May Brainstorm

May 03 2002 by Jurgen Wolff Print This Article

Some surprising information about when to do what at work comes from psychologist Debbie Moskowitz at McGill University. Here is her guide:

Mondays are best for organising, planning and delegating tasks; Tuesdays are best for carrying out the directions your boss gives you; on Wednesday be extra careful to avoid conflict; Thursdays are the best days to ask for a favour or a raise; and Fridays are the days to get colleagues to do things your way.

TIP: The above are generalisations, of course. You can work out your own guide to your behaviour. For a few weeks, keep track of on which days of the week you feel most organised, most upbeat, most like being social, most like being alone. If you find patterns, you can align your work with them instead of fighting your cycles.

A study by Human Synergistics International reveals several negative by-products of perfectionism: procrastination, an inability to delegate, and even illness (apparently perfectionists have a 75% higher incidence of illness than their less-perfectionist peers—presumably due to stress).

TIP: Consciously pause periodically when working on a projects to assess how much better it will be if you spend further time on it. When you can see that the degree of likely improvement is small compared to the amount of time you are investing, let go! If you are not sure whether or not you are a perfectionist, ask your colleagues - they’re more likely to have an accurate view.

Similarly, when you feel the project is 80% good enough by your standards, ask someone else who is knowledgeable to assess it - again, their more impartial view may show that it is time to stop.

3. TO GET WHAT YOU WANT, FLINCH! Expert negotiator Roger Dawson has a suggestion for how to get your way when negotiating something. When the other side makes their first suggestion, flinch! That is, audibly gasp, widen your eyes, lift your eyebrows and look shocked or surprised. His reasoning is that generally the other side starts with a worse offer than they expect you to accept. If you do not react, they may think maybe you will go along with their offer after all, and may decide to stick with that offer or something near it. If you flinch, they will have an immediate emotional response that will unsettle them.

TIP: The next time you are negotiating anything (it can be a work or personal matter), flinch when the other person makes their first proposal and just notice their response. You can even do this on the phone.

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi did a study of 91 super-creative people. Here are a few of his tips on how to be more creative every day:

  • Start the day by identifying something you are looking forward to that day - a meeting, a concert, dinner, the chance to work on your favourite project, or anything else. This establishes a positive attitude for the day; Schedule at least fifteen minutes in your day for relaxation and reflection;
  • Remember that those who do something different will be criticised. It is a natural part of being creative, so when others a critical, learn from their feedback if possible, but do not assume you are wrong;
  • Stimulate your mind by doing at least one new thing every day. This can be as simple as taking a different route to work, having something different for lunch, or listening to a type of music you normally would not choose.

TIP: Keep a diary or journal in which you keep track of these four steps and note their effect. Write in the diary for a minute or two at the beginning of each day to specify your plans, and at the end of each day to note whatever your experiences have revealed or taught you.

A study of what keeps people from making better decisions revealed that one of the biggest pitfalls is The Sunk-Cost Trap (also known as the good-money-after-bad trap).

Often people who have invested a lot of time, money, or emotions in something that is not working feel that it would be a waste of their investment if they abandoned it now. Instead, they invest yet more and often lose that, as well.

For example, we may decide to spend a lot of money on the repair of a piece of equipment because it cost so much originally even though it would make more sense to buy something new. Or, just because we have known a person for a long time, we may decide to continue a business or personal relationship that is no longer working.

TIP: When making this kind of decision, consider the factors that are relevant now. If you find that difficult to do, consult someone who does not know the history of the situation, and ask them to help you evaluate the current pros and cons of your decision.

In the book Seize the Day, writer Francis King recalls the time he was escorting novelist Somerset Maugham around Japan. He writes, "In a restaurant Maugham gave a vast tip to our two charming and attentive waitresses. Seeing that I was as astonished as they were, he told me, Never believe the idiots who tell you that people despise those who overtip. That is a fiction put about by the miserly. On the contrary, people are always delighted if you give them more than they expect."

Til next time, Jurgen

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About The Author

Jurgen Wolff
Jurgen Wolff

Jurgen Wolff is a writer, teacher, and hypnotherapist. His goal is to help individuals liberate their own creativity through specific techniques that can be used at work as well as at home. His recent books include "Focus: the power of targeted thinking," a W. H. Smith best-seller, and "Your Writing Coach".