It’s the time of year for making lists. And then losing them. And then making more lists and ignoring them. And it’s almost the time of year for making resolutions. So what are you going to decide to do, or to undo in 2012? As a starter here’s a list from Dorie Clark in a seasonal article in the Harvard Business Review.
- Responding like a trained monkey.
- Mindless traditions.
- Reading annoying things.
- Work that’s not worth it.
- Making things more complicated than they should be.
I’m particularly attracted to her first point. She’s talking about emails and the way in which we get continually sidetracked by waves of incoming nonsense. What are we doing? I spent many a happy hour at university messing about with different sorts of ‘reinforcement’ schedules and fooling various rats (and the occasional pigeon) into behaving like a complete turkey! Yep, variable reinforcement schedules (read: emails of varying degrees of urgency plopping into your inbox at unpredictable intervals) make us all behave like Pavlov’s pet dog.
So let’s get a grip and stop it. If you must, check your email every 90 minutes or so. Strangely things will proceed as normal: the sun will rise, the Earth will rotate, politicians will continue to irritate you etc. There, I feel better already. Happy Christmas and a less monkey (rat, pigeon and dog-like) New Year!
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