The Habit of Noticing

I was sitting in the foyer of a large corporate a couple of weeks ago. They had their purpose statement and some founding stories on the wall. They were inspirational.

It got me thinking how, often, once something goes up on the wall it soon gets forgotten. Mission. Vision. Values. Yet these things are important for the culture and strategy of the organisation.

So why does this happen? We’re not bad people who don’t care about these things.

It occurred to me that we’re often too busy to stop and notice. Tick the box of the ‘values exercise’ and move on to the next thing. So these valuable words and statements do not have the full impact of the behavioural changes we’d hoped for.

Too busy to notice the strategic. Depending on your context, ‘strategic’ could be cultural alignment, long-term objectives or personal growth. The big picture stuff.

Noticing. Becoming aware of. Paying attention to. A large part of effectiveness in the workplace is about paying attention to the right things. Sometimes we could benefit from Producer Martin Gabel’s quip, “Don’t just do something; stand there.” Instead of rushing into activity, stop for a moment to see what’s important. This could be reflecting on learnings, aligning with organisational goals or reconnecting with why you do what you do.

Noticing the right things frequently is what we’re aiming for. This is where habit forming comes into play. BJ Fogg, an expert in behaviour change from Stanford University has a useful model.

Behaviour = motivation + ability (to do the task) + trigger. Here are some questions that illustrate how this model can help you get started with a habit of noticing:

1. What one strategic item do I need to notice more (behaviour)?

2. Why is that important to me (motivation)?

3. How can I make it simple to notice (ability)?

4. What prompt do I need to remind me to notice (trigger)?

For me, reflecting on (noticing) what I’ve been learning in all areas of life is my strategic item. The specific behaviour that helps with this is journaling.

Getting the thoughts out of my head and onto paper. It helps to capture my learnings and work through tricky situations. The resulting self-awareness and reduced anxiety is what motivates me. As well as documentation of what I’ve learned.

To make it simple to get writing, I keep my journal in my bag with a pen. Any length of writing is fine. I have list of prompting words at the front of the journal to kick start me on the days when inspiration is lacking.

As an aside, my journal is plain looking. Too fancy a journal makes me feel whatever I write in there must be perfect. Not helpful in making it easy for me to jot down my thoughts.

Finally, the trigger I use is the Streaks app (there are lots of good apps/tools out there). It reminds me that I need to journal every week day. Each day that I journal adds to my journaling streak! Putting an event in your calendar could be a simple enough trigger.

A habit of noticing will help you make progress in the important areas of your work. Don’t just do something; stand there.

Doug Maarschalk is a trainer, facilitator and coach who uses the principles of intrinsic motivation as the foundation for his work. He has worked with New Zealand businesses in the horticulture, legal, accounting, financial services, real estate and healthcare sectors.
Read more about the Services Doug provides and the Clients he has worked with.