Decision making; Discover the six principles of Laborit

Although the term might sound a bit weird to you, Laborit is actually a surname. Henri Laborit was a French biologist, physician and psychologist, author of six principles on human behaviour, which can help you understand things such as why you are more attracted to naps than to work.

Does it seem as obvious as it sounds? Give Mr. Laborit a try, you might be surprised and it might help the management of your time, you will get better at decision making, and you will be more productive with you work.

Although we do not usually think about it, our performance levels may have something to do with the order of our work which is related to decision making. Sometimes, that order may even determine why some important tasks are done late or even left undone. Do you really want that?

Henri Laborit was, almost, a man of the Renaissance. Biologist, military physician, theologian, psychologist and philosopher, was able to do research on such important matters as the experimentation of tranquilizers, artificial hibernation, the study of glial cells or free radicals. We do not know if he had knowledge of DIY and plumbing, but I’m sure he was great at decision making.

In his work on animal behaviour – do remember that we are also animals – Laborit established that vertebrates have three typical behavioural features:

  1. Search. Be it food, a partner, etc.
  2. Reward. When a pleasant sensation is obtained when searching, that behaviour that has provided it is repeated.
  3. Inhibition. On the contrary, if that search leads to an unpleasant result, there is a reaction, either a flight or an aggression.

In his work, Mr. Laborit enunciated a series of principles that determine the order in which we, as human beings, choose to do our tasks and that can be applicable to the working world. Knowing the reasons why we decided to do one or the other may be of great interest to change our habits and achieve greater performance. These are the principles of Laborit:

– We tend to do spontaneously what we like earlier than those things we do not like.

Do we have any doubts about this first principle? Unless you’re a person who is obsessed with cleaning, you’re more likely to choose to take a Mojito next to a pool than disinfect the insides of a nuclear submarine. Do not worry, the following principles will complement this one and will make you understand many more things.

– We tend to do earlier what is easier for us than what is difficult.

This second principle is also quite evident, but we can take advantage of it. Although we have this general tendency to take care of the simple things before anything else, going through the most difficult tasks beforehand can bring us great benefits. First, it can help us to avoid the harmful effects of procrastination; secondly, we can tackle the toughest tasks at those times of day when we are more energised. Even if you are lazy to do it, you’ll probably be better able to do the hardest jobs in the early hours of the morning, so get down to work or else it will be much worse.

Also, keep in mind that if you have a lot of easy tasks to perform – something that is usually very common – some difficult and important jobs could be waiting eternally for you to do them, you shouldn’t delay these jobs any longer…

– We tend to earlier those things that are faster to do than the slow ones.

When having a long work ahead of us, it makes us think long term, which could also mean procrastination. In order to tackle long tasks with more enthusiasm, you can use little tricks like splitting them into smaller subtasks. To help you do so, there are very interesting time management systems, such as the Pomodoro Technique.

– We tend to do earlier what is urgent rather than what is important.

With this principle you have to be very subtle. To begin with, everyone must distinguish between what is urgent and what is important, because on some occasions what was not so important will become so when it becomes urgent. In addition, establishing the levels of urgency and importance of each task will also be a subjective issue, and even debatable if it affects the work of other people. For this, it is good to establish in advance different degrees of importance in the tasks, and set a deadline for carrying them out. This is called planning.

– We tend to do earlier what we already know instead of doing what is new for us.

Although we sometimes get bored, routines are easier to perform than new things (that’s why routines work). Doing a task that we have never done means learning new things, and that always means time and effort. However, we must also see the positive side; doing new tasks is an opportunity to acquire new knowledge, and that can also be very practical and attractive.

– We tend to do earlier what they impose on us rather than those things we choose.

Laborit’s latest principle has a lot to do with emergencies and external pressures. If a client or your boss urges you to do a job, you are likely to feel compelled to get down to business. Should you listen to them? That is your decision, which will depend on some factors such as your capacity for decision making.

Now that you know the principles of Laborit, it would be interesting to reflect on how they may be influencing your decision making. Do you always leave the difficult things for later and that causes you great delays that prevent you from meeting your deadlines? Do you always take care of the fast tasks but it is difficult for you to get to work on the projects in the long term? Do you feel panic when performing tasks that you have never done? Analyse yourself and think about what things you could change to do your job better. And then treat yourself to a nice orange juice with a toast; yes, you will have earned it.

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