Performance Blog

How Do Experts See What The Rest Of Us Miss?

Posted by in Performance Blog | October 20, 2016

Warren-BuffettIt was 1988 and like many people, Warren Buffet read about the collapse of the Soviet Union in the newspapers. And he saw something most people missed.  He saw opportunity.  More specifically, he saw a new market for American products.  He knew an iconic American product that had been stagnant for years because it had saturated all its’ currently available markets.  So Warren Buffet began buying Coca-Cola stock.   Shortly thereafter, Coke began opening bottling plants all over Russia. Within 10 years, Coke’s stock tripled in value.  Why didn’t the rest of us see what Warren Buffet saw?

In a recent study, we found startling differences between how experts and novices see during observations.  We found a distinct difference between expert and novice perceptual attention to details in matters of selection and relevance.  The study required expert and novice sports coaches to observe normal sports activities and then recall the events and environmental cues they observed.

Interestingly, there was no significant difference between the number of cues observed.  In other words, experts and novices not only saw the same thing, they drew the same amount of information from their observations.  Warren Buffet read the same newspapers everyone else did, he just interpreted what he read differently—as did the coaches in our study.  Here were the differences:

What NOVICES see:

1.  random and descriptive features that are obvious and recognizable with no interpretation as to their significance or importance.

2.  current activities with no attempt to connect them to past or future events.

What EXPERTS see:

1.  factors that will determine the results or the quality of the outcome.

2. cues that can be manipulated or changed to improve the performance or determine the final result.

3. patterns and sequences of events that allow them to understand the past, assess the present and predict the future.

It isn’t that the experts see only the important cues, but rather they attend only to the relevant cues in their observations. They focus tightly on those cues to recognize patterns that allow them to understand what actions to take in the present that will give the greatest chance to be successful in the future.

4 Strategies That Build Confidence

Posted by in Performance Blog | October 12, 2016

confidenceFound in the chemistry of great achievements is confidence.  Believing you can do it bolsters your ability to get it done. Is it possible to accomplish something remarkable with little or no confidence? Yes. Luck sometimes accounts for success, and at times we find ourselves succeeding despite harboring deep doubts. But in the main, our chances for success in business, sport or life are significantly amplified when we carry confidence into the challenge.

Research consistently finds that superior skills can be negated by a lack of confidence.  Even the most highly skilled perform poorly in circumstances that erode their belief in themselves (Bandura & Jourden, 1991).  In the words of Olympian Carl Lewis, “If you don’t have confidence, you will always find a way not to win.”

It was discovered long ago that athletes who did not perform to expectations in the Olympic Games most often attributed their underperformance, not to a lack of ability, skill or training, but rather a lack of confidence (Orlick & Partington,1988).

In my work with elite coaches and athletes, I’m often asked about confidence–specifically, ‘if I’m not feeling it, how do I get it?’  Research with world-class athletes by Kate Hays and her colleagues (2007) offers some powerful insights. They discovered that elite athletes built confidence using four primary strategies. These tactics could be used by anyone in need of a little confidence to reach an important goal.  In order of importance, they found champions found confidence from:

1.  Preparation.  Both mental and physical preparation were identified as being a prerequisite for feeling confident going into and during competitive performances.  There is no substitute for ‘feeling ready’ when it comes to instilling confidence.

2.  Previous Achievements.  If you experienced previous success in a task or event, it provides clear evidence that you can be successful.  While having ‘done it’ in a competitive context was the strongest provider of confidence, repeatedly accomplishing the task in training environments also proves you can do it.

3.  Coaching.
 Believing your coach has designed and implemented an appropriate training program provides the confidence that you are ready to be successful.  Additionally, if your coach treats you like a champion, you feel like a champion.  If an experienced, knowledgeable coach believes you are able and ready, you believe you are able and ready to execute like a champion.   

4.  Social Support. Feelings of being unconditionally accepted lessen the pressure that your identity and well-being are directly tied to your level of success.  Having family, friends and colleagues believing in you instills confidence.

To a lesser degree, the research found physical and mental characteristics, experience, and perceptions of weakness in opponents as sources of confidence.  The point is, confidence can be found, nurtured, and exercised to one’s advantage in challenging and competitive environments–if you know where to find it.


Bandura, A., & Jourden, F. J. (1991). Self-regulatory mechanisms governing the impact of social comparison on complex decision making. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology60(6), 941-951.

Hays, K., Maynard, I., Thomas, O., & Bawden, M. (2007). Sources and Types of Confidence Identified by World Class Sport Performers.Journal Of Applied Sport Psychology19(4), 434-456.

