For one single area of our lives, work takes up the majority of our waking hours. Hopefully you’ll be able to find a career that ticks the most boxes, one that inspires you to get up every morning, fulfills you during the day, and makes you feel good at the end.
However, in the words of my dad, a secondary school teacher, the chances are that you could have the best job in the world and still prefer your free time when no demands are made of you and you can fill your hours with things you enjoy.
Luckily for him, he’s about to take early retirement so freedom is within reach, but for the rest of us, work will be a big part of our everyday lives for the foreseeable future. So here are some tips to make the most of whatever job you’re in (and believe me that I’m trying to implement them too)
1) Have a slow morning
“If you start your mornings by frantically running around trying to get organized for the day ahead, you could be setting yourself up for a day of stress” Deep Patel, Forbes
I’ve always been an advocate for a slower morning. I tend to get up at least 2 hours before I have to go to work and during that time I enjoy my breakfast, watch some Netflix, prepare my lunch for the day, and take my time getting ready. For the sake of a slightly longer lie in, I get a lovely relaxing start to my day.
2) Get organised
Most days before I leave for work, I’ll set some reminders on my phone of the things I need to do that day. Like doing a food shop, posting a letter, complete some unfinished work tasks, or going to the bank. Writing them down at the start of my head helps clear my mind and get organised before work.
3) Dress to impress
This might not be possible if you have to wear a uniform for work (like me now that I’m working in a Kindergarten school in Hong Kong) but for lots of jobs you can choose what clothes you put on for work that day. To make your working life happier, make sure to choose clothes that make you feel good, are comfortable, and obviously that suit the field of work you’re in.
4) Practice gratitude
Every morning before work, I make it a ritual to sit down and have a quiet moment to write in my gratitude journal. For the last 6 months I’ve been using The Five Minute Journal and would highly recommend it. At the start of the day you have to fill in 3 things you’re grateful for, 3 things that would make that day great, and an affirmation to inspire you. I’ve found that it always puts me in a good mindset for work.
5) Do something nice during your commute
“Newspapers are being read all around. The point is not, of course, to glean new information, but rather to coax the mind out of its sleep-induced introspective temper” The Book of Life
Since starting my new job in a Hong Kong kindergarten, I use my 30 minute commute every morning to relax and unwind before starting work. I read some of my book, listen to music, and try my best to make the most of the time before starting work. Suddenly commuting is turned from a chore into another nice part of your day.
6) Make the most of food and drink
Especially if you’re in a job you dislike, I think eating and drinking nice things throughout the day help cheer you up. Maybe you have a coffee on the way to work, warming cups of tea while you work, a nourishing lunch, and a few bits of fruit to snack on. Not only does this punctuate your day, but you’re more likely to be able to focus with a full stomach.
7) Commit 100% to whatever you’re doing
“Remember the two ingredients: 100% commitment and acting as if you count. Let’s call them the MAGIC DUO, for that’s exactly what they create in your life – magic.” Susan Jeffers
Susan Jeffers, in her wonderful self-help book Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, promotes the concepts of giving 100% commitment and acting as if you count as a way to create magic in all areas of your life. She explains that at work, this means creating and completing daily goals, creating a lovely working environment, always being punctual, being amicable with colleagues and so on.
I’ve been practicing the concept of committing myself fully to my job when I’m at work and it’s gone a long way to making me happier.
8) Don’t count the hours
You know the saying ‘a watched pot never boils’, well I think the same can be said for watching the clock during working hours. I’ve found that fixating on how long I’m at work makes me impatient and unhappy whereas if I try and become more absorbed in what I’m doing, I forget to check the time and it goes past at least a little faster.
9) Choose to be happy at work
A quick scan through the website The Balance Careers about being happier at work provided some brilliant. One beautifully simple tip was to choose to be happy at work. Their argument is that your choices at work largely define your experience so if you think positively about your work, focus on what you like, and avoid negative people, you’re more likely to enjoy what you do far more.
