Monday, June 21, 2010

Being bored sometimes is a good thing

Another great Harvard Business Review blog post this week, this one from Peter Bregman. The focus on the iPad is a little tongue in cheek, but the conclusion (the second half of the post) is really important. All of the technology we are surrounding ourselves with and multi-tasking around it is causing a constant attentional focus that reduces creativity. It is when you are bored that your brain has a chance to process what it has learned ("consolidation" in the HF technical lingo) and to link concepts that were not linked in our day to day activity (the precursor for creativity, innovation, and other good stuff).

So whatever technology you are surrounding yourself with, make sure to take an hour or two each day to put it down and just process. Take a walk (without it) and stare at the trees. It's good for you physically and mentally. And it will increase your productivity in the long term so you don't have to feel guilty about it.

Big goals and small goals.

Bob Sutton has a great blog post at Harvard Business Review this week. It makes a subtle but very important point.

There is a lot of research (such as the work of Locke and Latham that he cites in the post) that show the advantages of setting goals that I refer to as Cinderella goals. They are challenging enough to require hard work, focus, creativity, etc. But not so challenging that you get frustrated of give up. You have to believe that they are attainable.

Locke and Latham's research describes all the advantages of these goals. But Bob makes an important point. You can't focus on these on a day-to-day basis because they tend to have more of a long term focus and because you would burn out if you try. So he talks about balancing them out with some short term goals that are a bit less challenging.

When you hit these short term goals, you feel good, motivated to start on the next one, perhaps tangibly rewarded (i.e. by a bonus from mgmt). Long terms effects of regular goal achievement are less stress, more life (and or job) satisfaction, and general happiness.

I am certainly not suggesting to give up the Big Hairy Audacious Goals (btw this term was coined by Jim Collins in "Good to Great"). But balance is important.