Orlick, T., & Partington, J. (1988). Mental Links to Excellence. Sport Psychologist2(2), 105-130.

The Progress Principle: How Leaders Can Maximize Productivity, Happiness and Achievement

Posted by in Performance Blog | October 5, 2016

winning_team23In a study conducted by a Harvard University research group, 26 project teams from seven companies comprising 238 individuals participated. The four-month long projects all involved solving actual business problems and required creativity. A daily survey inquired about participants’ emotions and moods, motivation levels, and perceptions of the work environment that day, as well as what work they did and what events stood out in their minds. This yielded nearly 12,000 diary entries.

From an extensive analysis of diaries kept by the participants, the progress principle was discovered: Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. Further, the more often people experienced meaningful progress, the greater the creativity and productivity. A deeper feeling of accomplishment, satisfaction, happiness, and even elation were reported by those experiencing meaningful progress. These team members were motivated by a greater interest in and enjoyment of the work itself. They also perceived their work as a positive challenge, saw their team as mutually supportive, and reported more positive interactions between the teams and their supervisors.

The researchers were also able to determine what leaders did, and did not do, that contributed to team members’ feelings of making meaningful work progress.

1.  Served as Catalysis:  Leaders of teams experiencing progress, and consequently greater productivity and creativity, directly supported team members’ efforts. This included setting clear goals, allowing autonomy, providing sufficient resources and time, helping with the work, openly learning from problems and successes, and allowing a free exchange of ideas.

2.  Were Nourishers.  These leaders continually showed respect and offered words of encouragement. They provide interpersonal support, individual and team recognition, emotional comfort, and opportunities for team bonding. These leaders helped team members see the contribution their efforts made to themselves individually, the team and the organization.

3.  Did not Inhibit progressThey avoided actions that failed to support or actively hindered the team’s work.  They did not hold back available resources, micro-manage, or neglect the opportunity to help.

4.  Were not Toxic. Leaders of teams sensing progress seldom, if ever, discouraged team members or undermined team activities. Toxins include disrespect, discouragement, disregard for emotions, and interpersonal conflict.

If you, as a leader, facilitate team members’ continual progress in meaningful work, recognize their progress, and treat them with respect, they will experience the emotions, motivations, and perceptions necessary for great achievements.


Amabile, T. M., & Kramer, S. J. (2011). The Power Of Small Wins. Harvard Business Review89(5), 70-80.


A Look Into the Heart of a Champion

Posted by in Performance Blog | September 26, 2016

Mike PodiumIf you bumped into Mike Wien, you just might knock him over.  Standing at 5 foot 6 and weighing in at 139 pounds he does not command an imposing presence, and you are not likely to guess he is a world-class athlete.  His soft voice, Brooks Brothers fashion sense and large glasses do little to counter his diminutive appearance.  But physical appearance is the only thing diminutive about Mike.  For you see, Mike Wien is the modern-day Clark Kent.  As of a week ago, Mike is the reigning International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Champion in the Olympic Distance in his age group.  He is Superman.

I’ve known Mike for a few years now and feel honored to call him a close friend.  He and I have even competed in triathlon’s together (in the last one, Mike finished so far ahead of me, he actually came back to cheer me on as I struggled to just finish.  Shortly before Mike stepped up onto the podium to receive his winner’s medal he said to me with deep concern “You don’t look so good.”  I didn’t feel so good.  Mike looked just fine).  But that was in a very rural area of north Georgia.  Last week, Mike was in Cozumel, Mexico.  And he wasn’t competing against weekend warriors.  He was competing against the best triathletes in the world.  His account shortly after finishing the race and claiming a gold medal gives us a peek into the heart of a true champion.

“Today was a big day for me at the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championship in Cozumel, Mexico in the Olympic Distance event. After the ocean swim and the 40K bike, I was in 6th place to start the 10K run on a very hot, humid and sunny day. A real frog fryer – my kind of day. I caught up to Kim Munro racing for New Zealand and he gave me the first hint that I was a contender for the podium. Then I passed Team USA teammate, John Towart who was the first in our age group out of the swim and knew the whole field ahead of us. He told me that Iba of Japan and Martinez of Mexico were the only two competitors ahead of me and encouraged me to go get them. I passed Iba at the halfway mark of the run. I passed Martinez with just ½ mile to go in the race.

