Join Gretchen Rubin for an in-depth discussion in this video Recognize and remove barriers, part of Gretchen Rubin on Creating Great Workplace Habits.
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- One of the challenges when we're trying to change our habits in the workplace is that there are certain things that stand in our way. So, how do we overcome the obstacles that might make it hard for us to master our habits? One of the most important strategies is the strategy of abstaining. Now be careful because this is the strategy that works very well for some people but not for others. So you've got to figure out is abstaining the way for you to go. So, abstainers are people who who are kind of all or nothing people when it comes to facing a strong temptation.
They find it pretty easy not to stop but once they start they're going to go all the way. And that's me. I'm an abstainer. So, for instance I can eat no cookies or I can eat five cookies but I can't have one cookie. I've never had half a dish of ice cream in my life. Now, that's abstainer. Moderators by contrast are people who do better when they have something a little bit or they have it sometimes. These are the people who keep the bar of fine chocolate squirreled away in their desk drawer and everyday they have one square of fine chocolate and that's all they wanted.
Well if that were me, that bar of chocolate would be weighing on my mind all day long. Now, later, two, three... I deserve it. It's my birthday. I would be just completely preoccupied with that bar of fine chocolate. So, it's very important to know if you're an abstainer or moderator because if you're an abstainer it's easier to have none. We find it very easy to give something up all together but for moderators they're going to get panicky and rebellious if they're told they can never have it. So you have to pick which thing works for you. This doesn't just apply to food.
It also applies to something like technology. So somebody said to me, " I think it took me an extra year to write my PHD thesis because I was playing video games all the time. " Or maybe you can't go onto a sport website because the minute you start reading about sports you're going to be on there for two hours. You have to say, "I'm not going to have any." I know a guy who at home, he has a work computer and a leisure computer. He can't switch from one to the other because he realized once he switched away from work it took him forever to get back.
The fact that he has to get up out of his chair and switch to a different computer helps him to abstain from taking those little breaks that would turn into hour long breaks. Now you can see how this can become a big source of conflict in the workplace. One person walks into the break room with a giant box of peanut brittle and the other person said, "Why did you bring that in? You know I'm going to eat the whole thing in one day." And the other person says, "Well you just have to learn manage yourself better." And hijinx ensue. It's not a question on who's right and wrong.
It's just a question of how different people thrive and how people manage themselves best. So figure out if you're an abstainer or moderator and how, if you're in a mixed team, you're going to step things up so everybody can do their best habits. So, that's the strategy of abstaining. Another strategy that can be very helpful is the strategy of convenience. For all of us, we are to a crazy extent more likely to keep a habit if it's convenient to do that habit. And conversely if it's inconvenient we're much less likely to do it.
We can really harness this to our benefit. So if there's something you want to encourage yourself to do, you want to make it as easy as possible. If there's an unpleasant task that you want to do at work, that takes a lot of assembling and pulling pieces together, you want to get everything set up. So the minute that you're ready to start work, you can just slide right into it. You want to get all the tools you need. You want to get all the resources gathered together to make it as convenient as possible. If you're managing a team and for some reason they keep not doing something they're supposed to do; filling out a form or following through on something.
Really look at the processes involved. If you could make it more convenient. You're going to make it much more likely that those team members are going to become in the habit of doing it. If it's too inconvenient, they're going to come up with excuses. They're not going to do it. So, making things as convenient as possible and also if you're managing yourself... If you're thinking, "Well should I join the gym that's across the street from my office or should I save a few bucks and go to the one that's five blocks away?" If you can afford it, you want to go to the one that's right across the street. Any little benefit of convenience is going to pay off.
They've done studies showing that at if at a salad bar if people are using tongs instead of spoons to take food they take less with tongs because tongs are just that much more work. That's how sensitive we are to convenience. So you want to harness that to your benefit. And then finally safeguards. So the strategy of safeguards means that we should really try to anticipate failure. It can seem fatalistic to think about all the ways that you're going to mess up but it's very helpful. You want to think in advance about all the possibilities of how you might find something challenging, or how something might be an obstacle to you keeping your good habit.
Really make a plan for it. You want to plan to fail. Plan for failure. Let's say you get a bit report coming up at the end of the year. You say to yourself, "Well you know I been working pretty well. I've been having some really good work habits. I've made very good progress but now the holiday season's coming up. I'm going to be doing some traveling. There's going to be some changes in our office schedule. How's that going to play out How am I going to keep my habit going even in the face of the holiday season?" Or you break your leg. "Well, okay I've had this thing happen.
I have to go to the doctor. I'm an inconvenience. I can't do things the way that I usually do. How am I going to make sure that I get my work completed anyway? I need to think it through because my usual habits have been disrupted." "I'm traveling." This is a huge problem for a lot of people at work because you're like, "I'm fine with my eating, with my productivity, with my sleeping, with a lot of different kind of habits, but then I travel and then everything goes just to pot." So you got to think, "Okay, how am I going to handle this when I'm traveling?" Most people they know pretty well what that travel schedule's going to look like.
"So how am I going to adapt?" It might not be the same habits maybe you need to adapt those habits for when you're traveling but think think it through so you can really build in the habits that you want. The fact is it can be challenging to stick to good habits and we need to think about all the things that we can do. All the resources that we can bring to bare to make it as easy to follow those habits, as possible.