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Design Yourself: It’s Time to Start Rethinking the Way You Work

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Eric Termuende

How many times do you hear someone shout out “I LOVE MONDAY” as they head to work after the weekend? Probably never, at least not in recent years. The truth is that in today’s world, many people do not enjoy the jobs they spend 50+ hours a week doing.

If you asked the average person under 40 what their dream job was, they would probably answer “I want to start my own business.” And the reason why is because the average person is dissatisfied with their careers in the corporate world. We need to change this mentality. We need to rethink the way we work.

In order to find out more about this subject, I consulted Eric Termuende. Eric is the co-founder of NoW Innovations, a company leading the creation and discovery of best people practices in the workplace. He recently published a new book, Rethink Work: Finding & Keeping the Right Talent, where he takes a deep dive into the many challenges of today’s modern work environment.

Here are 3 of Eric’s top three tips for rethinking the way we work:

1. Rethink purpose

Of course, we all work for money. We all have bills to pay and mouths to feed. But we should be working on a mission at the same time. We should be doing something that we love to do. However, one of the top reasons that people hate their jobs is because their careers were built from external, rather than internal pressure.

In order to be happy at work, you have to be clear on why you are doing what you are doing. You can’t fall into the trap of doing something simply because society or those around you think you should. If you do, you will lose your identity trying to please other people. You will never live a fulfilling life if you live it for someone else.

“Times of transition are strenuous, but I love them. They are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities, and be intentional about new habits. We can make our new normal any way we want.” – Kristin Armstrong

2. Rethink productivity

People are happy when they are productive. People like to do a good job. However, all too often being productive gets confused with being busy in the corporate world. Leaders often have metrics measuring quantity rather than quality. Workers are measured on how much they put out rather than the quality of the product they put out.

In other words, most workers do not have the time to dedicate to doing a great job because they are too worried about getting products out the door quickly, no matter what the cost. This mentality leads to low job satisfaction and high employee turnover.

3. Rethink relationships

With all of the technology in the world today, employees are consistently being expected to “be at work” no matter where they are. No longer can we leave work at work. It follows us home through our mobile phones and laptop computers.

It is common to find people working 14 hours a day or more. It is hard for people to enjoy their jobs when their jobs take over their entire lives. Our identities now revolve more around what we do for a living than who we are as people. We have to achieve balance in order to be happy, which means we have to have boundaries.

We have to have meaningful relationships both inside of work and outside. If we could focus less on technology and more on relationships, the ripple effect would lead us to a more fulfilled life both in our place of work and our homes.

“The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the quality of your relationships.” – Tony Robbins

It is possible to go back to a time when we didn’t dread Mondays. It is possible to look forward to going to work again. We just have to rethink the way we work, and it has to be rethought from the top down.

If you are a leader in the corporate world, take the time to rethink the way you run your team. If you do, you will reap the benefits of healthy and happy employees who will stay with you for the long haul.

How have you managed to rethink the way you work? Please leave your thoughts below!

Jennifer Spencer is a serial entrepreneur who currently serves as Head of Marketing of AppMasters.co, an app marketing agency. She is also the founder of Accelerant PR, a digital branding agency focused on helping startups write and share their stories. She is a passionate storyteller, online marketer and social media specialist.

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What Les Misérables Taught Me About Our Values

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Who am I? The ultimate question many of us try to answer. When I think of values, I think of Victor Hugo’s 1862 book, “Les’ Miserables”. In Hugo’s book, Jean Valjean, is used as a protagonist to highlight the power in redemptive love and compassion. Valjean goes into prison for stealing a loaf of bread, entering as a simple and decent man. His time in jail seems to have an unrepairable effect, where he emerges from the chain gang as a tough, bitter criminal who hates society for what it has done to him. (more…)

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7 Ways You Can Increase Your Concentration Right Away

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In today’s world, an overabundance of information and a large number of distractions is making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on performing the necessary tasks. In this article, I propose 7 simple methods that will train your ability to concentrate, while not taking you from your usual activities. (more…)

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5 Simple Hacks to Help You Develop the Habit That Will Transform Your Life

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It’s excruciating when we know what’s killing us but we can’t do anything about it because as you know, it is not easy to pull the brake on a high way. According to Napoleon Hill, “remember this always – the best (and one might say the only) way in which old habits may be removed is to form new habits to counteract and replace the undesirable ones”. (more…)

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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