How to be happier at work (and in life!)
It’s Monday morning and your alarm just went off. If you’re like most people, it only takes a few moments for your mind to start reviewing your to do list for the day ahead. Here are a few items on my list along with the feelings that came up as I thought about doing each of them:
- present a pitch for an interesting speaking opportunity (excited)
- participate in a strategy call with colleagues who like to collaborate (energized)
- interview a potential new team member to fill a needed skill gap (optimistic)
- update business plan and budget (dutiful – it’s important, but truthfully? not my favorite job)
Overall, I love what I do. But I didn’t always feel this way. My first job was in finance – definitely not the ideal fit for this English major. My boss was a bully and I spent my days (and often my nights) crunching numbers, worrying about their accuracy and constantly hustling to meet tight deadlines. I felt stressed out, overwhelmed and unhappy.
Sadly, a lot of people feel this way. According to a recent Gallup study (State of the American Workplace, 2017), two out of three American workers don’t like their jobs:
“51% of employees are not engaged — they’re just there… 16% of employees are actively disengaged — they are miserable in the workplace and destroy what the most engaged employees build.”
How about you – are you excited and energized about how you’re spending your day? I hope you’re part of the 33% and love what you do. But if you find yourself rationalizing that you should settle for what you have, or telling yourself you’re too busy to proactively design your career path or feeling stuck in a toxic situation, these are signs it’s time to change things up.
The first step to achieving greater satisfaction from your work – and life – is to increase your awareness of where you are right now. Here’s a simple (but revealing) exercise that can help you pinpoint areas where making some changes can significantly increase your happiness.
- Track: Record how you’re spending your time each day for a week (even 3-4 days will give you some helpful insights). Be sure to note how you feel when you’re doing each activity. And keep it simple – use your calendar, a journal, your phone – whatever is easiest for you.
- Reflect: At the end of the day (or first thing in the morning if you’re an early bird like me), review your activity log. Highlight the areas where you felt most engaged, challenged and excited. What do your results look like – any surprises?
- Act: Now that you have more clarity on what lights you up, your challenge is to add more of it to your day. When I identified speaking as a focus area, I talked with my boss, offered to do an internal training and raised my hand to speak at industry conferences. Over time, this became a bigger part of my job, expanded my career opportunities and led me to start my own business.
If you discovered that you’re spending the majority of your time doing things you don’t like to do, it’s time to ask yourself why. You have skills, talents and a “secret sauce” that will make you a standout in the right environment. So don’t settle. You deserve more.