Here are a few examples.
Responding to an emotionally charged email
We all get them. An email from someone that elicits an immediate negative emotional response. Your reading of the message makes you feel under attack and defensive. Your natural response is to fire back a similar message defending your position and pointing out how the other person is wrong.
In almost every situation, writing and sending your emotionally motivated email will not only NOT help, but also make the situation worse.
Instead, draft your response to allow yourself to vent. The emphasis here is on DRAFT. Do not send it. Wait a day or so to allow your initial feelings to subside and read your draft. Measure your draft against your goals and the role your relationship with the sender plays in accomplishing your goals. Edit your response accordingly. If after two or three emails, the issue isn't resolved, it may be time to invite the person for a face to face meeting.
Checking messages late in the evening
One habit with which I struggle is checking messages late in the evening. I have never received a message later in the day that I could effectively address before going to bed. On the other hand, I have read plenty of messages (either good news or bad) that have kept me most of the night. The result: lack of sleep and diminished ability to focus the next day - when I actually need to address the message!
Sure, technology makes staying communication easier and we are essentially connected 24/7. However, that doesn't mean you need to be immediately available and "on" 24/7. There is tremendous value in "unplugging" and taking time for yourself and your family. If it is an emergency, someone will call you. Emails are rarely, if ever, true emergencies.
Finishing a project for the sake of finishing it
Establishing your minimum level of satisfaction is a piece of advice I often give. This means that with any work you do, establish your personal minimum acceptable standard for satisfaction for that project - and hold yourself to that standard. Following this path helps build independence, responsibility, and ownership. You may be tempted to "set the bar" low, but remember that in a connected society your work is most valuable when you are able to share it for the benefit of others. Poor quality that is accepted because you simply want to move will get poor feedback. This can either be in the form of grades on a test or comments by customers. Either way, a connected world values those who have quality to share.
If you cannot put in the effort today to meet your standard of satisfaction, it is probably better to wait until tomorrow. Of course, this does not exempt you from meeting deadlines. Part of your acceptable level of satisfaction needs to include proper planning and time management. My advice is, when given a task, knowing when and where you are going to do it is as important as knowing how. Having all three of those pieces in place provides a great foundation to get quality work done on time.
Having a goal is only part of the equation. You also need to take action. Depending on what you are ultimately trying to accomplish, the best action today may be to take no action at all.
A version of this article was originally published on The Thrivapy Blog on May 2, 2013.