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5 Productivity Lessons From the Millennial Work Style

5 Productivity Lessons From the Millennial Work Style

Gen Y workers are often maligned in the business world for their entitlement or self-interest, but there are several productivity lessons to be learned from the millennial work style. Companies like General Electric, Cisco Systems and Ogilvy & Mather have already leveraged younger workers’ knowledge through reverse mentoring sessions, in which junior employees teach upper managers and executives about social media, the Internet, workplace culture and even management practices.

Read on for a handful of productivity-centric lessons inspired by the unconventional work style my millennial peers and I have adopted.

1. Embrace experimentation

Millennials are notorious early adopters, eager to explore new tools or experiment with different ways of performing standard tasks. Many of us spent our grade-school years blogging, instant messaging, texting and playing video games to express ourselves and blow off steam; as young adults, we proactively seek out software, apps and daily practices that facilitate our “work hard, play harder” mentality.

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To leverage this entrepreneurial attitude, try out different work “shifts,” research and begin using a new productivity tool, or pick the brain of a colleague you admire. Strive to innovate and hone your existing workflows with the goal of creating new, more effective routines.

2. Be self-centered, in a good way

A common criticism of Gen-Y workers is that they’re self-centered, but this isn’t necessarily a negative trait when it comes to productivity. Millennials focus on their specific roles and responsibilities, execute them, and move on to the next task. Completing to-dos and getting work done is more important to them than being recognized in the office as the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. Whereas their coworkers might aspire to be the “go-to” person in the office ready to dispense advice and next steps, many millennials prefer to be recognized as the top performer.

Channel this focus on self over others when managing your priorities and workload. Evaluate how taking on additional projects or delegating tasks would influence your happiness and career advancement, and do your best to avoid sacrificing the former in pursuit of the latter.

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3. Learn from failure

Video games teach children that failure presents an opportunity to learn and try new techniques; combine that habit with the fearlessness of youth, and it’s no surprise that millennials aren’t as apprehensive of failure as their older coworkers might be. We learn by doing, and are okay with sacrificing efficiency in the name of learning a new skill.

While you may never shake your fear of failure, learn to recognize it as a chance to improve, learn and ultimately succeed in your future ventures.

4. Capitalize on instability

Considering the dismal economy, skyrocketing divorce rates, real estate crisis and credit crunch, millennials haven’t had much occasion to embrace stability in adulthood. We’ve had to hustle and become proficient at a variety of skills to compete in a rapidly changing job market.

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In a piece called “Generation Flux” for Fast Company, 26-year-old Pete Cashmore, the CEO of Mashable, touched on the need to embrace change and capitalize on instability. “I don’t have any personal challenges about throwing away the past,” he said. “If you’re not changing, you’re giving others a chance to catch up. Even if you know everything about a certain market now, in a few years you’re going to have to start from scratch like everyone else.”

Recognize that today’s innovation-driven business environment offers opportunities to revolutionize your work habits, proficiencies and attitudes toward work. Think of this change positively. “The typical mindset understates the risk of not changing and overstates the risk of change,” added Cashmore.

5. Motivation matters

Gen Y workers thrive on continuous feedback and mentorship. It’s easy to dismiss this behavior as needy or lazy, but positive mentors and team-oriented leaders give younger workers three essential things they need to stay engaged at the workplace: context, collaboration and communicated expectations.

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Molly Graham, a 27-year-old human resources professional at Facebook, spoke last fall at the HR Technology conference about the positive side of millennials’ entitlement complex:

Entitlement means someone who thinks they have a right to something, a right to know, a right to be part of a process, part of decision making. We have a different word for this. We want to build a company where people believe they have a right to something — we call it ownership. Everyone should feel like it’s their company, they are responsible for the success of the company, for their decisions… This, for us, is a good thing.

Channel millennials’ natural inquisitiveness by nurturing relationships with mentors and other superiors. If you feel a strong sense of loyalty to your boss and always understand the larger implications of your work, you’ll develop intrinsic motivation that incentivizes you to work more efficiently and effectively.

Conclusion

Despite these productivity advantages, millennials still have much to learn from older generations in the working world. The ideal office scenario enables employees of all experience levels to learn from each other’s strengths through regular collaboration and mentorship.

(Photo credit: Victor1558 via Flickr)

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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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