Today in the third and final section of the Business Talk miniseries on task effort and feedback loops, we build upon how working professionals often view duties and obligations as necessary but monotonous, dull, and boring actions compulsory and obligatory to secure brighter medium and long-term rewards.
But rather, workers should optimally think of putting in work effort as enjoyment even in the here and now and as a regular way of life to feel better even in the short-term. Let us investigate how individuals can create a psychological balance that finds pleasure in putting in effort to achieve work tasks.
Finding happiness and enjoyment in putting forth task effort requires a mental shift. Researcher Fabrice Cavarretta developed six different steps that an individual can take to intentionally incorporate performance-effort loops into their conscious.
Incorporating the below mental shift is not a superficial easy thing to achieve. It takes proper intentional planning. But the job and life satisfaction increases prove well worth the change effort.
The first encompasses the most difficult one for professionals to get their minds around: avoid forced effort. Often times in our workplaces, we sit down and mentally force ourselves to work on tiresome tasks.
But the whole mental image of forcing oneself creates negative connotations in the brain and results in more and more resistance and procrastination pertaining to actually progressing on the task.
Instead, incorporate action steps two through six as follows.
Understand how the human brain works. The brain functions largely off of habit.
If someone can incorporate work task effort into the habits of one’s daily routines, then the brain is more likely to subconsciously understand that such tasks are coming up regularly instead of arbitrarily and is, therefore, less likely to pile on negative emotions to derail them surrounding those tasks as they sit down to try to tackle them.
Approach tasks with a sense of playfulness. The constructs of play and pleasure are intertwined. If one can frame a task or series of tasks as a game or a race, then progressing on those tasks becomes more engaging and immediately psychologically rewarding rather than draining and exhausting.
Fabrice Cavarretta recommends approaching tasks ‘like brain teasers’ such that structuring tasks in challenging ways with clear but not obsessive metrics of success.
Create, foster, and grow an identity in how someone views themselves. If one sees and proclaims themselves to be quick problem-solvers and fast workers, then one starts to feel joy in meeting those expectations.
Long projects and assignments can prove overwhelming to our brains. Therefore, break up lengthy obligations into more bitesize pieces with clear start and finish goal posts with success metrics for the subcomponents. Then one gains psychological rewards for ticking off tasks and progressing forward.
Finally, do not underestimate the power of giving oneself rewards or incorporating punishments. Our human brains work really well at basic levels of trying to achieve immediate rewards or avoiding quick punishments.
Medium or long-term punishments and rewards do not work as effectively. Maybe someone only rewards themselves with ice cream after successful completion of certain types of varied tasks or specific lengths of time worked on tasks in a row.
Then punishments might include no Netflix or social media access in a particular day or week, as examples. The difficulty in incorporating rewards and punishments is sticking to the programme and being consistent.
But ironically, rewards and punishments only work well when used for a variety of tasks, not similar repetitive tasks because the brain would then see the repetitive task as so terrible that rewards are necessary.
Dr Scott may be reached on [email protected] or on Twitter: @ScottProfessor