I won a Gold Medal for Team USA. And Barry Siff, friend, fellow USA Triathlon board member (and president), Timex Team Mate and ITU board member was on the stage to present me with the World Champion Trophy and Gold Medal.
A few observations: First, I had a perfect day with a strong swim, great bike, and an inspired run. The great thing about this sport is that my run was inspired by two of my competitors during the race. Thank you, John and Kim. Second, I was competitive on the bike because my coach Joe Bachana helped me become competitive. Third, my middle son Andrew moved to Boulder this year to start a new business that works with technology companies to help make their millennial workforces more productive by improving employee engagement and mindfulness (or focus.) I asked Andrew if the same mindfulness principles that help millennials focus could be applied to sports. The techniques he taught me helped me stay focused on the race today and avoided the inevitable mind wandering. Special thanks to my family, Timex teammates, the TriGeeks, and all my training buddies for encouraging me to accomplish a dream that most guys who ever played right field could not even imagine.”

If you asked Clark Kent how he turns into Superman he would tell you, as did Mike, that the people who believe in him have a great deal to do with it.  Congratulations Mike, and all the best to you in the Ironman World Championships next week in Kona, Hawaii.

A Master Mentor’s Most Important Function

Posted by in Performance Blog | September 14, 2016


Mentors can have a sizeable, powerful, and long-term impact on our lives. Their influence is often the difference between a career of failure and frustration or one of success and satisfaction. To pay tribute to the significance of mentors in developing future professionals, this blog has presented a 3-part series titled “In Search of a Master Mentor.” The first part identified the characteristics of master mentors and the second described how master mentors advance their protégés’ careers This week’s blog describes the most significant function master mentors perform.

It is often said that ‘people will forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.’ This popular belief was recently confirmed in a study we conducted on mentoring (Schempp, et al., 2016). The research revealed that in effective mentoring relationships what protégés most valued was the social and emotional support their mentors provided. The career support of mentors was important, but the psychosocial mentoring function was more important to protégés. Master mentors undertake five roles to provide protégés with much needed and appreciated psychosocial support.

1. Friend exemplifies the social interactions meant to increase the feeling of protégé-as-peer with their mentor. These interactions enhance experiences at work as mutual affection and understanding develop during informal exchanges regarding work and non-work related events.

2.  Role Model represents the mentor modeling the values, attitudes, and behaviors necessary to be successful in the profession or organization. Being a role model has motivational and inspirational effects as it encourages protégés to work toward specific professional standards, goals and outcomes.

3. Counselor is played when the mentor offers help with personal problems such as anxieties and fears that may impact protégés’ productivity at work. The mentor uses active listening, shares his or her experience to provide alternative perspectives, or serves as a sounding board to help the mentee analyze problems and discover solutions.

4. Acceptor transpires when the mentor’s acceptance and confirmation support the protégé’s development of competence and increased performance in professional activities. This can occur in discussions of new ideas and goals, or the protégé’s demonstration of proficient skills and knowledge during work experiences.

5. Guardian is the role played when the mentor shields their protégé from the struggles, risks, and problems in the life of the organization.

A master mentor teaches what we need to know and do to find success and satisfaction in a profession. They help us negotiate the tricky path to organizational success by providing insights that reduce our learning curve and increase the distances we reach in our personal and occupational journeys. And all the while, they provide that all-important source of trust, respect, and support needed to get over the inevitable bumps encountered along the way. It is my hope that this series helps you find the master mentor who will help you gain success in what you most aspire to achieve. And if you are a mentor, I hope these essays help you make the difference in someone’s life as you give them the benefit of your experience, wisdom, and care.


Schempp, P., Elliott, J., McCullick, B., LaPlaca, D., & Berger, B. (2016). Mentors’ roles in basketball coaching, International Journal of Sport Psychology. 47: 1-15 doi:   10.7352/IJSP 2016.47.0

How Master Mentors Boost Your Career

Posted by in Performance Blog | September 8, 2016

business-meeting_mentorWithout guidance, navigating a career can be a perilous journey.  Uninformed actions, futile efforts, disastrous decisions, and as many errors as trials can all derail a once promising career. With careful guidance, informed advice, and genuine concern, a mentor not only keeps a career on track but helps advance it far beyond a protégé’s original expectations.  So important is mentoring to professional success, the topic is being covered in this blog in a 3-part serious titled “In Search of a Master Mentor.”  The first part was published last week and identified the characteristics of a master mentor This week is the second installment and identifies the specific roles a master mentor undertakes to help their protégé’s successfully navigate the treacherous obstacles and guide them to career success and satisfaction.

