Don’t be a Mad Hatter – Fuel Your Business Performance

Posted on 06. Jul, 2011 by donal in New Ways to Work

If you’re feeling information overloaded, powerless and overwhelmed at work, there’s a number of practical steps you can take to get back in control.

Recently, I’ve reading a lot about the human effects of information overload. People start to to lose the ability to make decisions, process information and prioritize tasks. I find myself constantly reminded of the Mad Hatter’s tea party.

If you’ve read Lewis Carroll’s book, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” then you’ll recall that the tea party is a rather chaotic affair. The partygoers suddenly switch places at the table, ask unanswerable riddles, recite ridiculous poetry, pass personal remarks. Sensible girl that Alice is she doesn’t hang around for long. As she leaves, she sees the Mad Hatter and the March Hare stuffing the Dormouse into a teapot.

For me the tea party evokes feelings of being out of control.

Such feelings are a serious matter, both for businesses operating in the knowledge economy and individuals who work in them. If a person feels like they have control in their jobs, the quality of their work increases, they feel happier and the business performs better.

Mindset and your locus of control

Mindset is a key factor. Successful people have an “internal locus of control,” a core belief that their actions can have a positive effect on events around them. Conversely, people with an “external locus” feel they are not in control of their environment and can fall into the grip of “learned helplessness,” a psychological state in which people feel powerless to change themselves or life situations.

Some people are inherently prone to an external locus, however we can all fall into this mindset when feeling overwhelmed. In the book “The Happiness Advantage – The Seven Principles that Fuel Success and Performance at Work,” Shawn Achor offers help.

The Zorro Circle

In principle #5, The Zorro Circle, Shawn suggests that when overwhelmed, if “we first concentrate our efforts on small manageable goals, we regain the feelings of control so crucial to performance.”

Paying the interest on email debt

Shawn tells the story of a manager who allowed over 1400 emails build up in his inbox. Not only did the manager want to avoid dealing with the issue, he was so overwhelmed he didn’t feel like doing any work at all.

  1. First Achor got the manager to express his feelings in order to move the challenge from the emotional part of his brain to the problem-solving part. He used a journalling process to release stress.
  2. Next they worked on making the goal manageable. Achor advised the manager to forget the backlog in the short term and tackle only new emails. In a way, the manager started paying just enough to cover the interest on his email debt.
  3. After a few days, feeling more in command of the situation, the manager started work through the backlog, a little bit each day.
  4. Three weeks later his inbox was down to just five emails. Small manageable steps forward had lead to a major achievement.

Learn More

For more about Shawn Achor and how positive psychology can help people perform better in a world of increasing workloads you can visit his website.

In his new book “Anything You Want,” Derek Sivers used a journalling type technique to get perspective at crunch periods in his business.

Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer discuss how “Small Wins and Feeling Good,” can help people achieve “big, hairy, audacious goals”.

Try Goshido – our cloud-based platform that:

  • helps individuals achieve greater control over their workload
  • helps teams break large projects into small concrete achievable actions

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What really motivates knowledge workers? The surprising truth.

Posted on 15. Apr, 2011 by donal in New Ways to Work

Most managers don’t know what motivates the people they work with. Do you think you do? Here’s a little test.

Read the following list of work place factors and order them by importance.

  • Recognition
  • Incentives
  • Interpersonal support
  • Support for making progress
  • Clear goals

Keep your answers in mind and read on. You may well get a surprise.

Recently Linda Stone retweeted an interesting article about what really motivates knowledge workers. She also commented: “progress” is a primary motivator; “action steps” are more powerful than “tasks’.

Every year, the World Economic Forum & the Harvard Business Review publish a list of ten “breakthrough ideas” that can make the world a better place. One of the ideas on the list for 2010, is research by Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer, in which they argue that many managers are wrong about what motivates knowledge workers.

Over 600 managers were asked to rank a list of 5 workplace factors in terms of what they believed made knowledge workers enthusiastic about work (you guessed it, the five factors from earlier). The majority ranked “recognition for good work” #1. However, after analyzing 12,000 diary entries collected from workers over multiple years, Amabile and Kramer found that ‘making progress’ is actually the top motivator of performance. Interestingly, this was the factor ranked last by the managers surveyed.

How did you do?

The researchers state, “On days when workers have the sense they’re making headway in their jobs, or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles, their emotions are most positive and their drive to succeed is at its peak.”

Amabile and Kramer suggest that this is good news for managers. Managers can influence factors that help or hinder their team’s sense of making progress.

Goshido gives people that sense of making progress highlighted by Amabile and Kramer. In Goshido, you break goals and tasks into actions and put them into personal plans, depending on their importance and urgency. At the start of each day you can pick the actions you intend to complete during the day, and mark them off when done. At days-end you have a record of your progress.

Turns out us knowledge workers are human after all.

Learn more:

The Monk and the Knowledge Worker

Posted on 14. Mar, 2011 by donal in New Ways to Work

I heard a story recently that is anecdotal for how knowledge workers experience their work life.
A Buddhist monk was speaking about the early years of his training in Thailand. One day, an elderly Thai man came to his hut with word of a waiting visitor. The monk jumped out of meditation, quickly put on his outer robes and hurried off across the monastery compound. As he walked his head filled with thoughts. Who might it be? What might they want? Was there a problem? Why hadn’t he been given more notice?

Mid-way across the compound the old man caught up to him. “You don’t walk like your teacher”, he said. 

The monk stopped and asked, “How does my teacher walk”?

“One step at a time”, came the reply. 
Similarly, at work, our heads can be so full of things that we’re not able to give ourselves completely to the task at hand. There is so much to juggle, so much to keep track of, so much that’s unclear.  There are so many interruptions and distractions. Just like the monk, we could all do with someone or something to help us manage our attention better. Where our attention goes, ‘we’ go.  And all too often we’re not giving our best attention to the work that really matters.
It’s vital to have a tool that clearly shows the actions that need to happen for progress to be made in our work commitments – to be able to queue these actions is a systematic way – to have peace of mind knowing that what’s important won’t be forgotten – to feel reassured that information won’t ‘fall between the cracks’. 

We’ve built Goshido to be that tool – to help you and your teams succeed. Why not try it today at no cost? See for yourself how it benefits your experience of work.