Focusing on the intrinsic rewards of some difficult, extended work is a good way to get the most out of it. How can we continue to execute after our interest has waned? Two ways: committment to a default, and habit development.
For me, running, and learning about my new department can be viewed in this way. I recently transferred into Steelmaking and I find the amount of things to learn exciting and exhausting. I make it my default to take advantage of opportunities (breakdowns, special projects, etc.), to learn who and what and how is what I try to do. The default means I’ve made the decision ahead of time, knowing these actions support my long term goals. This committment also helps with the randomness of these opportunities – I’m ready to seize the moment.
Habit strength is what keeps us moving forward during hard times. Seth Godin calls that time The Dip, when the excitement wanes, but you have to push through to something amazing. If you have a habit formed that gets you out of bed and out the door with your sneakers on, it’ll see you through that time. The tasks of laying out clothes the night before, making sure the coffee maker is on auto are the steps I take to keep my habit of morning runs as easy as possible. Because it’s the habit of running that yields the benefits. I feel the stress melting away and the sheer joy of movement once I’m out the door, but they don’t help me get started. The habit is getting out the door. Starting is the hardest part.
As in Reliability – a little at a time builds up to a complete body of work, and makes the professional. Commit to involving yourself everytime. If there’s a breakdown, take the time to learn about it and become a reliability detective, even if you aren’t leading the investigation. Make that your default.
If there is no crisis, do proactive work with little steps every day. Make it a habit, and remove any barriers to action. Set out your tools the night before (like assembling the research for your MTA or CII as the last thing you do before you go home), and make it the first thing you do when you get to work. Start with 30 minutes. The emails can wait.
What are your reliability habits? How do they help you in the long run?