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Reinforce Positive Behavior with Appropriate Rewards

Much of human behavioral psychology can be explained by the simple phrase, “Behavior that is rewarded is repeated”

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Much of human behavioral psychology can be explained by the simple phrase “Behavior that is rewarded is repeated.” This is true even when you reward yourself for your own behavior. To accomplish more right here, right now, identify in advance a “reward” that you’ll bestow upon yourself for completing a desired task.

Easy Does It

The reward might be as simple as making a phone call. It might be taking a stroll around the block. It could be checking e-mail, having a cup of herbal tea, totaling up your earnings for the last quarter, or any other small, favorable event. Dr. Aubrey Daniels, in his book Bringing Out the Best in People, calls this the Grandma Principle — scheduling a reward following a good performance. As Grandma would say, you don’t get to eat your ice cream until you eat your spinach!

If you’re facing an unpleasant task, it makes sense to follow that up with something you enjoy doing, instead of the other way around.

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Effects of Rewards

Think of Pavlov and his dogs. If you set up a series of rewards for yourself for accomplishing small steps on the path to getting something done, you have a greater probability of being successful. Behavior which is positively reinforced gets repeated.

The rewards can take various forms. For accomplishing a particular activity, you may decide that calling a friend is a sufficient reward for your mini-accomplishment. For other people, it could be a stroll around the block, a favorite snack, a 20-minute nap, or logging on to that forbidden web.

The order is essential to this technique. Work precedes reward. The major problem with giving yourself the reward first and then tackling a task is that you’ve effectively removed the incentive.

Yes, it’s possible that you’re one of those few diligent types who are able to receive a reward first and then make good on the silent, un-articulated promise to yourself, go ahead and complete the task that remained to be done. For most people however, life doesn’t seem to work this way.

After having the reward first, i.e. doing the pleasant activity, what’s to stop you from having another reward and another? Adhering to the Grandma Principle helps to develop personal discipline that will carry you through the days, weeks, months and long years of your career. We all need that kind of discipline today!

Instrumental Temptations

If you are subject to temptations, and who isn’t, find a way to include them into your rewards system. Rather than entirely succumbing to such distractions, you get to enjoy of them periodically throughout the day in small measures not detrimental to your productivity or long-term career prospects. That way, you maintain a modicum of control; to do otherwise is to flirt with disaster.

Thereafter, you go from hour to hour, day to day, week to week, without getting the small things done and having them build up, each one looming larger than they actually are, while impeding your progress on longer term projects and tasks.

Discombobulated people go from incompletion to incompletion, having every other thing in their work and domestic life in an unfinished state, yielding a gnawing sense of anxiety, a lack of closure, and the feeling of being boxed in on all sides. Do you want to feel like this perpetually? Probably not. So find a way to incorporate temptations into your rewards system rather than entirely succumbing to them and inhibiting your productivity.

In any case, giving your total attention to the task at hand yields wondrous benefits that might not otherwise be achievable!

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Gone in an Instant

Our e-files are so fragile that they can be gone in a moment’s notice

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Many people retain all of their text messages with their various correspondents. My daughter Valerie, for example, has more than one hundred text message correspondents — in other words, a running dialogue for each of the people with whom she sends and receives text. I only maintain two such longitudinal files, and one is with Valerie. With friends, relatives, clients, and acquaintances, I save the text streams for a few days or weeks, but then clear them out.

One evening, my sister Nancy texted me, and I texted her back. We went back and forth for a while. So, my message roster now included both Valerie Davidson and Nancy Davidson. After a while, I decided to clear the Nancy Davidson file, and you know what’s coming. I hit the wrong “Davidson,” file, and in an instant, more than a thousand texts between my daughter and myself were gone.

These texts included photos she had sent that I hadn’t yet downloaded, the picture of her new ring,  emojis that we passed back and forth, and everything else that transpired between us.

