How Brain Science Can Make You More Motivated and Productive

Ever wonder how the most productive people stay motivated?  New research on the brain can help you minimize distraction, stay focused, and achieve the most important tasks.  According to a recent article by Ravi Shankar Rajan published in Medium Digest, dopamine is the neurological source of motivation.  It is well known that dopamine contributes to pleasurable sensations and a feeling of satisfaction, but it turns out to be a key factor in helping humans navigate the world around them.  Dopamine is perhaps the key brain neurotransmitter transporting information between neurons at a cellular level in the brain.

Experiments have shown that dopamine spikes when a human anticipates something important about to happen.  According to several studies, the brain can be trained to release dopamine.  Author Heidi Grant Halvorson presents these results following decades of research in her book entitled Focus.  Most prominently, she shows that “preventative motivation”, the fear of negative consequences, is associated with enhanced levels of dopamine.  E. Troy Higgins, in his fascinating research, found that by understanding how people focus, you can use this power to motivate yourself and those around you.

For example, if you utilize “if-then planning”, Higgins’ research showed greater motivation than what is commonly understood as “will power”.  The research indicates that if a subject, right before bed, tells himself or herself “I will wake up at 6 AM and go to the gym and do a 45- minute cardio workout”, the subject is more likely to follow through with the goal.  The theory is that one is effectively deciding in advance so there is no confusion or controversy when the time comes.  In over 200 studies this technique has been found to increase rates of goal achievement and productivity by over 200% on average.

The key to making progress in these areas, according to the research, is a series of good habits.  One of these habits is the daily selection of one “uncomfortable” thing to complete every day.  This means adding it to a daily list, making the decision in advance (prevention focus), and thinking about the consequences of failing to achieve the goal. According to the research, turning a task or activity that you do not necessarily want to do (going to the gym every day), into a habit can really help achieve your goals.  Other simple techniques, like doing the hardest thing on your list first, will enhance your ability to get those things done verses allowing distraction and procrastination to get in your way.

Robert Leahy, a Psychologist and Author, coined the term for these habits as “Constructive Discomfort”.  The concept is to practice a little discomfort (in terms of goal achievement) every day- by doing something that pushes you a little bit out of your comfort zone, but is still within reach.  In other words, if you set a goal that is just high enough to stretch you a bit, but not so high that it discourages you, this will increase productivity.

This research also underscores the fallacy of “multi-tasking”.  The brain studies show that by adopting the habit of working on the achievement of small (somewhat uncomfortable) goals every day, improved focus and achievement will result.

Paul Finkle, SPHR, CMC – Executive Vice President

Disclaimer: Some information contained herein has been abridged from numerous sources and may be protected by various copyright laws. Such information should not be construed as consulting or legal advice. Please contact our office for specific advice and/or referrals.

Bay Area Human Resources Services

Many Gen Z Employees Regret Taking Job Offer

According to a recent Gartner survey, 40 percent of Gen Z workers said they regret accepting a job offer and more than one third of these respondents planned to quit within 12 months. “To address this increase in candidate regret — and stem the ensuing issues with underperforming talent and/or high turnover — organizations need to better understand what Generation Z candidates want,” Gartner’s VP of HR Practice, Lauren Smith, said in a recent news release.

Just when many companies believe they are beginning to understand millennials, a new generation is joining the workforce. Generation Z (aka Gen Z, iGen, or centennials), refers to the generation that was born between 1995-2010, following millennials. This generation has been raised on the internet and social media. They highly value success, with professional and academic achievement ranking as most important, according to the Gartner survey.

Research, including a recent Udemy survey, has shown the most frequently used phrases used by Generation Z when describing positive workplace experiences were “positive work environment,” “flexible hours” and “good pay.” When describing the negatives of their workplaces, the most frequent phrases that popped up were “long hours,” “low pay” and “minimum wage.” Gartner’s survey data showed that growth and development opportunities were also a top attraction for Gen Z respondents.

Turnover hit an all-time high last year, according to a report from Compdata., This survey indicates that Gen Zers could contribute to a new record turnover in 2019. One way to combat turnover is for recruiters must be honest and upfront about their company’s culture and what a job entails so that candidates know exactly what they’re taking on before they accept an offer.

“Given that today’s graduates are focused on learning and developing skills, employers looking to gain a career commitment from their Gen Z employees must ensure they offer these opportunities,” said Ms. Smith. “Our research shows that more than anyone, it’s an employee’s manager who influences the type of development an employee gets on the job.”

In today’s digital age, top graduates believe they possess unique skill sets that are very much in demand and, in many cases, make up for a lack of experience. Management approaches, organization and job design must adapt to this new reality and shift from an “always-on” approach to what is being termed a “Connector” manager approach.

Connector managers foster meaningful connections for their direct reports to and among employees, teams and the organization to develop an employee’s specific capabilities. Not only are managers crucial to ensuring their employees’ portfolio of skills stays relevant — a key concern of Gen Z — but they can improve the performance of employees by up to 26% and triple the likelihood that their direct reports will be high performers.  Thus, organizations should include these concepts in their manager training to stay competitive.

Malcolm Whyte, SPHR – Vice President HR Services

Disclaimer: Some information contained herein has been abridged from numerous sources and may be protected by various copyright laws. Such information should not be construed as consulting or legal advice. Please contact our office for specific advice and/or referrals.

Bay Area Human Resources Services