A great friend just sent me this wonderful Harvard Business Review post on self-management by Peter Bregman. Wonderful, heartening, and so important. He uses a first grade classroom as a model for positive reinforcement and a supportive self-management practice. Note: Dorit is the name of the first grade teacher in the class he is describing:
Start by noticing your voice in your head. What do you hear when you catch yourself thinking about yourself? Do you sound like Dorit? Or do you sound like that manager you once had that you still hate? Just paying attention will begin to change the way you speak to yourself.
But Bregman further argues that positive management starts from within, and that the tone and language with which we give ourselves feedback (critical or supportive) is just as important as external feedback in terms of how we move forward with our work and how we view ourselves in the larger work context.
I remember once a couple of years ago, I had let a project slip through the cracks. I realized I was behind on it, and my mind started to churn: should I make up an excuse? Should I lie and say I had started the research? Should I just ignore it and pretend it would go away? No. I did none of those things. I brought it up, and said I had let it slip off my plate. I had made (gasp!) a mistake. Everything was fine, nobody was mad. I was so much harder on myself than was necessary, and it didn’t affect the outcome of the project in any way other than to make me nervous and apprehensive, and to delay the project for weeks because I was willfully ignoring it (the way that I did when I “forgot” to read The Incredible Journey until the night before 5th grade started).
Moral of this story: be the kind of boss you want to have to yourself. Support yourself, honor your work, give yourself positive feedback (not just criticism). Try it for a week. This is kind of like cognitive-behavioral therapy for the work place.
Thanks, @waitforandy for the tip!