…because some thoughts are worth remembering
Charles Duhigg describes a concept called keystone habits in his book, The Power of Habit. The idea is that some habits “spill over” to other habits. For example, adopting a regular exercise routine also changes your eating habits. Some of the identified keystone habits are correlated with activities that don’t seem related, such as bed making being correlated with productivity (perhaps it has something to do with taking the time to clean up your environment and prepare for the day?) and sticking to a budget.
I don’t have any quantitative data, but several keystone habits come to mind that increases productivity and effectiveness in the workplace. One habit I recommend especially to people who feel stressed out is to write down 3 things that they are going to complete the next day, BEFORE leaving their work place, on a small card (e.g., back of an outdated business card) and set it on the keyboard or wherever that’s “in your face” when you come into the office the next day, with the understanding that you don’t get to leave the office the next day until you complete these 3 things. The “3 things list” helps with time management, clearly, but I’ve also noticed an increase in their confidence level. Surely it feels good to check things off the list, and to complete 100% of something you committed to. People who adopt this habit tend to procrastinate less, be more responsive on email, and are more engaged with other staff.
Related keystone habit is in conversation. Based on my experience, people who learn to “under-promise, over- deliver” tend to meet deadlines on a regular basis. It’s easy for anyone to agree to something your colleague, boss, or your client asked you to do, even if you aren’t sure if it can be done. When people take the time to only commit to something they can be sure of, or to under-promise, they tend to over-deliver, which, of course, means a collection of new positive habits must have been engaged to make it happen.
I insisted that staff become aware of the price tag associated with our operations and for goods we consumed, especially things/services they used themselves, e.g., cost of photocopying in color vs. black and white. A board member thought it best we focused on larger price tag waste and not sweat the small stuff, but somehow, being more aware of these smaller purchases and cost associated with their operations make the financial situation real to them, and they became more thoughtful about how they approached projects with larger budgets. This example isn’t exactly about keystone habits, but I find myself thinking about how we dismiss the value of thinking small, and adopting small actions that can lead to other results of a whole different level.
Photo: one of the most well-preserved Roman city outside of Pompeii, in Ostia Antica near Rome, Italy