Investment and prevention in place of reaction and damage control
Today’s post is from our SafeSourcing Archives
Nobody hates workplace discipline more than those that are forced into having to dole it out. For management, performing disciplinary tasks are time consuming, awkward, personally taxing, and carry a huge opportunity cost. However, the need for disciplinary action can be reduced by getting ahead of the problem through investment as a preventative measure, and with exponentially better return compared to the alternative.
Most infractions can be reduced to shortcomings in SELF-discipline: Wasting company time, miss-management of schedule, not learning best practices, tardiness, lack of effort, lack of respect, etc. In these common examples, improving self-discipline proactively, prevents the need for discipline reactively. Self-discipline is not just a character trait to be valued in our personal lives; it’s a worthwhile investment for any company to make in its workforce. Although there are many different approaches to improving self-discipline, my research has found several recommended practices common to most approaches, shared below:
- Do an assessment of your self-control: How “in control” of your life do you feel? When you have a goal, do you always accomplish it? Or do you feel rolled around by whatever random thought, unhealthy food, uncontrollable desire, distraction or consequence of poor planning might get in your way? Are your circumstances in control of you? If the answer is yes, you’ve found the reason to look seriously at the rest of the steps below, and identified their targets.
- Increase delayed/deferred gratification: Avoid activities of instant gratification for a while, with one target at a time. Rather than going out to eat: Cook a meal. Instead of buy: Build. Instead of streaming the movie: Read the book. Go throughout the day looking for opportunities to practice delayed gratification, find things you have to “earn” before you get the reward. Start with small things. The point here is to improve your ability to wait for the payoff. Once you can apply that to small goals with short waiting periods, you’ll can keep building up until you are able to accomplish anything no matter how long the investment period, or how hard the work..
- Increase “grit”: Angela Duckworth defines grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals”. This trait is not the same as delayed gratification, but the two do depend on each other. Grit is a little bit darker, in that it deals with maintaining the belief in our abilities and a positive outcome, in the face of failure or hardship. How do we increase grit if our “grit score” is low (you can take a survey that will score you here https://sasupenn.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_06f6QSOS2pZW9qR)? Small wins are your key to success. Don’t give in to the temptation (or bad advice) to accomplish overwhelmingly large goals before you’re ready. Start small, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, and get some small wins under your belt before graduating to larger ones.
- Find alternatives for accountability: Accountability can be summed up as ‘find something you value, and put it at risk as a consequence of failure’. Although it should be used carefully so as not to lead to discouragement or take unwise risks, many people have found this useful in keeping their feet to the fire when they would otherwise slack off. Online programs like www.stickk.com allow you to put money or other objects on the line, and partner with coaches to hold you accountable.
- Positive self-talk: Have you ever had someone give you encouragement that made you feel what they were saying, even if you didn’t believe it? That’s because the brain’s mirror neurons reflect what we hear emotionally, even if our cognitive functions believe something differently, and hearing ourselves works the same way. Try a quick experiment if you don’t believe it: The next time you find yourself assigned something you don’t want to do, keep telling yourself how tired you are/how difficult it is/how pointless it is. Then the next day compare the difference in how you feel to telling yourself that it’s NOT that difficult/you’re NOT that tired/this IS very important, etc. Using self-talk to get through a task or challenge you find particularly difficult can give you the small edge you need to get over the finish line.
- Mindfulness Meditation: I love learning. A lot. Sometimes so much so that I lose track of really important things, because I have so many thoughts running at one time that I’m not able to choose and prioritize. Mindfulness meditation involves concentrating on your breathing, then your pulse, then your muscle movements, and so on, until you are keenly aware of the here and now. If you find yourself distracted by your own thoughts, mindfulness meditation can help to pull your head out of the theoretical things you’re learning about, and into the present moment, where you can prioritize and accomplish the tasks in front of you. There are many places online where you can find more detailed instructions.
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