Fun Theory – or How to Trick Yourself into Better Habits

Thanks to the pandemic, I developed an exercise habit. I cycle most days. The reason I go out is as much for my soul as it is for my body. Rain or shine, every day nature has new surprises in store for me and I arrive home re-energised. Balance is the key to a happy life, I find, although it doesn’t come naturally to me, I have to work hard at it. However, it is important. So, in today’s blog I share my thoughts on how to introduce balance into your activities to improve performance, communication and job satisfaction. In addition, an interesting report on a poster presentation at MASC regarding Medical Information use by patients and caregivers.

Today’s topics:

– Fun theory – or how to trick yourself into better habits
– The art of communication – silence is active
– Knowing when it’s time to change jobs
– The value and impact of medical information acquired by patients and caregivers

Fun Theory – or How to Trick Yourself Into Better Habits

There is an initiative, supported by Volkswagen, called the Fun Theory. The idea is simple: people are most likely to change their behaviour for the better if something is fun. The Fun Factory team transformed stairs located next to escalators at Swedish metro station Odenplan into a functioning piano to see if, by making stair climbing entertaining, more people would be tempted to take the stairs. The idea worked. Once the stairs were musical, 66% more people than before chose to use them.

This example may not obviously translate to the working world, but I have a personal example that does. As a medical student I worked for a Medical Diagnostic Imaging Centre. I was paid by the hour to type up medical reports. I quickly got bored. To challenge myself, I started timing my performance. Every hour I would see if I could beat my previous best total. By turning the job into a game it was suddenly much more fun. I concede that my approach of turning the job into a competition with myself won’t work for everyone, but if you can find a way to make your challenge, at work or at home, more rewarding for you and your team, the rewards can be immense. When we have a task that is hard to do in some way, the temptation to do it fast is always there. But when things are fun, like going biking to observe nature, typing faster to hit a target or jumping up and down on stairs to make music, it’s easy to perform consistently, and time spent doing these things well doesn’t feel like a chore. And with consistency comes great progress.

The Art of Communication – Silence is Active

We value silence for introspection, when we meditate and when we pray, but we rarely think of silence in the context of communication. I’ve had some wonderful conversations on silence in communication recently and am sharing insights that I believe have great value.

At a party, a friend was dispensing dating advice. Her key recommendation: “Don’t talk about yourself too much.” She shared her approach as a younger woman: “When on dates, I wanted to know all about them. There was nothing new I could learn from listening to me. And it wasn’t a job interview, I just wanted to find out everything I could so I could decide if I wanted to see the person again.” In another conversation, a fellow coach said to me, “It is always interesting to see what happens in silence,” referring to his experience with a very loquacious individual who suddenly fell silent during a session. He told me that he held the silence as a tool, enabling his coachee to experience the power of being in a coaching interaction in silence, despite the temptation to ask a follow-up question. Another friend said to me: “Silence is active.” During a training course on intercultural communication I remember a US team colleague saying, “When there is silence, I like to jump in, so that all the time is being used efficiently.” However, the point my friend was making was this: that silence is not a passive state at all. In silence we process, try out new ideas, read a room. We communicate in different ways. In a group setting, when silence is not possible, I believe innovation is at risk.

So in your next meeting consider using silence to learn more about the person you are talking to, to let a mentee find their voice or to give a group space to create new ideas.

Knowing When it’s Time to Change Jobs

Many years ago, I was invited to dinner by a friend who works in HR. She is enthusiastic, engaged and cares deeply about her role and the individuals she works with and whose development she supports. Her passion is palpable in everything she says. Her guests were also all predominantly HR experts. HR, not being an area where I have much practical knowledge, I cast around for a good conversation topic. I recalled another friend of mine who also works in HR who told me how hard it was for her to make employees redundant during recurring reorganisations. I remembered how it felt when I experienced a reorganisation: my simultaneous feelings of relief but also guilt, that I still had a job, while others didn’t. I was certain I had found a good topic for a longer chat. I said to the HR expert sitting next to me: “I cannot imagine working in HR, I imagine it is full of challenging moments, when you have to make someone redundant, for example?” Her response ended the conversation abruptly and has stayed with me for years. She replied: “You know, you might be surprised how many of us just don’t care.” I remember when I was a doctor how sometimes I was so exhausted that I also found it hard to care as much as I felt I should have. Perhaps, this is what she meant: she was too exhausted to care. I hope so. However, whatever the reason, when you get to the point that you don’t care anymore about your job and you have lost sight of what it is that attracted you to it in the first place, it’s time for something new.

The Value and Impact of Medical Information Acquired by Patients and Caregivers

A poster presented at MASC 2022 by first author Rena Rai PharmD, Medical Information and Executive Leadership Fellow at phactMI (last author Evelyn R. Hermes DeSantis) focused on the value and impact of Medical Information acquired by patients and caregivers. 1000 non-healthcare professionals who had searched for medical information in the previous 12 months were surveyed by an independent market research organisation. Participants included 680 patients (68%), 225 (23%) caregivers and 95 (10%) who identified as both patients and caregivers. Age groups: 55% of patients were 60 years or older, 15% of caregivers were 60 or older and 28% of patients/caregivers were 60 years or older. The survey assessed what resources were used to find medical information, including company websites, professional websites, patient leaflets and online search engines, etc. In addition, the survey captured search behaviour including number of searches and when searches were performed. Searches were more frequent just prior to receiving a prescription compared to other timepoints, younger individuals were more likely to search out information and the caregiver and caregiver/patient group reported higher frequencies of searching compared to patients. Resource value and resource trustworthiness were also assessed as well as how the information that the individuals found was used. In the discussion the authors noted that over 50% of patients and caregivers rated the sources they used to access information (including HCP, med websites, pharma company websites etc.) as having extreme or good value and trust. The information that was acquired was used most frequently for HCP discussions and supported confidence in healthcare decision-making. The authors concluded that by understanding how resources are used and to what end, medical information providers can develop higher value resources to better meet the needs of patients, patient/caregiver and caregivers.

I hope, as ever, that my blog provides you with some useful insights. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. And of course, if you have a challenging project or would like to discuss coaching to help you achieve that next level, do reach out and we can arrange to chat.

Very best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer