Tag Archives: Efficiency

Complaining is Not Catharsis: Choose Sportsmanship Over Purposeless Venting

Few things bother me more than complaining. I’m not referring to actual complaints, the kind where the individual has a legitimate gripe and would like help finding a solution. No, I’m talking about the pointless complaints where the only intent is to voice discontent. If you are watching Feud: Bette and Joan then you know what I mean.

The mini-series Feud: Bette and Joan follows the real-life story of two legendary actresses, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, and their legendary quarreling. They constantly complain about each other to studio heads, the director, tabloid columnists, and to their children. While many of their complaints are not without merit, how much did Davis and Crawford accomplish with their relentless critiques? A new study found that complaining may actually make the situation worse.

According to research published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, Demeroutia and Cropanzano found that complaining about negative events cements their impact. It seems that discussing these events immediately during or after they occur forces the brain to re-live the negative emotional response. This reinforces the association between the event and the negative emotions, “turning a bad experience into That Bad Experience.” The incident then becomes more memorable and has a more damaging influence on emotional well-being.

When complaining, Demeroutia and Cropanzano concluded that what may have been intended as a short outburst persists until at least the afternoon of the following day. That is over 24 hours of significantly diminished momentary mood, less satisfaction with work, and lower pride in accomplishments.

It is easy to say that the lesson is to ask people to refrain from talking about bad things, however that is not at all the point. When a problem arises we must work towards resolution, and that begins with verbalizing it. But purposeless complaining is not the solution—a more constructive method is to harness your sportsmanship.

Sportsmanship, otherwise known as organizational citizenship behavior, involves a willingness to tolerate workplace inconveniences, annoyances, and discomforts without complaining. A “good sport” can buffer themself from the harmful effects of daily negative work experiences, thereby blocking the formation of salient negative memories.

Demeroutia and Cropanzano determined that individuals with higher levels of sportsmanship processed negative events with the intent of achieving positive outcomes, not complaining for the sake of complaining. As a result, they recovered faster from setbacks. Being free from harmful distractions, they were then able to experience enhanced productivity, display a greater willingness to help co-workers, improve their efficiency, and generate social capital with stronger networks of peers.

Don’t let pettiness get the best of you or allow it to overrun your culture. We are not victims of our circumstances; we have the latitude to evaluate and process the meaning of events and how we choose to react. You can spend your whole career like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, but you’ll end up with a bruised ego, few real friends, and a wake of wasted opportunities. They each achieved great things, but a trace of sportsmanship may have resulted in so much more. Learn from them. Make the choice to be a good sport.

Why I Won’t Play Pokémon Go: My Guide to Limiting Workplace Distractions

pokemonUnlike most smartphone owners, I have not downloaded the app sensation, Pokémon Go. While I am typically first in line to consume pop culture, I’m familiar enough with my bad habits to know that the minute this game is uploaded to my phone, I would become obsessed to the point of atrophy. Case in point, I am still haunted by the wasteful Candy Crush summer of 2012.

My refusal to play Pokémon Go certainly puts me in the minority. A recent study found that a third of U.S. Android smartphone users have downloaded this game, surpassing Twitter as the most popular current mobile app. For those of you who are not familiar, Pokémon Go is a virtual scavenger hunt. Players explore the real world with their smartphones, hunting for 151 different cartoon characters at grocery stores, parks, and coffees shops. Did I mention that they are also playing Pokémon Go at work, as if our team needs another distraction.

Office workers are interrupted approximately every eleven minutes, academic studies have found. Once distracted, it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task, says Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at the University of California.

Another study measured the amount of brainpower lost when someone is interrupted. Two subject groups were tasked with reading a passage and completing a test—one merely did the assignment, while the other was told they “might be contacted for further instructions” at any moment via instant message. When the second group thought they were going to be interrupted but weren’t, they were 14% less likely to answer correctly. When they were interrupted, their scores dropped another 6%.