To encourage and promote a protégé’s organizational acclimatization and upward mobility, a master mentor selects from a palette of possible actions. While each mentoring relationship is unique, that uniqueness can consequently determine the type and range of roles assumed and functions performed by the master mentor.

There are five roles master mentors assume that boost their protégés’ career.

1.  Patron When a mentor plays this role, they publicly support or back their protégé in important events or circumstances. They may, for example, nominate their protégé for advantageous positions or promotions in conversations with their peers or in meetings with other members of the organization.  

2. Coach In this role, the mentor offers specific information, tactics and support targeted toward promoting the protégés’ career goals. They offer their protégé knowledge, understanding and the benefit of their experience on how to navigate in the organization.

3.  Protector As newbies, a protégé may inadvertently commit a mistake that can potentially damage their reputation or career.  In playing the Protector role, a master mentor will use their professional standing with influential members of the organization to accept part or all of the responsibility for the misdeed. In other situations, the mentor may offer plausible explanations and seek a second chance for their protégé.

4.  Challenger With their experience and wisdom, master mentors can see demanding responsibilities ahead for their protégé.  In order to prepare the protégé for these eventualities, the mentor provides technical training, challenging assignments and performance feedback intended to develop the protégés’ experience and knowledge so that they may perform well when taking difficult assignments later in his or her career. These challenges are also designed to enhance the protégé’s sense of professional accomplishment.

5. Opportunity Creator To advance in a profession, we need opportunities to prove ourselves.  Sometimes those opportunities do not come along.  A master mentor sees that they do by creating opportunities for the protégé to demonstrate their competence and potential.  A common strategy of the master mentor is to arrange assignments that require the protégé to work alongside and communicate with high-ranking members of the organization.

Under the guidance of a master mentor, we can learn what tasks are important and unimportant in a profession or organization, develop the skills and gain the knowledge necessary to complete those tasks, and receive the recognition and reward that accompanies the successful completion of those prized tasks.  Next week the final section of this series will highlight the most cherished and important function of the master mentor.

In Search of a Master Mentor

Posted by in Performance Blog | September 1, 2016

mentoringResearch finds that having a mentor increases your career opportunities, salary, promotion schedule, and job satisfaction (Allen, et al., 2004).  Organizations are also discovering that mentoring is the most effective organizational strategy for developing new members in a profession.  With a wealth of benefits, how does one find a good mentor?  Given the importance of this topic, this blog will be the first in a three-part series “In Search of a Master Mentor.”  In the first part, we shall explore the qualities one should look for in selecting a mentor.

In searching for a master mentor, the characteristics listed below should help you understand the attitudes and attributes of a mentor who will best serve you.  Because each of us is unique, no one will possess all of these qualities. As a mentee, you must realize that your mentor cannot be all things to you as they will have both strengths and limitations in terms of the qualities they bring to the mentoring relationship.  But these qualities should serve as effective guideposts for identifying your master mentor.

Optimistic. A master mentor has a positive outlook on the future. They believe there is an exciting, satisfying, and rewarding future ahead in your chosen profession and they believe you can be a part of that future if you are willing to invest the time and effort to learn the requisite skills and knowledge the profession demands.

Role Model.  Consistently exhibiting the personal attributes it takes to be successful in the professional field is a key characteristic of a master mentor. Modeling the behaviors, values, and mindset of a successful professional is a powerful and irreplaceable source of practical knowledge. You want to be mentored by someone who is highly respected by their colleagues and co-workers and whose contributions and accomplishments are recognized.  For you to be successful, it is helpful to model success.

Curious, Open-Minded and Growth-Oriented.  Usually, mentors are senior leaders in their organizations and thus are in a position to understand how a field or industry is in a continual state of growth and change.  Even after many years of experience, the master mentor understands there is still much to learn. They are acutely aware that what worked a decade ago may not be optimal today, and what works today may not work in the future. A master mentor sets the example by continually learning new skills, identifying timely trends and exploring fresh ideas.

Approachable and Available.  Your mentor must be someone you feel comfortable approaching for advice or consultation.  Because your mentor is likely an established leader, their time will be limited and precious.  While you need to be sensitive to their time commitments, you must ensure that your mentor has time available to commit to you and your development.

Honest, Fair and Respectful.  A master mentor will dispense with fruitless formalities in favor of an open, even lively dialogue–a give-and-take–and won’t beat around the bush in offering you constructive feedback–good and bad. While remaining respectful of you, they will tell you what you need to hear rather than what you might want to hear.

