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You can’t plough a field by turning it over in your mind

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There comes a time when too much more thinking is fruitless.
In order to prepare things for a new harvest, action is required. And this is often simple and basic.
And it can be done over, fixed or amended as needed.

What’s the next step you can take?

What’s the most immediate thing that you could do?

What’s right in front of you that needs your physical effort?

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Productivity and Moral Self-Licensing

One (more) reason why people don’t straight-away do what they’ve said they would – and what to do about it

If you’ve ever been in a long meeting where lots of actions where agreed, and then found yourself wondering why people haven’t followed-through on those actions – or if you’ve ever spent a fair bit of time and effort making a to-do list yourself, only to then bunk-off instead of actually getting on with it – then you might find this useful.

In simple terms, Moral Self-Licensing is when people unconsciously allow themselves to indulge after they’ve done something positive.

Research suggests that it affects individual behaviour in a variety of contexts, including: consumer purchases, political opinions, charitable giving, energy policy, job hiring, racial attitudes, health-related decision-making, risky sexual behavior, alcohol consumption and diet.

In terms of productivity, the influence of Moral Self-Licensing is likely to mean a slump in achieving things between the planning and the doing stages. My experience with individual and team clients is that the effect is particularly pronounced when:

  • The issues that people were agreeing upon or planning actions for were especially difficult or threatening to address. This means that they feel unusually positive about having finally got down to addressing them and are (unconsciously) more likely to give themselves moral self-license to be ‘indulgent’ afterwards;
  • Physical energy levels are low and/or have been lowered by the planning or to-do-listing activities (especially likely when long journeys or stodgy meals are involved I suspect). I don’t know if there’s research to support this, but I’ve often thought that low energy levels are likely to reduce the threshold for moral self-license, since our mind/body systems are designed to look after our short-term survival and to prioritise food and rest now.

So what can you do if you notice that there’s a productivity slump between the planning and the action stages?

  1. Plan for it
    Since the tendency to be indulgent after we’ve done something positive is such a widespread and unconscious phenomena, it makes sense to me to expect it to happen. When you’ve had people in meetings and you all agree on a list of actions, why not explicitly agree an ‘indulgency period’ during which nobody is required to actually do anything productive until they’ve given themselves a treat of some kind;
  2. Actively be Rested and Healthy
    If it’s true that the productivity slump caused by moral self-license is more pronounced when people are already tired, then we can prepare for that by taking active steps to be properly rested and healthy. Less coffee and more naps, perhaps?
  3. Delegate
    Have somebody who wasn’t at the meeting, and who therefore won’t be experiencing their own moral self-license indulgence (at least, not yet), be responsible for reminding about, chasing and/or kick-starting the actions;
  4. Organise
    Make sure that your meetings, your decision-making-processes and the techniques you use to organise actions are as effective and as frictionless as possible. Consider using trained facilitators to help design agendas and processes. The less this feels like an effort, the less likely people are to indulge afterwards;
  5. Don’t Procrastinate
    The longer you put-off or fail to address difficult issues and tasks, the more you’re unconsciously likely to feel that you deserve an indulgence after you finally get around to deciding to do something about them.

 

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If you found this article useful, you might want to grab a copy of my latest short eBooklet from Amazon. Please use the buttons or image below to see a preview or buy your copy:

Manifesto

Here’s one of my personal posts which friends really seemed to like. Thought I’d share for everyone to see – a new manifesto:

1. Stop buying rubbish stuff that you don’t really need
It won’t make you happy and it will cost the Earth

2. Make more cool stuff ourselves
Music, sculptures, DIY, you name it; just get yourself involved in the production

3. Be the change you want to see
Want people to be kinder? – be kind; want more boldness in the world? – be bold

 

NB: “We need to be the change we wish to see in the world” is a quote supposedly from Mahatma Gandhi, although there is some dispute as to whether he did actually say it. I think he would have, if he’d thought of it. Click here for the Wikipedia entry.

To Be is To Do

“To be seen you must make yourself visible; To be valuable you must do something of value…”

I think this is a quote from somewhere? I’ve been reading and re-reading it for ages without knowing where I first found it; and Google doesn’t seem to know either.

To be seen you must make yourself visible;

To be valuable you must do something of value;

To be important you must do something important;

To be remembered you must do something memorable;

To be wanted you must create something people want;

To leave a legacy for those you love, you must create one.

I like it!

There’s also this old graffiti/joke:

“To be is to do”—Socrates.
“To do is to be”—Jean-Paul Sartre.
“Do be do be do”—Frank Sinatra.

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