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Using Work to Reward Working
by Dr. Beverly Potter

A powerful win is an opportunity to do something you enjoy.

 We tend to think of "rewards" or wins as money or some other thing we get for doing something. Having the opportunity to do something you enjoy can also be a reward. For example, as a child your mother may have said," When you finish practicing the violin, you can go play ball." In this case, the opportunity to play ball became a kind of reward for practicing the violin. Most of us understand this principle and use it intuitively to manage ourselves.

Opportunity to Work as a Reward

Opportunity to engage in a Preferred Activity can be used as a reward for completing an Unpreferred Activity. "Preferred" is defined in terms of the likelihood of your engaging in the activity.

For example, when you walk into your office in the morning suppose you are most likely to open your mail and least likely to dictate a report. Opening mail would be considered a preferred activity while dictating a report is an unpreferred one.

Use Work to Motivate Working

Consider the following research study of how salespeople sequenced their sales calls.

In the first stage of the research, the salespeople were told to call on both old customers and prospects. They could use any sequence they preferred. The number of calls to old customers, which often resulted in easy sales, far exceeded the number of calls to prospective customers, who required persistence to score a sale. Making old calls was a preferred activity because  they were more likely to make old calls than new ones.

In the second stage of the research, the salesmen were told they could make five old calls only after having made a sale to a new customer. They were required to actually make a sale, not just a phone call. Predictably, the number of new calls made increased dramatically.

This is similar to when your mother said, "Eat your peas, then you can have more meat." Being able to eat more meat motivated you to eat the peas.

An unexpected result in the research with salespeople was that not only did the number of new calls go up, but the number of old calls went up as well. The salespeople made more overall calls.  In order words they were more productive when they sequenced their work in this manner.

What To Do
Break your work up into segments, and sequence them so that those activities you perform frequently or "prefer" follow doing the tasks you tend to put off.

Let's look at how Gina employed this same strategy. She hated filing and left it to last. She dreaded filing, yet knew she had to do it. She felt confident that if she could just get the filing out of the way with a minimum of pain, her outlook would improve.

Gina identified photocopying as a preferred activitybecause it provided a break in the routine and an opportunity to chat with whomever happened to be in the production room.

Gina's plan
Gina made an agreement  with herself to do a specific amount of filing before she did any photocopying. The desire to get through the filing and onto the photocopying provided the motivation to file. By managing tasks, Gina worked more efficiently and was less vulnerable to the boring and routine aspects of her work. Her focus switched from dreading to accomplishing.

Task Management

Continuing his professional growth meant Cam had to keep abreast of the latest developments. Unfortunately, it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to do what he called Later Work - which was work that was important at some later time. Not only was he not keeping up with the stacks of journals at home and in his office but he was also unhappy about it and getting depressed.

This discontentment was creating quite a problem for him. He felt trapped in what he called Now Work- processing papers, writing routine reports, and sitting in meetings. While he met these daily demands and deadlines with ease, he had less and less time for his later worksuch as going to professional conferences, reading journal articles, working on proposals for new projects, or creative contemplations. These were overrun by the daily priorities of the now activities.

Cam solved this problem with task management. He saw that working on the daily papers and reports were preferred activities, while later activitieswere dormant. He set up a schedule that made working on one daily project - a now activity- contingent upon doing a little later work.

For example, he required that he spend 20 minutes reading one journal article beforehe could work on a particular now report. The deadline attached to the now workprovided a deadline for doing the later workas well. With this formula Cam reclaimed the energy dissipated in working to avoid, and invested it in working to gain. An increase in personal power resulted.

Copyright © 1980, 1993, 1998: Beverly A. Potter, from "Overcoming Job Burnout: How to Renew Enthusiasm for Work", Ronin.  All Rights Reserved. This article man be down loaded for person use.  Any other use requires written permission from docpotter.

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