10) Find tasks you enjoy doing
Maybe you hate your job, but the chances are there are some tasks you don’t mind doing at much. When I’m at work, for instance, I find the teaching part really tiring but I quite like preparing lesson resources. So rather than fixate on the parts of my job I don’t like, I try and enjoy doing the parts I do like.
11) Avoid negativity
Another pearl of wisdom from the platform The Balance Careers is to avoid negativity at work. They argue that no matter how much of a positive person you are, the negativity of others can have a strong impact on your well being and so they suggest avoiding negative people, conversations, and gossip as much as possible.
12) Make friends with your coworkers
“Liking and enjoying your coworkers are hallmarks of a positive, happy work experience” The Balance Careers
Unfortunately for me, making friends with my cantonese speaking co workers has been near to impossible given the language barrier. Despite this, I still make the effort at work to be friendly and use the very limited grasp I have of the language to say “hello” and “thank you”. Doing so creates a warmer, more friendly, and ultimately happier working environment for me.
13) Divide your day into manageable chunks
One thing I’ve found that really works for me at work, is to divide my day into manageable chunks. Rather than fixate on the fact that I’m at work from 8:15am to 5:00pm, I think about my day in three parts: morning, lunchtime, afternoon. It helps make the day seem less endless and so my manageable.
14) Stop competing
A particularly important way to be happier in the world of work, as one of my favourite self-help authors Susan Jeffers points out, is to stop competing. The ladder of success, she argues, has turned into the ladder of distress as the focus is placed on competition, creating a feeling of alienation. Instead, we must focus on partnership and working together to create something.
15) Release tension
I’ve found that the simplest way to release any tension I may feel at work from time to time, is to do a few deep, mindful breaths. It always calms me down, makes me feel more balanced and centered, and brings my attention back to the present moment.
16) Make the most of your time outside of work
To be happier at work, I’ve found that making the most of the free time you have is crucial. Since we’ve been in Hong Kong teaching English, my boyfriend and I always aim to do something special after work. Sometimes it’s going to a cafe, sometimes it’s going for dinner, and sometimes it’s just curling up on the sofa for a movie night. Whatever we end up doing, we make an effort to make it special and then spend all day looking forward to it.
17) No more Sunday Blues
How can you avoid having Sunday blues before another week of work? As a teacher, my dad always used to experience Sunday blues to the extent that he didn’t even end up enjoying them anymore. He said that the anticipation of going to work the next day was enough to ruin his Sunday off.
He put an end to this by using the ‘burying your head in the sand’ technique. Basically, every Sunday he would put work as far from his mind as possible so that he could actually enjoy the little time he had of.
18) Maintain a work-life balance
There’s a great phrase that encapsulates two entirely different approaches to working: “Live to work vs Work to live”. There are people whose jobs are their entire lives and there are others for whom work is just one part of a rich and balanced life.
But what if you love your job? I think it’s great if you love your job but it’s still important to nurture your life outside of work. I was recently told a story of a woman who worked successfully in investment banking her entire life and made a lot of money and was on the whole happy until it came to retiring and she realized that she’s never fallen in love, had kids, or made many friends outside of work. Not the recipe for a happy life!
19) Have passions outside of work
An important way of achieving a good work-life balance, I think, is to have passions outside of work. There are so many different things you can fill your time with: I love to write; my dad does triathlons; my boyfriend has a tea company; a friend from university runs spin classes. No matter what your passion is, make sure to nurture it outside of work.
20) Make a change
For some people, in some jobs, happiness at work may feel out of their grasp. So what do you do then? I think sometimes the best option, if you’re genuinely unhappy at work, is to walk away. Because work takes up so much of our lives, I don’t think it’s worth being in a job that takes away your joy. Maybe you need to retrain, or go back to university, or try a new challenge in order to find a job that suits you better.
– Tiger Lily –