New technology that can track your movements and moods and holds promise in improving knowledge worker’s productivity. Called auto-analytics, it is “the voluntary collecting and analyzing data about oneself in order to improve” per H. James Wilson in his fascinating article “You, By the Numbers” in September’s 2012 Harvard Business Review.
This technology is in the form of wearable devises and mobile apps that can help you track your office activity and factors such as moods that may affect your activity. By tracking this activity, you can determine how you spend your time, when you are most productive, what types of distractions occur and how they affect your work. These apps can help you track your physical self – monitoring your heart rate, sleep patterns, etc.; your thinking self, and your emotional self. It’s fascinating technology, moving the Frederick Taylor- type efficiency metrics into the knowledge worker’s world. With these and apps called “nudgers” that will ping you to change your behavior, you are in control of your personal work productivity.
Stephen Wolfram tracked his work movements for 22 years. He charted and graphed this data. He learned things as detailed as how often he hit the backspace key on his keyboard. While clearly creating self-awareness, Wolfram stopped there. He did nothing to improve his behavior. He did not analyze and take action to improve.
Therein lies the rub. If you do nothing to improve your performance, then why become self-aware? I coach clients that self-awareness is merely the foundation. How you control and manage your actions is what is important. It’s similar to having a car with all its monitoring devices and then ignoring the icons when the gas or check battery, or check engine lights come on. No matter how much information you have about yourself and your behavior, if you don’t take action, then what’s the point?
With executive coaching clients, we focus on taking action. I tell all new clients that if they don’t go back and try new techniques or new approaches – take action—then all we are doing is having a nice discussion. Taking action is the key. Great goals and plans are worthless if action doesn’t occur. With our financial clients, we “nudge” them to get those estate planning documents completed or updated; or re-finance their mortgage at the appropriate time. Information is not the end result, it’s what you do with the information you have.
In your career, this means trying new approaches, such as new communication techniques, stress-management activities, and new time management skills. In your financial life, it means getting those necessary yet seemingly non-urgent items done. It may mean tracking your expenses and living within your budget or it may mean completing those estate documents or updating your insurance coverage. Taking action is the key. Inertia is a powerful force; it requires concentrated and focused effort to change behavior or get non-urgent yet critical items accomplished.
To take action and improve your work performance or your financial situation; try these steps:
- Set a goal. Perhaps it is to check e-mail only twice a day. Or to schedule no meetings longer than one hour. Or to track your expense plan every month. Make the goal detailed enough to be meaningful.
- Take baby steps. Try new techniques and approaches in “safe” situations. If you are trying a new approach with your boss, test it either with someone else or on a “safe” topic with the boss. Break the new behavior into phases if possible and focus on the first phase initially. Get comfortable with that and then move on to the next phase.
- Practice, practice, practice. Consistency is key. The more you practice the new action or behavior, the easier it becomes. In time it becomes habit. Keep at it, even if it is uncomfortable, which likely it will be. Look for situations to use the new approach or technique.
At KHC Wealth Management, you’ll notice that we end meetings with action items. With executive coaching clients, we focus on what the client is willing to commit to doing before our next meeting. With financial clients, we identify the actions needed to implement the plans that together we have developed. While we are here to help you clarify your goals, analyze, build a plan and advise; it is helping our clients take action that often gets overlooked, yet that may be the most valuable step.
In the article, the author states “The aim is not merely to increase self-awareness but to become better at your job and more satisfied with your life.” So if you decide to use some of this emerging technology, we’ll be here to help you analyze it and take action. If you aren’t willing to commit to taking action, don’t waste your money on the technology!