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Are you late?

Are you late?
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Why are you late?

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Time management begins with one of the absolute basics – arrive on time. In his book Copy This!, the founder of Kinko’s (now FedEx Kinko’s) Paul Orfalea recounts that he would make hiring decisions based on key basic modes of operating. One of those is being punctual. I’m sure that Mr. Orfalea isn’t the only one making career decisions based on being on time and other fundamentals of operating in a business context.

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If you’re not the one, you undoubtedly know people who show up late. Sometime they cause a group of people to stop their momentum while the latecomer is brought up to speed. Those on time drum their fingers (figuratively if not actually), change their train of thought and engage in other time filling activities while the latecomer is briefed. I have heard those who were interrupted mumbling under their breath, rolling their eyes, and give other negative feedback – even if the latecomer can hear or see them.

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Here are the negative associated with people that arrive late:

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  • Latecomers are holding up others and hurting the productivity of everyone who has to wait
  • Latecomers are demoralizing those who do bother to show up on time. This sometime starts a chain reaction where everyone starts showing up 5 then 10 then 15 minutes late to the detriment of all.
  • Showing up late disrespects others’ time. It is interpreted as ‘The latecomer thinks he is more important or has better things to do than I do.’
  • Other people extend lateness to meeting to expect tardiness in other arenas such as project deadlines. Thus, managers label late comers as high maintenance and dependant on others since the manager infers latecomers will be unreliable to be self-regulating. The manager has additional work to check on the work of the late contributor.
  • Late people start a domino affect that can set entire groups, departments, and projects back. That hurts reputations as well as budgets and plans.
  • Latecomers can get a reputation as ‘in need of attention’, ‘show boater’, ‘egomaniac’, and more.

Some of the positives associated with people who are on time and early: These attributes may not be earned but they are applied as an extension of being on time.

  • They’re reliable and easy to count on.
  • They won’t let a person, manager, or department down.
  • They can be trusted with important (career building) activities and responsibilities.
  • They are predictable in a positive way.
  • They are proactive and contributors.
  • They are conscientious.

If being on time is an opportunity for development for you consider these steps down the path to being on time:

  • Mentally reprogram yourself to arrive 5 minutes early to every meeting. Put them on your calendar for 10 minutes before start time. For example, a 2:00pm meeting is put as 1:50pm on your calendar.
  • Practice exit strategies so you leave previous commitments with enough time to get to the next one.
  • Do not stop at your computer to check email just before a meeting.
  • Plan your usual departure to a meeting and leave 10 minutes “early.”
  • Call if it’s the rare occasion that you’re running late.
  • DO NOT set your watch or clocks 5 or 10 minutes ahead. The rest of the world runs on real time so you need to synchronize with actual time.
  • Set alarms in your computer calendar to remind you to wrap-up current work and get off to a meeting on time.
  • Visualize the possible surprise and recognition you’ll receive for leading by arriving early.

Susan Sabo is the creative mind at Productivity Cafe. She works with clients to help them get more done and to get home at a reasonable time. Susan learned punctuality from her Dad who is always 10 minutes early.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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