We’ve all been there. Mile-high stacks of inbox emails, pending projects, and the like. And what we really want to do is check our Facebook or catch up with a coworker in the break room. Turns out, there is a biological reason for this behavior. According to Tony Schwartz in his recent Harvard Business Review article, the human brain is wired to avoid pain and seek pleasure.
In order to boost our personal effectiveness, Schwartz explains, “Unfortunately, neither of these instincts prompt us to delay gratification in the service of longer-term gain. For that, we need to enlist the more advanced, reflective part of our brain — the prefrontal cortex — to consciously resist the primitive cravings that originate in the lower part of our brain.” Basically, we need to exercise our mental fitness in order to overcome our genetic instincts.
But why would we wish to overcome the instincts that have helped humans to survive and thrive for centuries? “The unavoidable truth is that the willingness to endure discomfort and sacrifice instant gratification is the only way to get better at anything, and to achieve true excellence,” Schwartz details. Basically, personal effectiveness in the workplace is not something that just comes naturally to the human brain.
Performance Management Tips
1. Reduce Temptations
If you want to improve your personal effectiveness at work, then you may need to manage your workspace more effectively. If you are prone to distraction by email, then sign out of your email program while you fully focus on the task at hand. Choose to get control over the impulse to indulge in your favorite distractions.
2. Practice Interval Training
Research shows that one of the most effective physical fitness tools is interval training. Apply the same principle to your performance management at work. Rather than trying to operate at 100 mph for the entire workday, practice shorter, intense bursts of productivity interspersed with breaks and lower-intensity tasks.
3. Schedule Wisely
Create a schedule for your workday that maximizes your effectiveness. It may be tempting to ease into the day, but for many people, the most promising schedule involves tackling your most difficult challenge first while your mind is still fresh.