Feeling the workplace blues?
Try 7 tips for making work fun again
Author Kerry Hannon has written two books and countless articles about following your heart to find the work you love. In the last few years Hannon has traveled across the country, interviewing folks who have reinvented their work lives and speaking frequently about how to navigate career transitions.
Hannon says that many people love the dream of starting over with a different kind of career. But the truth is that often a big shift may not be practical. In her latest book, Hannon has changed gears to focus on how you can make your current job more satisfying.
“Love Your Job – The New Rules for Career Happiness“ is Hannon’s guide for people looking to find or reignite purpose and joy in their work. She says, “If you want to be happier, you have to do something, to take action.” That doesn’t always mean a big swerve from the past. “It does, however, often call on the courage to make necessary but sometimes uncomfortable and even painful changes.”
If you want to find more fun and meaning at work, here are seven ways to get started:
- Begin with a journal. Hannon suggests you dedicate a notebook or computer file to your “Job Remodeling Journal.” Launch your effort by writing for 20 minutes every day for a week. Let yourself go, as you talk about what you’d love to see in your dream job. Perhaps you might list people who seem happy at work so you can ask them about what they love in their career. Next, try writing about the times your professional life was most rewarding. Hannon recommends that you create a “budget” in which you list the pros and cons at work. From there, start planning action steps for building on the best parts of your job and addressing the liabilities.
- Know when it’s burnout. Sometimes you’re feeling miserable but the problem is not really that you hate your job. As you journal you may realize that the biggest issue is that you’re just too tired. Job burnout can be experienced as physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with self-doubt and uncertainty about the value of your work. If you’re feeling burned-out, the solution must start with you, and goes beyond what happens at the office. Consider taking a vacation, or perhaps a series of shorter breaks. And look closely at your health and fitness programs.
- Stop complaining. According to Hannon, “It’s remarkably easy to fall into the trap of whining and grumbling about a boss, coworker, or employer, but it rarely makes things better.” Her advice is blunt: “Do something. Get over it.” Sometimes you can’t make progress until you “stop the looping chatter.” Hannon suggests that you read over your journal, looking for the specific things you can change. Start working on those aspects of your job by identifying small steps.
- Get in shape financially. Human resources professionals say that personal financial challenges are a frequent cause of employee stress, poor health and low productivity. If money problems keep you up at night, your work suffers. On the other hand, Hannon says, being financially fit gives you the freedom to make choices. As a result, “You are not trapped and held ransom by your paycheck.” Hannon urges you to do what it takes to eliminate debt. The relief can transform your work life.
- Enrich your job. Hannon says if you make a number of small tweaks to your current job it will become more interesting and full of opportunity. As a start, stay informed about the trends in your field. “Just being in the know can inspire you to think of projects and tasks.” Also, find ways to do even more of the kind of work you like best. And at the same time search for additional kinds of duties. When they ask you to take on another task, “accept the invitation gratefully … and then figure out how to do it,” she says. Another strategy for job enhancement is to network more actively with colleagues. Reach out to people you don’t know well, look your coworkers in the eye, find opportunities to smile and chat, and keep building new connections.
- Create more flexibility. “When I ask people to name one thing that would make them happier about their jobs, they say independence in some way, shape or form,” Hannon says. The option to work flexibly gives us a sense of autonomy, and that is a good way to make your work life immensely more enjoyable. Two increasingly popular ways to give you back some control are telecommuting and flexible work schedules. “When you feel trapped and micromanaged in your office environment, the sense of control of your own time and virtual freedom can do wonders to help you get reconnected with your work again,” she says.
- Learn new tricks. “If you’re feeling stuck in your job and don’t know what to do next, charge up your brain cells,” Hannon says. Even if you have only a hazy notion of what interests you, start exploring libraries, classes or the Web and learn something new.
The core message Hannon wants you to take away from her book is that “you can turn it around and rebound from your malaise or grim work environment.You have to own it. You consciously choose whether to continue being unhappy or pick an alternate path and change it up, even if it’s in baby steps.”