We’re not always perfectly recovered and full of energy. Still, it is possible to enhance and enjoy better work engagement by applying self-management strategies. A recent study found that people are able to craft their jobs on the day-level with self-management strategies. By doing so, they may compensate for low levels of personal resources such as the state of being recovered. You too can apply a strategy called Selective Optimization with Compensation (SOC) in your work.
Start with setting clear goals
Try to set your goals clearly for the day and stick to them. Only commit to a limited number of important goals or tasks. Less is more, when it comes to working with limited personal resources.
If you are unable to pursue certain goals today, consider selecting other important goals or look for new ones that are achievable.
Optimize how you use your energy
Especially with limited resources or poor recovery, it is better to concentrate on few things instead of dividing your energy among many things. Focus on the most important goal, maybe only one for the entire day.
Never work on several goals or tasks at once. Until you succeed, try to keep working on what you have planned. Put every effort into achieving your goal for the day, one task at a time.
Compensate if needed
If things don’t seem to go as well as they usually do, try to find alternative ways to achieve the results you want. Think of what new or unused, internal or external resources you might have that you haven’t yet tapped into?
You can for example look at how others have succeeded in similar tasks. Ask your colleagues for advice and help.
How about a nice and focused to-do list?
A simple to-do list can be a helpful tool for setting clear goals and focusing on priority tasks for the day. You should choose a goal and only list those tasks that take you closer to achieving that goal.
Focusing on one task at a time will help you get things done and not finish the day with several uncompleted tasks. Multitasking may make you look busy, but you shouldn’t waste energy switching between tasks.
The SOC self-management strategy in a nutshell
Choose and prioritize your goals for the day. Adapt them to your situation and available resources.
Focus your time and energy on your chosen goals, one at a time. Keep at it.
Be open and creative in finding alternative solutions or means to compensate for any shortages of personal resources
Evidence for the effectiveness of job crafting on a daily basis
Venz et al. found in their study that the state of being recovered can predict the state of work engagement. They also saw that using SOC for day-level job crafting can have a positive effect on work engagement that day, and that it compensates for poor recovery. They therefore argue that SOC is a particularly important practice on those days when people are not well recovered.
The researchers suggest that employees should be provided with high job control, or autonomy, to be able to apply these kinds of self-management strategies. They also argue that employees should be trained in daily job crafting practices such as selecting tasks that are in line with their current job and energy resources and allocating their available resources in an optimal way.
Venz, L., Pundt, A., & Sonnentag, S. (2018). What matters for work engagement? A diary study on resources and the benefits of selective optimization with compensation for state work engagement. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 39(1), 26–38. https://doi.org/10.1002/job.2207
Baltes, B. B., & Dickson, M. W. (2001). Using Life-Span Models in Industrial-Organizational Psychology: The Theory of Selective Optimization With Compensation. Applied Developmental Science, 5(1), 51–62. https://doi.org/10.1207/S1532480XADS0501_5
Baltes, P. B., Baltes, M. M., Freund, A. M., & Lang, F. (1999). The measurement of selection, optimization, and compensation (SOC) by self report. Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung. https://doi.org/10.13140/rg.2.1.2213.4807
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