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15 Apr

Don’t get a grip!


Datum: 2015-04-15 12:00

So what can we do to main­tain our good struc­ture?”, I asked the course par­tic­i­pants. To this ques­tion they respond­ed Dis­ci­pline. We sim­ply have to shape up and get a bet­ter grip” — a response they were fair­ly unan­i­mous in.

Sim­ply? For me it is quite dif­fi­cult to be dis­ci­plined just like that. Judg­ing by how
often I hear oth­ers tell them­selves to shape up, over and over again, it seems like I am in good company.

When I tell myself to shape up, I nev­er feel good about doing so. I give myself a harsh rep­ri­mand and do not become very moti­vat­ed to change because of it.

This is exact­ly why I do not believe in this method. The harsh rep­ri­mand is para­dox­i­cal­ly too vague and ambigu­ous; just as vague as telling your­self to be better!”.

Choose with­out hesitation
As I see it, being dis­ci­plined is about select­ing the pre­ferred option in a giv­en sit­u­a­tion of choice, above what we spon­ta­neous­ly would pre­fer and choose. The dis­ci­pline is put to the test when it is just as easy for us to choose either one of the two (or more) alter­na­tives. Isn’t it a cru­el sit­u­a­tion we put our­selves in? We pro­duce two alter­na­tives as equals and tell our­selves to shape up and choose the right one.

What if we instead would be nice to our­selves and make the right choice as easy as pos­si­ble to make?

To sim­pli­fy the selec­tion we can:

  • remove one option completely
  • make the pre­ferred option more acces­si­ble and the oth­er tempt­ing option more com­pli­cat­ed to choose
  • make the pre­ferred option more attrac­tive and the tempt­ing one less so
  • guide our­selves through the sit­u­a­tion and the selection-process

Try this
Allow me to illus­trate my point.

  • If you think that you need to become more dis­ci­plined in order to be able to say no to help­ing oth­ers more often for the ben­e­fit of your own tasks, then: Clar­i­fy what goals you have to achieve in your work and put them some­where where you can eas­i­ly see them when some­one asks you to help them with some­thing. It will then be eas­i­er deter­mine what tasks are impor­tant in terms of achiev­ing these goals (and there­fore have a high­er pri­or­i­ty) and which ones are not (those with low­er priority).

    You might even cre­ate a pri­or­i­ti­za­tion-guide where you list the typ­i­cal­ly impor­tant tasks you have and write them sep­a­rate­ly from all oth­er tasks you do occa­sion­al­ly. You then guide your­self towards mak­ing the cor­rect choice and prioritization.

    Find three ways to say no in when a col­league asks you for help and you would rather pri­or­i­tize com­plet­ing your own task first. Prac­tice say­ing what you feel works best until it feels nat­ur­al and you are com­fort­able with say­ing it. You there­by make the pre­ferred response more acces­si­ble and not so unpleas­ant (or unfamiliar).

  • If you think you need to shape up in terms of writ­ing your to-do-tasks in the one loca­tion you have cho­sen to keep them in: Make it dif­fi­cult to reach the places, tools, appli­ca­tions, and notes you have pre­vi­ous­ly writ­ten things on, and which you no longer want to use. Put the Pos­tIt-pad back where you keep your office-sup­plies, unin­stall the pro­gram, delete the short­cut, put the notepad in the book­shelf behind you instead of direct­ly in front of you.

    Keep the to-do-list-win­dow open on the com­put­er at all times, just a click away. If you tend to make a quick note in anoth­er appli­ca­tion (such as a text edi­tor) instead, close the pro­gram so that you will not be tempt­ed to use it instead. What­ev­er you no longer wish to choose will now be more dif­fi­cult to choose.

  • If you tell your­self in a harsh, force­ful man­ner to work in that new, struc­tured way which the struk­tör is pro­mot­ing: Con­cretize what it is you need to get bet­ter at.

    Decide exact­ly what the habit you want to estab­lish is: is it hav­ing one to-do list, con­scious­ly pri­or­i­tiz­ing by using a par­tic­u­lar method, get bet­ter at plan­ning non-urgent tasks in advance, or keep­ing a desired week­ly rhythm and pace. Only now is the choice you wish to apply greater dis­ci­pline to clear, and only now can you do some­thing about it.

    Lay out the mate­r­i­al need­ed for the task you have pre­vi­ous­ly post­poned but which you want to work on first thing in the morn­ing, so that you are not tempt­ed to start doing some­thing else. Crete a par­al­lel cal­en­dar that illus­trates your desired week­ly rhythm and always keep it open in your dig­i­tal cal­en­dar-tool. Change the font and col­ors of the to-do list so that it appeals to you more. Or, do some­thing else that makes mak­ing the right choice easier.

Choos­ing in advance makes it eas­i­er to choose in the moment
If we make a tan­gi­ble, phys­i­cal change when it comes to the tools we use instead of telling our­selves off, we need not be so strict. We make the choic­es we will lat­er want to have cho­sen more auto­mat­ic. We will need less dis­ci­pline and there will be a greater degree of relax­ation in our every­day life. We man­age to keep the new habits we want to embrace for longer peri­ods of time.

How are you mak­ing it eas­i­er to make the right choices?
How do you alter your ways and habits with­out hav­ing to become more dis­ci­plined? Write a com­ment and share your thoughts. 

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