Supportive.  A master mentor will have your best interests at heart and recognize that a mentoring relationship is about your development and not their legacy.  Consequently, they will be supportive of your goals, beliefs, and actions.  They will be an advocate for your growth.

Vision.  A master mentor understands career trajectories and has the ability to change your view of long-term career goals.  They can explain why it is important to pursue certain courses of action and avoid others in such a way that you can see how it will benefit your future.

Trustworthy.  Mentors are invaluable to both our professional and personal lives. They inspire us to take chances, which is why trust is a most important quality for a master mentor. Building trust is crucial as it creates a safe space for you to fail, discuss challenges, and receive critical, but necessary, feedback.

Challenge your opinions. A master mentor will challenge you to do and see things differently. Success is defined by the ability to constantly evolve and tackle new challenges. A master mentor will recognize the mental and emotional barriers holding you back and challenge you to rethink your debilitating beliefs.

As you seek to find a master mentor or mentors, use these characteristics to find a mentor best suited for you.  If you are mentoring someone else, perhaps adopting or adapting these characteristics will increase your mentoring effectiveness.  In next week’s blog, we will identify the career support strategies used by master mentors.


Allen, T., Eby, L., Poteet, M., Lentz, E., & Lima, L. (2004). Career Benefits Associated With Mentoring for Protégés: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(1), 127-136.

How Stress Leads to Bad Decisions—and What to Do About It

Posted by in Performance Blog | August 26, 2016

decision stress 2Firefighters, airline pilots, and combat soldiers are traditionally recognized as stress-filled roles.  But people who provide leadership, plan events, or bear a heavy responsibility for important organizational outcomes also fall prey to excessive stress.  According to the America Institute of Stress, 80% of workers today feel stress on the job, and 40% reported that their jobs were very or extremely stressful.  Many of these jobs not only expose workers to stressful situations but then demand they make critical decisions. How well can someone make decisions when under stress?  A recent summary of 26 research studies on this topic (Starcke & Brand, 2016) found a consistent and disturbing finding: stress conditions lead to poor quality, disadvantageous decisions.

Fortunately, the research also identified how the stress-induced factors lead to poor decisions and strategies for combating those factors.

Causes:  just how does stress lead to detrimental decisions?  Four factors play culprit here.

1.  Seeking rewards.  Acute stress increases the reliance on immediate and potentially high rewards at the cost of considering potential losses.  We will most often go for the brass ring when we feel the most pressure to do so. 

2.  Taking risks.  Stress can prompt us to make decisions quickly or reach for the biggest returns.  To achieve either of these goals usually means ignoring potential calamities and taking great risks.  Stress often induces a ‘flight or fight’ mentality.  Taking risks is the ‘fight’ part of that decision-making mentality.

3.  Ambiguity.  In ambiguous situations, differences between options or potential outcomes are unclear. Therefore, logical attempts to weigh options against one another are not possible. Adding stress to unclear options often leads to hurried and unsystematic decisions devoid of careful consideration.

4.  Uncertainty. Some situations requiring a decision offer little information regarding the expected or anticipated outcome. There are situations where it is not possible to know the potential outcomes of a decision. In other situations, we may know the potential outcomes but cannot predict the probabilities that they will actually occur.  Stress piled on uncertainty is a potentially lethal combination when attempting critical decisions.

Cures:  If we know the causes, what are the cures? In other words, what can you do to mitigate the negative impact of stress on your important decisions?  Research finds these three strategies work.

1.  Avoid stress.  Yes, it is obvious and not always possible.  But in situations where reward seeking and subsequent risk taking are disadvantageous, decision makers under stress perform significantly worse than unstressed decision makers.  It is, therefore, advisable to avoid multiple sources of stress or additional stressful situations when dealing with important decisions.  If possible, make important decisions after you’ve made healthy efforts to reduce your stress levels.

2.  Train.  Decision-making skills and stress management can be learned. Special programs have been developed to increase decision-making performance in the presence of stress. If such programs aren’t available, then use personal reflection after making decisions under stress to a) see what you did well, b) what you did that could improve, and c) what you will do next time you are in a similar situation.  It also helps to gain feedback from peers and colleagues.

3.  Weigh options.  Analyzing situations to determine whether it is the risk or the reward that is greater increases decision-making performance under stress. When possible, evaluate potential outcomes and choose options with the most preferred outcome.  Two strategies are a) maximization (choosing the option with the highest winning probability) and b) probability matching (choosing the options proportional to their winning probability).

