Change is the new normal and we’ve all had to manage major shifts in our lives since the beginning of 2020. The larger and more impactful the change, the more of a paralyzing effect it can have on resilience, flexibility, decisive action, and productivity. However, change is necessary in the workplace. While major transformation can feel unbearable to manage sometimes, some smaller, consistent changes are easier to handle and can lead to major impact.
In this installment of The Productivity Box, we’ll look at the connection between small, consistent changes and a successful performance on the job.
The connection between biology and reaction to change
Our response to change, from large to small, is biological, explain Guarav Gupta, Vanessa Akhtar and John Kotter, co-authors of the book Change:
“Evolution has resulted in a two-channel system, which is responsible for much of our response in times of uncertainty. The Survive Channel is activated by threat [which] leads to feelings of fear, anxiety and stress… By contrast, the Thrive Channel is activated by opportunities, and is associated with feelings of excitement, passion, joy and enthusiasm.”
So, how do you overcome the fear that threatens to immobilize you in a period of change? How do you tap into that side of your brain that’s adaptable to change? The solution lies in incremental shifts consistently applied to your normal routine.
How small changes drive meaningful results
Researchers Rafee Tarafdar and Jeff Kavanaugh call this type of change a micro-change. The goal is to tweak a certain habit or process that interferes with productivity through small modifications that help you work smarter and more efficiently. Over time, the sum total of these micro-changes will have a lasting, cumulative effect on your performance.
Big changes are both scary and take a lot of time. When you break a change down into attainable, digestible pieces, not only will this make it feel less daunting, but your approach will be more strategic. You can set clear benchmarks to measure progress and improvements. Plus, each milestone, however small, strengthens your confidence and motivation to continue pushing toward the results you want to achieve. And people will feel less threaten by the change.
Some of my small tweaks with a major impact
I know firsthand that small, consistent changes work because I’ve built this approach into my own work routine. Here’s what I do.
When my schedule feels overwhelming or I have a hard time concentrating, I deliberately start with the smallest task on my agenda. The satisfaction of completing this task enhances my focus and elevates my mood. Down the line, this fuels me with momentum to progressively work toward those more intensive, rigorous projects that made me want to procrastinate in the first place 😉
I’ve also changed the way I start my day, namely without emails. Checking my inbox and answering emails while I drank coffee in the morning used to be an automatic part of my routine. When I realized how much time I wasted on this instead of focusing on a much higher priority task, I made a change to restructure the order of my workflow.
Now I start with more urgent, time-sensitive projects that require the bulk of my attention. Once I finish what I need to accomplish, I move on to checking emails. It’s just a small tweak, but it helps boost my morning productivity.
How to build small, consistent change into your workflow
There is no one-size-fits-all equation for how to tackle change. However, there are simple strategies you can test for yourself. Use these ideas to start making small but impactful changes to your productivity.
- Make one small change at a time. Don’t over-do it by trying to make multiple changes. No matter how small, you’ll benefit from staying intentional and focused on just one.
- Give yourself time to make the change. However small, it can still be challenging to implement and ultimately, build into your routine. Know that this change may be gradual and that’s okay.
- Don’t harp on set-backs or mistakes. If you slip up, commit to picking up your new habit the next day and get back into your new flow.
- Get clear on the impact the change will have. When you know why you’re making that change, it will be easier to stick with.
Although it seems a bit counter-intuitive at the beginning that a small tweak can improve your work performance by quite a lot, well, it simply does. I’m here to vouch for it 🙂
Change management in small increments
Small change is the way to shift your productivity once and for all. Use these ideas, strategies and tips to inspire changes in your own life. With a little intention and determination you can adjust your routine and become more productive without overwhelming yourself in the process.
Moreover, by getting out of The Productivity Box once again, you can better support your team. Because all these ideas will be helpful even when managing change at work, not just at the personal level. Your team will perceive the transformation less threatening and embrace it much easier. Furthermore, this will lower resistance to change and expedite its implementation. And, ultimately, that has a big impact on both individual and overall productivity.
Change is good, embrace it in small, consistent steps!