No more funny cat videos: Long-lasting workday pick me ups.
Both words are vital to life, but how much do these overlap for you? For the majority of full-time employees, we spend more than half of our day at work. Yet less than half of us say we are even just "satisfied" with our job. It scares me to think that some of us let the days go by, unengaged and counting down the hours until Friday. Rather than feeling discouraged that this is the case for half of America, let's look at fighting against the norm for ourselves, shall we?
I'm one of the lucky ones, feeling more than satisfied with my work. I'm pursuing a passion—graphic design—at a comfortable and friendly work environment. On top of that, my bosses encourage me to pursue this passion, allowing me to go part time while I take design classes and looking for projects that will help me grow.
However, even with that, all of us have those days or even weeks where we struggle through a project or two and just can't seem to find the motivation / passion / contentment we've experienced in the past. It's likely you start looking at job sites and considering how to switch jobs and find happiness. But it's equally likely a new job won't solve it. You have to bring happiness to whatever place you're at.
On these days, I have some go-to's that help me get out of that funk. These aren't just your classic, "watch a funny cat video" or "plan a vacation" ideas. Rather, these have the potential to help stir up some fresh excitement in your soul and remind you of your purpose.
1. Remind yourself
Even if you're not an avid journaler, you know the power of reading something you wrote in the past and having it bring you back to that time or those emotions. When I started a new notebook last fall, I wrote out 3 things I want to bring to my work each day.
When I'm struggling, I look back at those intentions and am reminded of why I am where I am. Even if in that moment of my work I'm not completely satisfied, I remember the bigger picture. Even if I'm not feeling as ambitious and motivated as I was when I wrote those intentions, I remember that side of me and work to get back to it.
Your reasons could be as deep as trying to save the world to as light as trying to make money for that family vacation. Whatever your motivator, your work is important in some vein and you just need to keep that in focus. Adding that layer of meaning will give you a sense of purpose and hopefully help you put your best effort into the most tedious of tasks.
2. Smell the coffee, read the wrappers
"Wake up and smell the coffee" is a phrase meant to encourage you to embrace the day, and yet you probably brush it off as cliche. Some days I'm able to actually put it into practice. I set my intentions on being more mindful, right from the moment I wake up. I hold my warm coffee cup with two hands and breathe in its aroma. I taste my toast instead of inhaling it as fast as I can. I wave to the garbage man on my walk to my car. Instead of throwing away my dove chocolate wrapper, I read the whole cheesy quote and maybe even leave it on my desk as a reminder.
I believe that all these little intentional actions can actually make a difference. They help me take this into practice at bigger ordeals—like looking around the family dinner table and feel content with what I have. Before you brush it off as a meaningless cliche, try it.
3. Walk it out
I used to take walking for granted. Sounds funny, but I think most of us do. It can feel like just a means of getting from point a to point b.
But when I went to college at a pretty intense school, and filled up each spare minute with something that had to get done, walking became one of my few breaks. It was something I had to do, but was one of the rare times of day I didn't have to focus. I could let my mind wander, pray or even could call a family member.
I've taken that into my work at ArcStone. It's tempting to work straight through the day to be as productive as possible, but I notice that if I take that 15 minute walk around the block, my next hour can be twice as productive. Again, it gives me the chance to remind myself of my intentions, notice what else is happening in the world around me, and in a sense, remember that those frustrating things that come up through the work day are really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
4. Go off the grid
If none of those tricks above work, I take my work offsite. I realize that's not an option for everyone, but if you can, it may help you to be around other people for a change. I love working at a coffee shop, full of people intensely studying for school, casually talking about their next idea or simply reading the newspaper. Something about seeing people at all their different stages of life helps me feel more present and content in my own.
If you can't get offsite, maybe rearrange your desk, take a phone call while walking or sit in an empty conference room. Changing up your environment will make you more aware of your surroundings and remind you the world is bigger than your cubicle.
5. Work outside of work
By this I don't mean do more work-work. I mean finding a project that excites you that's separate than your day job. This summer, I started painting again—something I "didn't have time for" the last couple years. The truth was, I had just filled up my evenings with other activities, often things that took less energy than setting up my painting space. Once I prioritized this, I realized I didn't feel tired. I felt excited. Actually, I was more excited to go to my day job. It's as if having something else that felt productive and satisfying increased my productivity baseline and life satisfaction overall.
6. Talk it out
If you've been putting all your energy into seeking happiness at work and you're still unsatisfied, it's still not time to quit. Chances are, you try to hide your unhappiness from leadership and if they knew how you felt, they would try to help you. Most employers don't want to lose employees as turnover costs can be 100-300% of the base salary of an existing employee. They likely want you to be happy if not because they care, because an "engaged workforce" can increase operating income by 19.2% over the course of a year.
Maybe they have new projects you can take on, could hire you an assistant or assign you with less hours. Whatever it may be, if possible, start with a conversation to see if others have an additional solution for you before you give up and give your two weeks.
I've come to realize how cool it is that my workplace seeks out happiness. Better yet, we're even trying to help our clients be happier in their lives.