There’s some statistic out there that says most of us will spend one-third of our lives at work.
I’ll pause while you let that sink in.
Yep. You might suddenly feel like you’re not in the career of your dreams nor doing enough to get there. News flash: that’s actually ok! There are other reasons we get up and go to our jobs than just to do fulfilling work. Yes, I know, I daydream about being a prolific author sitting at my writer’s desk in my jammies with my laptop and tea just as much as the next person. I’m not exactly in my dream job – heck I’m not even in a job I ever expected to be in. But don’t feel sorry for me. Fortunately, I’m able to feel challenged and successful and – yes – even happy.
A big part of this is having a good attitude, but there are other things you can do to feel challenged, successful and proud of your work. Not to mention there are definite things you can do to make it through your 9-5 (or whatever your hours may be) without dragging miserably minute by minute. Hint: It’s about give and take. Here are a few suggestions.
How to GET the most out of your work day:
Keep snacks on hand. You know what happens when you get hungry: you get cranky and your productivity plummets. It becomes your number one mission to get your hands on some food, fast. Forget that report that’s due by 11. The problem? If I didn’t bring enough for lunch, then I’m stuck eating Twizzlers off my coworker’s desk or spending money in the vending machine. But when I have no money and the Twizzler jar is empty, I may as well call it a day. I can focus on zero other things besides replenishing my sugar supply. Lesson learned: keep some healthy snacks in your drawer. Afraid you’ll eat them even when you’re not hungry, and then they’ll be gone in three days? Yea, me too. In this case I’d put them out in my car so I have to walk out to get them. Trust me, if you’re hungry enough you’ll go get them. Just remember our brains use fuel as much as our bodies.
Put mental breaks in your calendar throughout the day. Get up and walk to the bathroom or the kitchen or down to the mailroom or out to your car. I know it can be awkward to aimlessly walk, but don’t think of it that way! Your back and brain will thank you. It doesn’t have to be a long break, just enough to break away for your sanity. Don’t wait until your head is ready to burst, either. Regularly take your focus away and change your scenery. You’ll come back ready to go.
Likewise, if you work at a computer, force yourself to take your eyes off the screen. Try looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. I usually take this opportunity to bring paperwork to my coworker down the hall or pop into my manager’s office to ask her a question that I needed to ask. I regret not doing this sooner – after just six months in my new job my eyesight deteriorated and I needed my first pair of glasses. So much for hoping I’d never need them! Computers are not a natural thing to interact with all day long. So your best bet is to look outside or at other people often. It could prevent headaches and worsening eyesight.
How to GIVE your best at work:
When you ask questions, be prepared with a solution. I found that my ideas are well-received when I’m helping solve a problem. So the same can be said for my questions. If I ask a question I can put in a little effort to come up with how I would answer it. So these days, my emails say things like, “How were we going to handle you reviewing my edits? I propose sending you an email every time I do another round of edits, alerting you to what’s in the queue for your review?” Give it a try and see how happy you make your boss by helping come up with a solution.
Offer to do anything, big and small. This advice isn’t just for interns who are asked to make coffee. It’s for anybody who wants to stand out. I’m not suggesting you overextend yourself, I’m just suggesting you let it be known every now and then that you’re willing to do something that doesn’t fall under your job description. During a meeting with my boss, she was discussing some tasks she had to get done and was trying to figure out her deadline. I think it caught her off guard when I asked, “Would you like me to follow up with John to get his piece of this taken care of?” She said yes and was very appreciative. I didn’t walk away feeling overworked and underappreciated, kicking myself for offering. I walked away feeling satisfied that I made my boss’s job a little easier with something I could totally handle. Going the extra mile is huge! And always keep in mind that nobody likes the person who thinks that everything is beneath them.
Always be that person in the office who is excited to be there. Don’t be fake if you really are miserable (and that’s a different issue). But if you like what you do even a little bit, don’t worry about looking or sounding annoying or that you – gasp – like your job. I was laughed at when I started my new job. My coworkers were like, “Hey, you don’t have to pretend to like being here.” Huh?! I was happy being there, so naturally it came across in how I talked and acted. Months later, I’m still happy to be there, in spite of hearing a lot of negativity and the usual complaints from the usual people. Hey, it happens in every office. Choose to be the person who reminds others through her cheerfulness that work is work and it could be worse. At the very least, if you can’t find something to say but would prefer the negativity to stay far away, just act like you’re trying to listen but you need to finish what you’re typing. Works every time.