4.  Be healthy.  Stressful situations often result in dings to one’s health.  Stress can cause a loss of sleep and induce poor eating habits.  It can even lead to one seeking escape mechanisms such as drug or alcohol use.  Adding exhaustion, poor nutrition, and the ill effects of drugs and/or alcohol to work-related stress is a recipe for making disastrous decisions.  Consequently, the strategy here is to maintain a healthy lifestyle, so that you attack your most important decisions rested, refreshed and ready.


America Institute of Stress.

Starcke, K., & Brand, M.  (2016). Effects of stress on decisions under Uncertainty: A meta-analysis.  Psychological Bulletin, 142, 909–933.

The Four Factors Critical to Team Success

Posted by in Performance Blog | August 18, 2016

AATeamHenry Ford believed, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”  In strategizing for ‘success’, leaders often wonder just how to get everyone “moving forward together.”  The results of a research study of elite level teams may hold several solutions for solving this problem (Fransen, et al., 2015).  This research discovered four factors critical to team success.

The first factor is confidence.  Specifically, does the confidence in the team by the individual members influence a successful outcome?  YES, was the finding.  This study confirmed that team members who were more confident in their team’s success exerted more effort, set more challenging goals, were more resilient when facing adversities, and ultimately performed better. The belief that “What you believe you will achieve” received resounding support from this study.

A second factor, and good news for team managers, is team member confidence can change—especially during shifts in competitive action. Because individual team members are the foundation of team confidence, managers should strive to enhance each team member’s confidence in the team in an individualized way. An individual approach is, consequently, likely to be more effective than a motivational speech to the whole group.

Confidence must be rooted in reality is the third factor.  For managers, this suggests you strive for a realistic, but stable team confidence. To do so, focus on the team members’ strengths, preparation, experience and highlight the team’s tactical plans as the reasons for feeling confident. Avoid unrealistic overconfidence, which will reduce the chances of confidence collapses if the team’s performance falls short. Having stable confidence planted in realistic team strengths and preparation will increase team resilience and resolve.

The fourth factor is team members perceived as leaders must believe the team will be successful. These individuals play a key role in enhancing the team’s confidence and preventing downward performance spirals. Member leaders who display confidence are more likely to boost the collective confidence and belief that success is achievable among their teammates. Because key players using their leader status to increase their teammates’ confidence facilitates team success, an important task for managers is to make their team leaders aware of and feel appreciated for their potential and responsibility as team role models.


Fransen, K., Decroos, S., Vanbeselaere, N., Vande Broek, G., De Cuyper, B., Vanroy, J., & Boen, F. (2015). Is team confidence the key to success? The reciprocal relation between collective efficacy, team outcome confidence, and perceptions of team performance during soccer games. Journal Of Sports Sciences33(3), 219-231.

The Benefits of Being Busy

Posted by in Performance Blog | August 11, 2016


“If you want something done, ask a busy person,” is an often heard cliché.  But a recent series of research studies tested the efficacy of this belief. The researchers wondered if busy people do indeed get more done and in less time.

The first two studies revealed that busy people are more motivated than those who are not busy.  Interesting, the motivation level for busy people escalates when they miss a deadline for task completion.  People who are not busy tend to lose motivation to complete a task after a deadline has passed. These studies also discovered that busy people perceive themselves to be using time effectively which increased their efficiency.

The third and fourth studies found, not surprisingly, that busy people complete more tasks than people who are not busy. In using data submitted by thousands of users of a task management software application, the final study determined that busy people take less time to complete a task after missing a completion deadline. It seems being busy mitigates the sense of failure of missing a deadline and, consequently, reduces the time it takes to complete tasks.  Collectively, this line of research proves the old cliché accurate—busy people get things done.

The researchers offered several practical suggestions based on their findings.

1.  Reminding yourself of all the tasks you need to complete will make you more productive. Being aware of how busy you truly makes you feel you are using your time effectively and accomplishing many meaningful tasks.

2.  Do not disengage from tasks you have failed to complete on time because of poor time management. Rather, use it to motivate yourself to complete the task.

3.  Keeping busy is a simple and effective antidote for chronic procrastination and task-completion tardiness.

4.  Increase your feelings of being busy to increase your productivity. For example, breaking larger tasks into a series of smaller tasks will make you feel busier and more productive without actually increasing your workload.

5.  Use a busyness-related mechanism to overcome motivation dips (e.g., list each task to be completed and cross it off when completed).


Wilcox, K., Laran, J., Stephen, A. T., & Zubcsek, P. P. (2016). How being busy can increase motivation and reduce task completion time. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 110(3), 371-384.