Recent research shows that people who describe themselves as high in self control (aka control freaks) tend to experience a lot more stress at work.
They tend to use up all their internal resources at once. In other words they put everything they have into the task they are doing at the moment and when the task takes longer than expected they don’t have anything left over to face the additional challenges.
Dr. Ein-Gar of Tel Aviv University‘s Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration used shopping as a way to measure this effect. He gathered hundreds of volunteers and had them go shopping. He found that those who described themselves as having high self-control were more impulsive in their buying decisions than those who rated themselves as low in self-control. In fact, high self-control people were more likely to make a spontaneous purchase at the checkout counter without even looking at the price tag.
Dr. Ein-Gar conducted surveys of these people afterwards and found that that those who rated themselves as high in self-control “didn’t foresee certain events like having to wait in line. It’s the same in the workplace when the boss hands out a major assignment moments just before quitting time.”
So how can those of us who focus too much on the task at hand avoid burn out? A further experiment by Dr. Ein-Gar gives us a clue.
In this study participants were assigned two tasks. One group was told that they had two tasks, another was not told they would do two tasks. Those who were warned about the second task did better than the group that was given a ‘surprise’ second task.
According to Dr. Ein-Gar this warning put the first group into something he calls “the marathon mindset” which involves starting slow and pacing yourself. You can use this mindset yourself but also if you mange others.
As according to Dr. Ein-Gar, “Our results can be applied across the board from managing a business to making sure we run our personal lives more smoothly.”
So if you’re a manager you can prepare your employees by letting them know that more than likely unexpected challenges will come their way on a project. There will likely be more tasks to do than the ones in the project plan.
“The world may be multi-tasking at a frenetic pace,” Dr. Ein-Gar concludes, “but in thinking like a marathon runner, people with high self-control won’t mind other people passing them. Marathon runners know that the race is long, but the winner is the one who can finish the race at the end with power left over to keep running.”
Link to a summary of the research described above: