Your best strategy is to manage your creativity, not your time. People who manage their creativity get happy and rich. People who manage their time get tired. – Scott Adams
Every year or so, it seems, I go back to the quote that starts this post. And it often starts when I notice someone making the fundamental attribution error.
This mistake in thinking, if you’re not familiar with it, comes from thinking that that the reason things are going wrong is because someone is stupid or lazy or ignorant. Why didn’t that task get done? Because your direct report is incompetent. Why did we fail to negotiate the deal? Because our lawyer was a fool.
You will have your own examples of this – situations where you see incompetence over and over again. Why is this – why aren’t people better at doing their jobs?
If you find yourself thinking this way you’re making the fundamental attribution error – thinking that it’s someone’s fault and making things personal rather than looking at the situation and trying to understand what’s going on.
The reason I thought about this issue again was because I was leafing through a psychology magazine that made the argument that people who fail to comply with COVID-19 restrictions are called all kinds of names. I don’t need to provide examples but recent protests come to mind. The attitude of governments is that people are breaking the rules – but they see it only from their point of view. The magazine argued that quite often it’s the people without the resources to cope with the impact of the pandemic that have to break the rules. In the case of protesters – it’s because their voice has been taken away.
The fact is that people will work within the circumstances they find themselves. And if you constrict them within rules that don’t serve them properly – then some people will decide that the rules are not good rules and should not be followed. And we should have sympathy with this – if you don’t want to create this outcome then people with power need to change the situation,
For example, let’s say you have a group that is protesting an issue and wants to do it in public – perhaps what we should do is make it possible for them to make their point – work with them to create the conditions where things can be done safely. People who are in charge will probably argue that they did that and everything still went wrong – but we’re not really interested in the specifics. What’s important is the principle that it’s usually the situation that’s the main factor rather than the people.
What this means for us is that we’re better off focusing on having the resources to do something rather than relying on willpower. If you want to eat less sugar, shop after you’ve eaten and don’t buy chocolate. If you want to encourage people to change their behaviour, work with them to enable the conditions that encourage people to change. Rules are complex things – it’s like the scene in Deadpool, where he says “Rules are meant to be broken” and the other guy says something like, “That’s the exact opposite of what rules are for.” It all depends on who’s making the rules.
This makes a lot of sense for us as well as we try and get on with doing whatever we’re doing. You need energy and you need to allocate it to the right things. If you want to really do something – don’t rely on working hard. Instead, make it easy to do.