Ritualization - develop your good habits

Personally I'm a huge fan of information radiators - I love the idea of full transparency & exposing vital, key information on continuously updated, automatically generated (from the single source of truth) dashboards. The benefits of information radiators have always been striking me with their obviousness:

  • building mutual relation of trust on being fully transparent
  • sharing the big picture on varying levels of detail, so everyone can feel comfortable by getting acknowledged with (s)he cares about
  • no last-minute surprises -> if something doesn't go according to expectation, it's visible pretty much immediately
  • etc., you should've got the idea by now

So I was quite sure that these benefits will be visible for everyone else - and even if they won't, I'll be able to convince any keen listener in no time.

Thus spoke Jurgen

Sadly, in surprisingly many cases it didn't went as smooth as I imagined. I had various theories about that, but the most interesting thing I've found out about that was this blog post by Jurgen Appelo: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/information-radiators-dont-work-jurgen-appelo

To be brief: Jurgen claims that people are just people, sometimes they can be lazy, sometimes they may not be wiling to co-operate but in many cases they are ... just people, slaves to their own old habits, who are that busy that they keep forgetting the smart thing they've honestly promised themselves to do yesterday, two days ago, a week ago ...

Sometimes we start to build a new habit (because we know it'd be beneficial for us long term) -> like reflecting current work item status on information radiator, but it's still new for us & we didn't do that until last week, so we revert to unconscious mode & just skip the new activity that didn't really sink in yet ...

Fortunately, Jurgen mentions a great ... a precautionary measure :) And a bit undervalued one:

Ritualization.

What's ritualization? It's building up a "sticky habit" (oh, I like that expression) by performing a repeated ritual that becomes something natural & falls within your work/life cycle (rhythm? pulse?) , that you don't even have to think about it anymore.

Regularity, discipline (feel free to call it regime, but a self-imposed one) is absolutely crucial here: if you loosen the grip, you'll keep finding out more & more new excuses or simple fool yourself. That's exactly the same kind of self-control that applies to being on a diet, taking New Year's resolution or quitting smoking. We know our decision is right, beneficial & proper, but humans are only humans - we choose local optimum, something that feels more beneficial short-term (improves our mood) or we just follow the old habit, because it still feels more natural. The longer we fool yourself that way, the harder it is to get back to the right track - our perspective gets skewed, error margin widens.

I've been observing how well ritualization works in my case:

  • introducing cadences & MVPs - for stuff like blog posts publishing (otherwise I'd keep polishing posts for ages ...) or learning foreign languages; doing stuff in regular, pre-set internals prevents my own plans from getting out of control due to inaccurate estimation
  • elements of gamification (me against ... myself) - to measure my own performance & set myself goals within reach; needless to say, these are inspected, compared & tracked on regular basis
  • personal kanban board - I can't emphasize enough how useful it is - not just to organize stuff I'd rather like not to forget, but also to keep myself motivated with noticeable progress - I slap there pretty much everything I do (within reason ...) & it's already a habit (for a long time), I don't really need to remember about that at all
  • rituals, rituals, rituals - for Babbel, for Pluralsight / Egghead, for reading in every spare moment, for weighing every day, for push-ups & sit-ups, for regular jogging, for playing guitar (ok, this one I'm still working on ;D) ...

Humans are just humans. But there's no excuse for being weak-willed.

Pic: © http://www.hplfilmfestival.com/2011/la/films/ritual