1 Way to Improve Your Work Happiness
There is a traditional idea of success. It’s typically called the American Dream, but essentially it’s this. You go to school, get good grades, go to a decent University, pay £5 billion in student loans, then get on a graduate scheme and you are on the path to success. The path is a straight shot to a mortgage, a dog, 2.5 kids and a 4-bed semi-detached house with a nice garden. You will spend 40–50 years paying off that house, by which point you can retire. Between work you’ll save your money up to take two-weeks off, probably off to Disney Land to get some rest-bite from the 9–5 slog. After 40–50 years you can retire, by which time you are allowed to buy a motorhome and off you pop for a couple of years round the UK, typically over to the South of France too and then inenvitably you or your spouse will ‘pop their clogs’ and that’s life.
Along the way we’ll buy the latest iPhones, MacBooks and cars to feel like we are on track with the quotas of life.
Newest phone tick. Newest Mac tick. New car tick.
And then on our death beds?
“I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” — Bronnie Ware, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying
And the data?
A study of a over a million people found that millennials are unhappy in the workplace. 71% according to the study, aren’t engaged at work. Across the board the standard is pretty low, 66% of people “don’t hate their jobs”. The article I came across reported that most people are either not engaged or actively disengaged in their jobs, but at least they don’t hate them. When did the bar get so low?
We are a walking, talking inevitable predicament.
We know the expectation, we know it doesn’t suit all of us, yet we continue on spending 1/3 of our lives, not enjoying ourselves. But where is the line? The line between ‘I hate my job’ and ‘fuck it, I quit’. Most articles I’ve read say it’s a pretty linear relationship, the more you hate your job the more you should quit. However, I wanted to propose another way.
The fact that you’ve noticed that you hate your job is a good thing. It’s great because it means that your body is reacting to this conveyor belt we call the ‘American Dream’. It’s like an outward reaction to repel this conventional idea and get on board with whatever your soul is telling your makes you happy. And it’s your job to be receptive to it.
Now it’s not to say that the corporate world can‘t fulfil your dreams. Of course it can. There are loads of people that love their corporate jobs. Being in a good 9–5 gives the opportunity to figure out what you love to do. It’s exciting. Being able to figure out what you love and what you don’t means you can start to focus on getting the balance right — spend the time doing more of the stuff you love and less of the stuff you don’t.
So if you know you’re not loving work at the moment… what can you do?
Before we get into why, there are three things that won’t change by upping and leaving the job you are in. Some of the biggest reasons we (as a millennial generation) are unhappy in work, won’t change if we move jobs.
- High expectations — High flying executive that jets off to see the world? It’s probably more like staying in crappy hotels and never seeing any of the city because you are working on spreadsheets.
- Impatience — from zero to CEO in five months? Nope, probably more like 25 years.
- Instagram lifestyle — Jets, briefcases, fancy business cards. More like an office cubicle and sandwiches for lunch.
These things need to addressed differently. I’ll perhaps write an article about them. No matter where you are, there will be mundane and boring tasks to do, you won’t get to the ‘top’ in 5 months and you probably will be somewhere on a laptop.
So what can we do? Well we can track. By tracking your daily frustrations/ moods you are able to figure out which of the things you are getting frustrated at. The first step to getting to working happier is figuring out what makes you miserable.
It sounds obvious but it’s often a step that is missed and that is a huge opportunity to significantly increase your working life.
Categorise all the things that make up your working day: below is an example but there may well be lots of things: Writing, reading, teaching, marking, analysing. Whatever they are, carve them up into categories like the below:
And then we can begin tracking. For the next 7 days track which of the activities you are doing on a day to day basis and what your mood is after the day. I would recommend taking an average of your mood throughout the day. Maybe ask yourself at 10am, 2pm and 6pm and then get the average of those. We have a tendency to only remember the last few things we did that day and that might skew your data.
Your diary entrance might look something like this:
May 13th 2020
Activities complete: Presenting, calls, emails
Things I noticed: I hate when I have calls straight after meetings because it means I don’t have time to write up notes and thats me disorganised.
Do that for the next 7 days.
And then get to analysing. Are you always scoring higher on days you are presenting? Are you always scoring lower on days you are looking at data?
If this isn’t enough to give you conclusive evidence, track for a whole month. After a month you should have a rough idea of the activities you like and the activities you dislike doing. Once you’ve got that, well you can do more of the stuff you love and less of the stuff you don’t.
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