coaching Link below, or click the E-me link <—here (or on the menubar at the top of every page).

Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

2 Responses to Transition Tamer: Beware the GAP!

  1. I found your explanation of the screen really clear; and your explanation of the breadcrumb approach put into words something I’ve done for years, but have never really realised – and didn’t do in a ‘deliberate’ way.

    For example, I am currently away at a two day meeting, which meant I had to pack…which I hate with a vengeance. So, four days ago I brought the case up from the garage. I then started to drop items into the case that I knew I would need, when I spotted them. Then, by the time it came to pack this morning, I just had to empty out the case, pull out the few remaining things I needed, pack everything in neatly, and ‘ta da!’ – job done that would otherwise have sent me into cartwheels of distress until a few minutes before I had to leave.

    The only downside is, sometimes I will turn around and there will be a scatter of part-finished tasks and a lot of mess! However, I always feel it’s easier to complete a partially completed task rather than kick off a brand new one. And now I am more aware of what and why I am doing things, I am fairly sure I can build in ‘check points’ to make sure I haven’t just kicked off the 10th task to be completed that day, and it’s already 10pm! ;-p

    Thanks, as always for helping to foreground the ‘what’, by explaining the ‘why’, and then providing a really clear ‘ why’ 🙂 xxx


    • be right back
      MOST of us figure out the breadcrumb approach accidentally, Hazel – but since it was “below the radar” cognitively, we never think to use it intentionally when we’re stuck (or at the first hint that we KNOW we are likely to be!)

      I don’t know you well enough to say, but I know that, for ME, *even* knowing, understanding & TEACHING this technique, I sometimes agonize over some dumb task or other because I don’t think to use it! 😦

      I’m with you on the packing, by the way. It seems almost BEYOND me – almost always. For me, it is the “deciding” part. The best I’ve come up with so far is packing early – so I do my up-all-night packing ritual BEFORE the night before I have to leave.

      Still, I usually end up taking more than two of me could wear, simply because I wear myself out trying on outfits – or finding parts of outfits – or some such nonsense – and I need to actually close the suitcase and GO!

      I really need to go to CafePress, design an “I HATE PACKING!” t-shirt, buy five of them, throw in some leggings and call it an outfit 😀 — which would be FINE for ADD conferences, but not so much for the “vanilla” ones.

      Poor souls, they really don’t GET how tough it can be in the trenches, and they seem to put w-a-y too much importance on “looking” professional vs. BEING professional, IMHO. Still, when packing for Rome, what’s a girl to do? “When in Rome, you gotta’ dress like the Romans.”

      I also share your “easier to complete a partially completed task” experience — AS LONG AS I keep the mess below my “level.” I have finally learned that, after a certain point, it ALL seems beyond me – so I have to make sure I stay BACK from that point whenever possible.

      Since I am SUCH a Christmas nut, putting it all away is usually my undoing. (I will admit that there is STILL – in JUNE! – one small tree and a stack of boxes that haven’t made it to the storage space yet.)

      My fantasy home has a corner deal that revolves (in every room!) – 2-sided, corner bookcase on one side, decorated Christmas tree in the space behind. Then all I have to do is turn the turntable and voila! Either way. ::sigh:: until then, I live with pieces of Christmas until summer (or longer, some years – I must admit).

      BUT, when it comes time for the rocking chair test, I’ll bet I won’t be saying, “DARN, I wish I’d spent more time putting away Christmas!”

      THANKS for ringing in – where did you pack to GO? Some place FUN, I hope.


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