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Our Texting History, Vanished

I was beyond crestfallen. I felt as if I had lost something near and dear to me. It was devastating. I sat down in the big chair in my office and contemplated the possibilities. I contacted my computer guru and asked him if a deleted text message file was retrievable. He said with my Android system there was no such capability, only on iPhones. I called my sister and explained what I had done. She commiserated.

Then I sat down again, for a long time, and I thought about a friend who had lost her 23-year-old daughter and only child, seven months earlier…

I called my daughter, and I gave her the news. She didn’t seem concerned. I explained to her that she was the only one with whom I had maintained the longitudinal text trail. She told me that she maintains the text trail with everybody. “It’s not like you’re going to run out of room.” I asked her if she knew of any way that it could be retrieved. She didn’t know, either. We parted company.

Eureka! If she never deletes text message histories, then she has everything that’s transpired between us. I called her back, and she said she did have them all. So, on another day, when we figure out how to transfer what she has back to me, or least downloaded them into some text file, barring her losing her phone or accidentally hitting the delete button like I did, our texting history will be intact on my device.

A Fresh Start

I feel like I’ve been given a new lease on life. The greater question now is, what kind of technology and what kind of lives do we lead when a longitudinal history can be wiped out by mistake in single second?

It is not comforting to know that critical files can be gone in a flash, but this is a condition of our era. For thousands of years, people simply spoke to each other with no way of recording anything, or even knowing it would one day be possible. Relationships right up to the 1960’s were based on real time conversations in person or on the phone. Answering machines existed in the early 1960’s but were not widely available until the mid 1980’s.

As technology became more and more powerful, as we all know, everyone has the capability today to save and store virtually every encounter that they have with anyone else in the world. Still, it is disquieting to know that our e-files are so fragile that they can be gone in a moment’s notice.

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Four Reasons to Be Reflective at This Time of Year

Regardless of what kind of year you have had, there were undoubtedly many triumphs as well as setbacks

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As one season ends and we make way for the next, it is the perfect time to reflect on our careers and our personal lives.

Regardless of what kind of year you have had, there were undoubtedly many triumphs as well as setbacks. If you are a career professional, particularly if your career is thriving, you have many reasons to be thankful.

Perhaps you get to arrange your office in the way that you choose. You work with people who share, presumably, your vision in terms of advancing the organization. Perhaps, you are able to take off numerous weekends, not to mention have some extended vacations.

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A Little Reflection

It behooves each of us to stop and reflect as to how lucky we are. Regardless of any current challenges, on balance, most of the time, each of us experience a life that intermittently contains excitement, disappointments, wonders, triumphs, sorrows, and moments of pure joy.

If it has been hard for you to be reflective over the years, but you nevertheless recognize the benefits, here are four reasons why it makes sense to do so now:

1) If you have your health, it has been said, you have everything. While that might not be exactly so, health is still one of the individual treasures of our existence on earth. Everyone who deems themselves to be healthy, myself included, should acknowledge this truly great gift on a continual basis.

2) Consider your family, friends, peers, coworkers, and other professional associates. Within that broad swath of humanity, clearly there are people whom you care about deeply. There are people who make a difference in your life. There are good friends and peers who add great value on a regular basis. For this, we can be thankful.

3) Whether you live in the U.S. or abroad, presumably, you can be thankful for the many benefits of living in your respective country, where you are allowed to pursue your livelihood, make a decent income, are a respected member of the community, and look forward to years more of being held in esteem by those around you.

4) In anticipation of the next few months, and all the adventures and triumphs that are forthcoming, who would not be thankful? Right now represents a time of opportunity. We are not merely robot clones proceeding in life, looking through the rear view mirror, exhibiting only the behaviors and characteristics that we have previously exhibited.

Many Chances

We have many chances to proceed in new ways – to make new explorations, take on new challenges, assume new types of behaviors, and, indeed, even wholesale reinvent ourselves. For that capability alone, we can agree about the importance of being reflective and thankful.

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