Sunday, March 1, 2020

You Are Not A Dog, Do Not Reward Yourself With Food

Earlier this week, I posted that quote on Facebook - to the confusion and consternation of many.

Some people got it, some didn't, some thought they did but actually didn't.

To be fair, the line is rather cryptic, vague and open to many interpretations.

I came across it on Quora, when someone (named) quoted someone else (unnamed) quoting it. Sorry, it's not that I wish to steal ownership, but I really don't know who to attribute to quote to!

So what the hell does the quote actually mean?!?

The perfect lunch break

* * *

"You are not a dog. Do not reward yourself with food."

The original anonymous quoter (hello, spell check? how can this not be an actual word? well, IT NOW IS!) was a health and wellness guru. So the quoter was intending the quote to be a health advice - that we shouldn't binge on food as a reward because that would lead to obesity and early death.

That's as good advice as any. Which everyone should subscribe to. Don't overeat!

For me, I see another angle to the quote - productivity.

I happen to know of many people - including close family and friends - who are foodies. They absolutely love food. They eat to live, not live to eat.

Whatever. Their body, their choice, their life.

But when it comes to work, I strongly object to food being a source of motivation.

Now, I'm not talking about monthly team lunches or bosses treating us to a nice dinner after a long week of work. Major celebrations are fine. Go wild, go crazy!

Instead, what I'm referring to is our personal habit of fixing a 'good meal' as a milestone goal.

* * *

Let's pick a simple and common example: long lunches

A lot of my former colleagues enjoy taking long lunches. Not every day, but 2-3 times per week.

I absolutely do not see any sense in such indulgence.

Lunch is right in the middle of your work day (or one-third, counting night, for some of us). Unless you're going to be work-free for the rest of the day (or chilling off at some semi-work function, like a conference), there is no reason to have such a long break.

This is purely anecdotal, but here's my observation on long-lunchers (yes, another word I just made):
  • They are restless
  • They are easily stressed
  • They frequently take breaks to chat, snack, etc
  • They struggle to meet deadlines
  • They work overtime, and then bitch about their workload, colleagues and bosses (while being oblivious to the simple fact that they would have been able to finish their work and leave early had they not taken breaks and LONG LUNCHES!)

To be fair, they are probably aware of their shortcomings, and are genuinely attempting to overcome them with all sorts of 'fixes' (including long lunches).

But here's why ascribing 'long lunches' as a reward do not work:
  • It's distracting - the image of your favourite meal keeps forming at the forefront of your mind, and your eyes just keeps staring at the clock and willing it to tick faster (not to mention the intricate planning involved - messaging your friends to discuss on options, seek reviews, vote, etc.) 
  • It disrupts your work flow - our minds do not have a 'on/off' button, and even computers take time shutting down and turning on
  • It trips you up into making mistakes - you're rushing against an arbitrary timer set by your stomach, instead of working within the capacity of your brain
  • It will upset you greatly if you actually miss it - maybe some last-minute work came in, or maybe you couldn't finish your work because you were distracted (see point 1)
  • It makes you slack off thereafter - lunch was OHMAIGAWD SO GOOODDD... I CAN"T MOOOVVVEEE.... CAN'T THINKKK... CAN'T WOORRRKKK...
Who are the foodies? (no prizes for guessing)

* * *

So what should be best reward for completing your work?

Go home early and spend time with the kids.

Get on to the next task so that you can finish off all urgent work by Friday to free your weekends.

Ask for more work so that you can exceed your target and get a higher bonus.

Having a good meal - like long lunches - is just a cheap reward. It's a temporal kick. It's an unhealthy addiction, like taking a smoke.

And above all, eating makes you fat... and UGLY!

So next time you think about rewarding yourself with food for a job well done - please DON'T!

You are a human. You have self-control. You can motivate yourself through sheer willpower ALONE.

Eat to eat, work to work. Don't mix work with food, don't mix food with work.

Once again, repeat after me:


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