How do you start each workday? A cup of coffee? A chat with a colleague? Scanning the headlines? Most of us like to warm up to work with our own little rituals and habits, but according to a small but fascinating new study, there's one method of getting your head in the game each morning that works better than all the rest. 

It's called reattachment, and it was featured recently on the blog of UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, which is focused on the study of positive psychology. The name is a little vague but the practice is dead simple, and according to article author Jessica Lindsey, it can give a big boost to your engagement and productivity all day. 

You detach from work at night. Do you reattach in the morning? 

Thinking about work 24/7 and burnout is an inevitability, which is why most of us actively try to disconnect from the office at some stage in the evening. The trouble, according to this new research recently published in the Journal of Management, is that we're less conscious of the need to reattach in the morning. We just wander into the office and eventually start chipping away at our to-do lists. 

That's a mistake, according to the new study, which surveyed 151 professionals about their daily routines and feelings about work. By analyzing the responses, the researchers discovered that those who consciously took a few minutes to mentally reattach to their work by reflecting on their goals and priorities experienced "a cascade of positive experiences during the day." 

"Taking time to reattach to work helps our work goals to become more salient, which energizes us to focus. When we consider how to achieve our goals, we become more aware of our autonomy to accomplish them, as well as the resources and people we have supporting us. All of these factors contribute to feeling more inspired and engaged at work--which, other research suggests, is important for productivity," explains Lindsey. 

Three questions to reattach to work 

In short, brief reflection in the morning means you'll get more done with less stress all day. That seems like a bold claim for such a quick and easy intervention, but other studies have suggested much the same thing. 

For instance, one that used text messages to prompt commuters to reflect on the day ahead on their way in to work found that this simple intervention made them more satisfied with their jobs and less emotionally exhausted. Other researchers suggest that an analogous ritual to disconnect from work on the other end can also offer profound benefits. 

If the science has convinced you of the benefits of both consciously detaching and then reattaching to work each day, you're probably asking an important question: What does that look like in practice? Helpfully, Lindsey offers a list of three simple questions you can use to get your mind back in the game each morning and set yourself up for your most productive day possible: 

  1. Why does the work I do matter to me? How does my work impact the lives of others? "Reflecting on your answers to these questions allows you to become more in touch with your work goals and the motivating sense of purpose that you derive from work," notes Lindsey. Don't stress if you initially draw a blank. Research shows that creative reflection can transform almost any job into a meaningful way to help others. 

  2. Who are the people--both at work and in my personal life--who support me and my professional success? This isolation-busting question should be more straightforward for most of us to answer, even if sometimes in the thick of the workday we forget we're not alone with our problems. 

  3. What would I like to focus on today? Again, this is obvious enough, yet many of us skip this essential step in the morning. Reflecting on your goals may cause "stress or apathy" at first, Lindsey warns, but acknowledging our emotional blocks is a healthy part of the reattachment process. Break through them by "trying to visualize yourself doing this task in a calm, focused, and productive way," she recommends. 

You're unlikely to find an easier and more impactful idea to add to your morning routine. So why not give consciously reattaching to work a try for a few days and see how it goes? Or if you're a manager, consider suggesting reattachment to your team and offering them guidance and time to set themselves up for success with the practice. 

Engaged employees are "more satisfied with work, more committed to work, enjoy work tasks more, perform better and help out more with extra tasks," study co-author Charlotte Fritz comments. "Organizations need employees who are highly engaged, and reattachment is key."

Published on: Sep 10, 2019
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