Distractions steal our time, hurt our productivity, impede our creativity, and damage our efficiency. Even worse, many of our distractions are our own fault, making them wholly avoidable. Larry Rosen, author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us, states that these self-induced distractions are becoming more prevalent and difficult to manage. There is a compulsion to check email, text, social media, and games like Pokémon Go. “We might be in the middle of a meeting but if we don’t check in we start feeling anxious,” Rosen says.

To effectively manage self-inflicted interruptions, we must build our ability to concentrate and minimize distractions. Here are a few tricks that (along with discipline) may work:

  • Take tech breaks. Give yourself a pre-determined amount of time to read through social media or hunt down a Pikachu. Then, silence devices and set the timer. Until the buzzer sounds, you work on that one assignment. No flipping through emails, responding to tweets, or switching screens.
  • Be less accessible. Close your door and tape a sign saying “Do Not Disturb. Genus at Work.” Do this at a set time throughout the week to ensure that you are allowing yourself time to work undisturbed.
  • Hide. If your workspace is too distracting, find somewhere else to work. Leave your phone in your desk and retreat to a less visible area.
  • Stop pop ups. On your smartphone, tablet, and laptop turn off the notifications that interrupt you throughout the day. This includes banners, sounds, vibrations, and badges.
  • Get help. If motivation is the issue, download apps like Freedom and Zero Willpower that will block alerts and social media access at the times of your choosing.

Don’t fall victim to the Pokémons lurking around each corner. They want to break your concentration and take you off task. If you can control the urge, you remain the hunter; however, if you succumb to their temptation, they are now hunting you. You and your team do not have to become prey to a bunch of pocket monsters. Fight the distractions so you can spend time on things that really matter… like Tetris.

Adam Carolla on Blocking Out Distractions

adam carollaI recently finished a project that was a complete waste of time. Most frustrating, I knew it was a complete waste of time. I could have stopped at many points along the way, but I allowed it to happen. It’s hard to say why. Maybe it was easy. Maybe I knew it was going to feel good to actually finish something. Or maybe I was unable to break out of the groove. Either way, those two misused hours will bite me in the near future.

In a recent interview with Men’s Health magazine, podcast superstar Adam Carolla relayed a story about his kids that sums up how I feel and inspires me to be more diligent.

A few weeks ago, it was weird hair day at school, which as we all know is a kid’s ticket to Harvard… So my daughter has her hair looking like one of the chicks in the B-52s. And I’m looking at my son, and he hasn’t touched his hair. So I say to him, ‘Isn’t it weird hair day? Why aren’t you doing anything to your hair?’ And he just looked at me and said, ‘Doesn’t move the needle.’… I was so in love with him.

How much of our day is spent on things that don’t move the needle? These distractions drain our energy, take up our time, and divert our focus. Some are habits, many seem important at the time, but all are within our control. Here are three things we can do to be better stewards of our time.

Prioritize wisely. When you don’t realize that you’ve wasted time until that time has been wasted, you’ve had a temporary lapse in prioritization. Get it together. You knew sorting that spreadsheet wasn’t your best use of time. Did it feel good? Sure, but that was a needless detail in your ever growing to-do list.

Keep perspective. I won’t repeat the overused idiom about losing the forest for the trees. The point is that it’s easy to get distracted by the minutiae. Make time every day to re-evaluate and re-align your daily tasks with the strategies of the organization and industry.

Ruthlessly block out distractions. This means taking the time to unplug from the Internet, email, and social media. If this seems easier said than done, consider utilizing these computer programs

  • Rescue Time– runs in the background of your computer to measure how you spend your time
  • Get Concentratingand Anti-Social – help you focus on important tasks by temporarily blocking social media sites
  • Freedom – a self-induced way to bar you from surfing the net for up to eight hours at a time

No one can control your time but you. So start spending your energy in ways that will move the needle in your life. Shun the smaller diversions that quickly mount and run from the larger ones that are a disaster waiting to happen. If it’s not progressing you, it’s getting you farther behind.