• joe@jhanderson.biz   
    (206) 351-5607   

  • Change is hard. Hermits sitting alone on a mountaintop for decades, attempting to perfect their souls, know this. Sports teams trying to improve their records know this (believe me, I’ve been a Seattle Mariners fan for 20 years and this is definitely true). And of course you know it too, from your own experience at work and in the rest of your life.

    As with any other change, setting an intention to make yourself and your team more effective is the essential first step. But it needs to be followed up with concrete, sustained action in order to take effect. Given the pressures, distractions, ennui, and cultural headwinds you may be facing in your workplace, a good intention conceived in a moment and lacking a plan just isn’t going to be enough.

    We can borrow a useful concept from the world of the monastery. Monasteries are organized around a rule of life: a set of principles the community agrees to live by. You don’t have to live in a community to benefit from the idea of a rule; nor do you have to view the rule as a prescriptive and externally imposed formula. What’s valuable about the concept is that the rule is a core commitment that expresses core values: it’s stable, consistent, and central to your identity.

    I’m suggesting that, in order to facilitate your intention to be a more effective team member, you establish a rule of work for yourself: a set of principles you contract with yourself to abide by in the workplace. Since this is your rule, you can define it any way you want—but define it in a way that resonates with what’s truly most important to you. Consider where your intention is focused: on developing yourself? Your team? Your company? Economic flexibility? Making the world a better place? Below are some excerpts from the rule of work I have for myself. As a solo entrepreneur, of course my rule is going to be quite different from yours—but everyone’s rule will be different.

    • Do the hardest thing on my to-do list first, every day.
    • Get outside and take a walk during the day, every day.
    • Look at my email inbox just three times, at 10am, 2pm, and 4pm, every day.
    • Take three deep breaths to get centered before reading my email.
    • Have a face-to-face meeting with a friend or colleague during the day at least once a week.
    • Every time I send out an email or social media post, actively release my attachments to any possible responses.

    It’s not that I don’t fail from time to time to follow my rule. But when I do, I know it, and I strive to get back to following it as soon as I can. What motivates me is that these are my rules, the concrete expression of my intention. So I have every reason to follow them as consistently as I can.

    Try It: Draft a rule of work for yourself. Start by capturing the practices you’ve already made commitments to, in order to keep yourself on track with your intentions. Try adding an item or two to the list that are things you currently intend to do but aren’t doing regularly. You may also want to add an item or two that are a bit more aspirational: things you hadn’t thought of doing but are actually in line with what you intend. Post the rule in a visible location and do your best to follow it. When you fail, renew your intention. If the rule needs to change, change it.