This piece was originally posted on Brazen Life on July 10, 2014.
When you’re having a bad day at work, it’s easy to fantasize about an entirely different career solving all your problems. While a new job or environment could be a better fit, focusing only on your external circumstance negates the impact of one important factor: You.
Your habits and attitudes will follow you into any office. Focus on improving your existing work relationships and how you approach the job you have now, and you’ll reap the benefits both now and in your future career.
So start now with what you’ve got. Follow these three tips to make every 9-to-5 hour count, no matter how little you enjoy your work.
1. Build your community
We often withdraw from people when we’re not feeling so hot. Yet relationships are important to your well being. A kind word or a shared laugh can brighten anyone’s spirits. Consider what you can do to increase your sense of connectedness in your workday.
Inter-office connections are one place to start. Say hello to the person at the front desk. Go to that happy hour. Pop your head into a less familiar office.
Make a bit more effort than usual to be friendly to the people around you. See if you don’t perk up as well.
Of course, you won’t want to cozy up to every coworker. If your coworkers are part of the problem, you can take two plans of action:
- Increase your sense of community by spending more time with friends outside of work. You might grab coffee with a familiar face, work out in the morning with a buddy or catch up with someone over dinner.
- Join an interesting or relevant organization. Some clubs have lunchtime events, which would help to both break up your day and increase your support system.
You’ll improve your day-to-day experience the more you increase your participation in communities around you. Not only that, but you’ll also expand your network, which may just lead you to your next opportunity.
2. Learn to appreciate your smaller freedoms
One of the most fundamental desires we all have at work is to feel a sense of control, even over the little stuff. In his book “The Power of Habit,” author Charles Duhigg sites a study in which manufacturing workers were allowed to schedule their own shifts and design their own uniforms. Their productivity increased by 20 percent.
You can also use the core idea of increased autonomy to your advantage.
Where do you already have autonomy or control at your office? Do you have a flexible schedule, a cubicle to decorate or your choice of assignments? Put your attention and appreciation towards those small pockets of freedom.
Then, consider what other areas of autonomy might be available to you. Perhaps you could propose a task to lead. Or you could liven up your cubicle with meaningful photos.
Taking these extra steps will increase your sense of ownership of your work. When you feel in charge, you’ll feel more engaged. And when you’re more engaged, your work week won’t feel like it’s dragging on.
3. Try a new routine
If your workday is a struggle, you’re likely worn out by the time you get home. It’s easy to slip into a less-than-ideal routine. You might plop in front of your computer or TV. Your bedtime might start to creep later and later. And mornings turn into a frenetic rush.
Try to find one small part of your day you could improve. Maybe you set an alarm for your bedtime. You could go for a walk before settling into tonight’s TV marathon. Or you could give yourself extra time to get ready for work so your mornings are less frantic.
Your daily habits have a larger impact on your day than you may realize, and they’re well within your power to improve. The better your habits outside of work, the more energy you’ll have once you get to work. You’ll be better prepared to learn what works for you in your job — and to set yourself up for success in your next position.
You can improve your work week without switching jobs. Focus your attention on building your connections, improving the parts of your job you can control and developing healthier routines.
Pick one of these three areas to give special attention to today. By taking these proactive measures, you not only make your work day more tolerable, but also develop helpful skills and habits for future positions.
What are you going to try to improve your day to day at work?