I really love my job. I leave for work in the morning feeling excited to get going on my projects, and I come home in the evening feeling like I was sufficiently challenged and appreciated. And then it starts again the next day, and that’s OK with me. Of course, I spend a major part of my week at the office, so it’s a good thing there’s camaraderie and other things besides punching a keyboard, like birthday parties and long talks at the water cooler. But herein lies the one reason that my job presents a personal issue: for as much as I love it, working has been the thing that derails my health, morals, and good habits. Here are my three culprits.
Mid-Day Coffee Runs – Around lunch time I make an executive decision that I deserve to get myself a coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts. I’m not fooling anyone — I am well aware of two realities here. 1) That any size coffee after late morning is enough to keep me fidgeting in bed and frustrated at 1 a.m., and 2) These coffees aren’t to get me through the day like I like to tell myself; they’re actually just to satisfy a sugar craving: medium caramel swirl iced coffee with cream!! The problem is, there’s nothing wrong with the green tea that’s been sitting in my desk drawer for three months. It’s healthier, cheaper, and it’s sitting right there! But I’ll actually get in my car to go spend about $2 every day for something that’s not even a treat anymore. The madness needs to stop.
Coworkers’ Candy – I sit dangerously close to a bowl of M&Ms. When the supply runs out, there’s a new bag lurking in a drawer, waiting to replenish the bowl. You know what this means: I have a never-ending encounter with my absolute most favorite candy. The devil. If it were a bowl of apples, I wouldn’t pay any attention to it. I’ve urged my coworker responsible for the M&Ms to slap my hand when it enters the stash, but she has yet to. I’ve whined about my pitiful willpower and how having these treats so close is a terrible thing because I snack on them all throughout the day and end up feeling a little sick, not to mention it sets back my healthy efforts. Can you spell: No Willpower? Alas, the bowl of M&Ms never goes away.
Office Gossip – Sadly, it’s everywhere, and it’s so easy to join in. A complaint about being handed yet another task that should really go to someone else, a snarky remark about so-and-so being late again, and whispers about how much what’s-her-name brags about herself – it all adds up, and none of it feels good to take part in, even if you’re just there to listen. Heck, it’s not a crime, but it’s really not attractive or productive. End of story.
Do you experience any of these or other “bad” habits or setbacks while at work? If so, I’ve come up with a plan to keep my morals and good habits and it might work for you. First, pay attention to how the bad habits make you feel, and think about what happens at work or what work-related thing gives you the opposite feeling. For me, one thing is looking the part, so let’s go with that. There’s nothing like a new blouse or dress or accessory to wear to the office to feel good about myself, but it’s not every day I treat myself to something new. Get where I’m going with this? If you smell motivation, you’re on the right path!
Next, do as they do in puppy school: reward for good behavior rather than punishing for bad behavior. You’re chances of success are higher. Rather than grumbling to yourself that you joined the gossip yet again when you swore to yourself you wouldn’t, make a bigger deal (internally) of the number of times you don’t participate in it, starting now. The cheerleader inside you should do a little ra-ra over how you stuck to your morals…victory! Positive reinforcement will motivate and stick. Drop a paperclip in a glass mason jar on your desk (no one will know what it’s for but you) to honor the victory. Do this every time you reach for the tea instead of the wallet and the keys to go buy a sugary caramel swirl coffee, or when your hand reaches for a second scoop of M&Ms. Praise your stick-to-itivness and then drop in another paperclip. At the end of the week, count the paperclips and jot the number down somewhere. If there’s a bunch in there, you’ve made some progress! Treat yourself to something small or wait until the end of the month. If you’ve continued to see the same or more paperclips at the end of the month, totally go out and get yourself a new blouse or what-have-you.
You can have a lot of fun with this: try setting goals, like reaching a certain number of paper clips that would translate into something really special for you, or start awarding yourself paperclips for ways you step out of your comfort zone at work, like speaking up about something bothering you or contributing more in meetings. You can even use different colored paperclips to mean different things – the idea is to have fun with it, see the progress, and focus on the positive. After all, if you love your job, then it’s like a romantic relationship: on the one hand it’s one of the best things to happen to you, but on the other hand you end up letting your good habits slide. Let’s keep our jobs a place where we feel good about everything we do while we’re there!