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Last Updated on January 30, 2018

Are You Making The Rules Or Playing By The Rules?

Are You Making The Rules Or Playing By The Rules?

Do you thrive in the face of competition or try to stay under the radar? Does competition motivate you to stand out from the crowd, or does it frighten and intimidate you?

Competition has never been more intense than ever for this fast-paced generation. People are getting smarter and finding ways to work more efficiently. You have to stand out to be successful, and that requires a consistent drive for improvement. Stagnation gets you nowhere, and if you remain passive and submissive, opportunity will pass you by.

Whether or not you like it, competition isn’t going anywhere. With the state of the workplace today, is it time for all of us to suck it up and embrace our competitive side? If so, just how competitive do you have to be to get ahead?

The battle between the hawk and the diplomat

Leadership philosophies vary. Some people feel that it is better to be diplomatic at work. Others find that you have to be aggressive to get ahead.

We’ve all had that colleague who seems to enjoy going with the flow. The person had stable employment, but they never advanced. They seem satisfied with their work even though they aren’t climbing the ladder to leadership. These are the employees that you see happily working at the same company, in the same role for 20 years.

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On the other hand, there are the fiercely driven individuals who are willing to take on challenges to be successful. They are the people trying to prove themselves so that they can advance their rank and max out their salary over the course of their career.

The difference between these two types of people is their competitive spirit

Whether a person is passive or outspoken, they make a conscious choice to be one or the other. Many factors, such as personality type and upbringing, play a role in how they see the world. Type A personalities make waves, while Type B personalities are more likely to go with the flow.[1]

Some of us are naturally soft spoken and gentle. People with this personality tend to be peace makers. They avoid conflict, and they avoid drawing attention to themselves. Others among us are extroverts who feel energised in social settings. They like to stand out from the crowd, and they’re highly competitive.

Family upbringing plays a role in how you perceive competition as well. Some parents push their children to achieve at a young age. They teach kids that to get ahead, you have to take risks, be competitive, dream big, and be the best at what you do.

Other families don’t stress competition. They teach children to play it safe. People with this ‘timid’ personality avoid risk taking. They don’t feel the urge to achieve recognition or get the promotion. As long as there’s food on the table and a roof over their heads, they’re happy.

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It’s possible to be too passive or too competitive

Being Mr. Nice Guy isn’t always good for you

If you’re too passive, you’re going to get steamrolled by someone with a higher competitive drive. Others may mistake your kindness for weakness, and they may not show you the respect you deserve.

The meek among us have to worry about the constant threat of others’ perceptions. People may mistake your willingness to go with the flow as proof of spinelessness. Even family members and friends may see your peace-making ways as evidence of lack of a backbone.

Of course you can still get by, but it’ll be hard to get far and feel fulfilled. When you bend to the will of others, you won’t reach your full potential. You’ll be too busy trying to please others. The bottom line is that you’ll miss out on big opportunities while you’re living in someone else’s shadow.

Fierce competitors beware

Being competitive has its own set of challenges. You can seem ruthless at times, and you may unintentionally harm the people you love. You may resort to unethical practices so that you can get what you want, regardless of what everyone else wants or needs.

Competitive types tend to be workaholics. They place a lot of stress on themselves, which can damage their health, family, and social life. If you’re too driven, you run the risk of becoming so focused on tasks that you forget the big picture. You can seem aggressive, pushy, and cruel to others.

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Finding a happy medium

Somewhere between being too passive and too competitive, is a healthy balance. You might expect us to tell you that the balance is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, but we’re actually recommending that you aim to have more competitiveness than passivity.

It’s impossible to completely avoid having competitive feelings, so you may as well learn to turn them into a healthy competitive spirit.[2] When you pick a challenge you’d like to overcome or choose a person that you’d like to beat in a competition, it gives you direction and motivation. This drive will push you outside of your comfort zone and give you incentive to improve yourself.

Competitive people constantly have to read, research, and forge meaningful connections with people in order to gain new insights on work. As a person with a healthy competitive drive, you’ll always try to expand your knowledge and improve.

Nobody makes memories by avoiding new situations. Being competitive means that you’ll get the chance to grab life by the horns. You’ll self-reflect on what you’d like to accomplish, and later in your life, you’ll have great stories to share.

Being competitive is great for your team too

As long as you have a healthy amount of competition in the workplace, you and your colleagues will be able to push one another to be better. If you compete with the intention of helping one another rise, you’ll all win.

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Being competitive as an organization also builds trust. Think about the way that sports teams practice. They compete against one another to improve their skills. The cohesiveness that they develop enables them to face opposing teams successfully. A team won’t flourish if they’re too cautious and guarded to engage in healthy competition.

When opportunity knocks, answer the door

Going with the flow can help you navigate tough situations, but if you’re too passive, you’ll miss out on opportunities to shine. Having a competitive mindset isn’t about picking a fight with everybody. It’s about figuring out how and when you should fight.

Being a peacemaker doesn’t always make you a good person. Sometimes, not speaking up is the worst thing you can do. There’s nothing to gain by hiding your light under a bushel.

We humans are meant to be competitive. We have a survival instinct that drives us to seek the best means for carrying out our basic needs. It’s natural for us to fight–we just engage differently these days.

How you can spur healthy competition

  • Keep it fun. Sometimes a little light-hearted competition helps people stay motivated. Incorporate games or other fun activities into your workplace when possible.
  • Teach people how to compete in a healthy way. Learning to respectfully disagree, push back, and give constructive criticism are valuable skills for anyone who works on a team.[3] If you want someone to know how to compete, you may have to show them how to do it first.
  • Let people take responsibility for their work. A worker who isn’t invested in their projects won’t perform well. You and your team need to take ownership for your work and have a stake in the company. Give employees a voice, and they’ll be more motivated.[4]
  • Encourage a feedback loop. If the culture in your workplace is geared around constant improvement, then people will be more willing to take risks and innovate. If it’s normal for everyone to give and receive constructive feedback, you can create a productive work environment.[5]

Set out to find your personal best

A healthy amount of competition motivates you to achieve new heights. When you engage in competition often, you learn that winning and losing don’t have to be high-stakes activities. You understand that sometimes you’ll be better than others, and sometimes people will be better than you.

Ultimately, as you continue to compete, solicit feedback, and improve, you’ll stop looking for external motivation and focus inward. You’ll realize that you’re competing with yourself first and foremost.[6]

Give yourself permission to make the rules instead of just follow them. Engage in a little bit of friendly competition, and never stop working to improve yourself.

Reference

More by this author

Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 17, 2018

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

How bad really is multitasking?

It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

So what to do about it?

Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

Now, forget about how to multitask!

Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

1. Get enough rest

When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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2. Plan your day

When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

4. When at your desk, do work

We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

5. Learn to say no

Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

6. Turn off notifications on your computer

For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

The bottom line

Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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