It would be wonderful if we could all instantly be transported into The Perfect Job. Until that day arrives, you can start taking steps now to improve your current work situation. Here are ten ideas to inspire you:
1. Do Something For You Each Morning
I have always been a minimalist when it comes to mornings. I take great pride that for one college course, I literally set my alarm for 10 minutes before the class began. My eyes would fly open, I’d throw on some clothes, brush my teeth and hair, grab my backpack and granola bar, and be seated in the classroom right on time. Efficiency. I love it!
But after a few weeks of sheltering at home from COVID-19, I realized I no longer had such a need to get up and get to work so quickly. I started playing with my morning time, and found that when I took some time for myself in the mornings, I was better able to be present with my work.
On some days that means staying in bed and reading a good book before getting up. (Oh! the luxury and indulgence of reading both before you go to sleep and after you wake up.) Sometimes that meant going for a walk or doing a workout for pure pleasure — not because I “should.” Sometimes it was a pot of tea and conversation with my family.
Giving yourself some time in the morning is a great way to get your priorities straight. You are more than work. Help keep your life in balance by starting the day with something for you.
2. Make Your Workspace Work for You
To be happier at work, make sure your workspace works for you. Whether you commute to an office or have a makeshift space in your home, there are so many small ways you can tend to your workspace which will help you do well at work.
For me, being able to see outside is crucial. In any space I work, I rearrange my office furniture to make sure I have sight lines to the world outside of that space.
And those pieces of furniture. Are they comfortable to use? Is there a way to spruce them up?
How about your walls? Do they need a new coat of paint? Have you hung meaningful art and photos to surround you during the day?
You can find more ideas in this article.
3. Make Your Workspace Welcoming
Once you have your workspace design, then it’s time to work on the details. Bring some joy into your workday by using fun options for basic things like staplers and tape dispenser. You can find some ideas here and here.
Is your body as comfortable and at ease as it can be while you work? Sometimes just a few inches of change can make a big difference in how tired your body gets. Sometimes investing in the right equipment helps, like these items.
At other times, look around you to see how you can make do. At work, my desk chair is a $15 yoga ball. And years ago when I was having problems with carpal tunnel syndrome, HR suggested a new chair and keyboard that cost over $1,000. Instead, I took my laptop and sat on one of the “visitor chairs” in my office which fixed the problem and didn’t cost a dime (and was way more comfortable!).
4. Surround Yourself with Love
Carefully curate what you see when you look up from your work each day. Gather reminders of people who love you, things you love to do, and who you are in your best moments and place them so they are easy “rest breaks” for your eyes when you are pausing to think of the right word, or working with a difficult client, or simply need a break.
And this advice doesn’t just pertain to your work office — your Coronatide At Home Office deserves this treatment, too. At home, try bringing into your field of vision some items collected on favorite vacations, something handmade, or maybe even something from your hobby time which reminds you that you are more than your job.
5. Try the Pomodoro Method
When your workday is full of tasks that hold little joy or interest for you, do what you can to get them done. The Pomodoro Method is one great way to help yourself focus for a time, then allow yourself a break.
The pure form of this method includes working with focus for 25 minutes, taking a 5 minute break, and repeating for a total of four cycles (2 hours). After the 4 focused “pomodoros” you then take a longer 15-30 minute break. Sound interesting? Here’s a more detailed article from Lifehacker.
6. Take Health Breaks
At my first job post-college, I worked for Sallie Mae student loans. I found myself really jealous of my smoking coworkers who got up from their desks multiple times a day to go outside and have a smoke. Except for the inhaling cancerous substances into your lungs, that whole getting up from your desk and going outside rhythm seemed like a wonderful and healthful way to break up your day.
So, don’t take up smoking but DO take on the practice of (No) Smoke Breaks. A couple of times each workday, take some time to get up from your desk, leave your workspace, and move while thinking about something else–or nothing at all. Perhaps you’re near an outdoor space where you could take a quick jaunt, or you can go brew a cup of tea and stand on your porch for a few minutes.
If there really is no reasonable way for you to get out of your workspace in the middle of the workday, have no fear! You can still take an office yoga break, or do any one of Leslie Sansone’s positive and cheery in-place walks. I am especially fond of her Happy Walk.
7. Drink! (Water or tea)
Yes, Drink. Make a habit of keeping water or tea with you at all times, and have a goal to get 8 glasses of water into your body during your workday. If you’re competitive, keep a log and give yourself a gold star each day you hit your goal. If you’re forgetful, use a reminder app like one of these or learn to stop and take a drink each time you change tasks, or open a document, or finish a call.
8. Listen Well
When your job does not involve calls or meetings, one great way to help improve your mood and get through the day is to give your ears something to do.
When my husband is working on excel sheets and creating Access databases, he has a set of podcasts he loves to listen to. These podcasts offer just the right amount of interest/distraction to keep him happily working at his tasks until it’s time to step away from work.
Podcasts are too distracting for me, but music works great. When I need to concentrate, sometimes I listen to this recording on repeat. At other times I chose a Spotify playlist which provides just the right level of background noise for me to keep working like this one.
You also might want to build your own playlists for concentrating, or shaking off a bad meeting, or preparing for an important event.
9. Check In
It is rare that people who work with friends are miserable at work. So take that theory and make it work for you. Even if you and your friends don’t actually share an office, find a way to take them to work with you. Consider these options:
Take 10 minutes a day to connect with a buddy. Maybe it’s sending a meme that sums up your feelings at the moment, or maybe it’s a couple of rounds of Words With Friends.
Create a slack channel for your group of friends to “virtually office” together during the day. Schedule a few breaks during the week to have phone calls or video chats with friends in the middle of your workday.
10. Fidget Toys!
We are all in lots more video meetings than ever before. One way to help stay focused and alert during these meetings is fidget toys! Many of us create fidget toys with whatever supplies we have on hand. Pens are my favorite fidget toys, and many people simply drum their fingers or doodle. But if you’d like to take your fidget game up a notch, invest in some fidget toys. There’s the classic office Newton’s Cradle, or so many other possibilities.
Bonus: Take every vacation day!
If you are not taking all your vacation days every year, it’s like leaving part of your paycheck on the table — and more than half of all US workers don’t take all their vacation time. This CNN article gives the details of a recent study.
But the bottom line is that taking your time off makes you a better worker. This article from Thrive Global explains more.
If you want to be more content at your job right now, choose one or more of these action steps to create a better job for yourself, right where you are.