Personal Productivity

Why some people remain cool at work while others fall apart?

Why some people remain cool at work?
wrote this on April 30, 2014
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Some people just look, act, and perform like they were born to do the job…

Of course, this perplexes most of us because let’s face it; being a knowledge worker nowadays ain’t easy.  Knowledge worker is a term coined by Peter Drucker in his 1959 book ‘The landmarks of Tomorrow’ that represents what you and me do in front of the computer i.e. gain and process knowledge.

It’s not called knowledge work for nothing.  You are required to acquire huge amounts of information and process it effectively.  College tries, but often fails, to prepare you for this high paced environment. There are no manuals only skills learned through the school of hard knocks.

Collecting and processing information effectively is an art, the person who practices this art is called a professional.

Cool, calm, on time. These are just a few of the traits that separate “the professional” from the rest of the work force.

But how does one get molded into this efficient, mean, lean working machine?

Is it knowledge that sets the professional apart from his less efficient peers? Or is it the ability to please customers, employers, employees and colleagues?

Let’s dive deeper into the professional persona and pin point exactly why some people are considered professionals, while others who do the same work reap only half the fruits.

1# It all begins with your mindset

Yup your mindset...

“Cognitive distortions are filters or lenses that influence thinking, shape interpretation of reality, basis for action.” Michael Dearing

In a study that was conducted for over 2,190 days, which enveloped 2,481 companies and 4,515 founders and published in 2012, Michael Dearing found that there are 5 cognitive distortions that differentiate successful people who get things done from the rest of the population.

Those 5 recurring, automatic patterns of thought (aka: cognitive distortions) allow people to get a lot of things done and add considerable value to the companies they work in.

Personal Exceptionalism

This is a sense of sorts that you were meant for big things.  It gives you a sense of purpose;  allows you to rely heavily on your judgment, endure failure and create followers out of people around you due to your unshakable resolve and vision – not to be confused with arrogance or high self-esteem.

Dichotomous Thinking

A black and white way of seeing things, things are either excellent or not.  This helps in the process of elimination and focuses you on what you perceive as relevant.  Since there are no grey areas, there is no decision fatigue or ego depletion which allows you to reach excellent results frequently.

Correct Overgeneralization

Think of it as a tendency for jumping to correct conclusions.  You are able to make universal judgments from limited observations and facts; and being right almost always. It saves a lot of time, strengthens the two previously mentioned cognitive biases.  Since it happens faster than lightning, it helps brand you as a genius in your field.

Blank Canvas Thinking

The blank canvas way of thinking means that you’re not limited by borders of any kind. If something is defined as a constant by others, you think that it can be removed and replaced with ease. You are not hindered by the facts perceived by others. What binds other people doesn’t bind you which mean that you can find creative solutions where others before you thought there are none.


Joseph Schumpeter was an influential economist in the beginning of the 20th century.  Schumpeter’s creative destruction idea claims that in order for an economy to grow, the prior economic order must be destroyed. If you see the destruction of what you previously did as a natural and necessary part of your work than the shoe fits. You’re probably fearless, have a lot of tolerance for destruction of your work and the pain that accompanies it which results in you being an agent of change and growth where ever you are.

A professional that has the above mentioned cognitive distortions, possesses the required mindset or platform (if used with moderation and not taken to extremes) that will support a high level of professionalism.

2# Let’s start by talking about control

Let’s start by talking about control

“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire” Charles Bukowski

A sense of control comes from lack of anxiety and stress; lack of stress comes from trust. This can be trust in your own abilities, trust in your colleagues to perform their appointed task and according to David Allen the originator of GTD (Getting things done – the art of stress free productivity) trust in your system.

If you trust that things will get processed; if you have a way to collect all your information and make sure that nothing falls between the cracks than you don’t get stressed.  This leaves you calm and in control of your work environment.  All the above contribute immensely to your ability to make rapid progress and leave other people staring at your dusty trail.

3# Unbreakable Work Routines

Take off the golves with unbreakable work routines

In an OCD like manner, professionals perform their work routines. Those are habits they acquired through the years and they practice them religiously.  While some routines help professionals work better, faster and without interruptions. Others might even help professionals improve the way they conduct themselves in interactions with people around them.

Those routines can include (but are not limited to):

  • Checking emails only twice a day to reduce distractions created from over exposure to relevant information.
  • The tendency to avoid meetings at all cost, allowing them to communicate via less time disruptive mediums.
  • Collect all the information they’re exposed to and putting it in the above mentioned trusted system.
  • Working on one task at a time, pushing away intrusions.
  • Understanding why you failed.  Admitting you made a mistake and fixing it is a habit that takes time to develop but it’s an important one, it’s worth much more than it’s obvious benefits.  For instance: did you know that it helps to makes you more likeable?
  • Loyalty is a habit as well and it shows on your CV.  Loyalty helps strengthen your resolve when the going gets tough, it helps you to see the bigger picture when other people complain or bail and it helps you ignore any workplace subtext that threats to drag your performance down.
  • Appreciation and Gratitude – creating a habit out of appreciating what other people do with or for you, and showing in return your gratitude will make people show the same appreciation and gratitude back.

The habits you acquire can help you project a more professional image.  They can help you perform better, communicate in ways that won’t alienate your colleagues or employees and eventually aid in creating that lasting impression.

Professionals are not created, they are made. One can become more professional by following certain behavior patterns and creating the right habits.

Until we meet again!

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