According to the Mayo Clinic, nearly one-third of workers find their jobs tedious or uninspiring. Are you included in that third? If you are, there is no need to despair. There are things that you can try that might improve your situation. Also from the Mayo Clinic: People who spend 20 percent of their time at work conducted in tasks that they find meaningful or worthwhile are at less of a risk of work-burnout. Interestingly, any increase in that percentage has marginal impact on your risk for burnout. This points to a comforting conclusion: You don’t have to do much in order to improve your happiness at work.
Good jobs are ‘made’
“When you look at people who are thriving in their jobs, you notice that they didn’t find them, they made them,” said Ashley Goodall, senior vice president of leadership and team intelligence at Cisco and co-author of the book “Nine Lies About Work.” “We’re told in every commencement speech that if you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. But the verb is wrong,” he said, adding that successful people who love their jobs take “the job that was there at the beginning and then over time they transform the contents of that job.” To be sure, transforming your job isn’t easy. But you have to start somewhere, and there’s a wonderfully simple but surprisingly revealing trick that can help.
The strategy being discussed has a lot to do with mindfulness. And you’ll have to get out a pen and pad or at least a word document, in order to begin to implement it. Here’s the trick: For a full week, carry a notepad at all times. Draw a line down the center of a page and label one column “Love” and the other column “Loathe.” Whenever you perform a task, no matter how small, be mindful of how it makes you feel. Are you excited about it? Do you look forward to it? Does time fly when you’re doing it? Or did you procrastinate, dreading every moment and feeling drained by the time you’re done?
It seems silly, I know. But this exercise — which Goodall and his co-author, Marcus Buckingham, co-head and talent expert at the A.D.P. Research Institute, write about in their book and practice in their lives — can show you hidden clues and nuances about work.
“It’s a beautifully simple way to inventory your emotional reactions to the reality of your day or week at work,” Buckingham said. “Understand what it is that lights you up. Understand what you run toward. Understand where you are at your most energetic, your most creative, your most alive, and then volunteer for that more and more and more,” he added.
This is, of course, just a starting point. You will not immediately be happier at your job after you have a list of things you dislike about your job. But this exercise gives you a road map about how to focus your time and energy on the things that get you excited. Rather than trying to get better at things you hate doing and know you’re not great at, reframe the issue and try to do more things that energize you and that you excel at. No one can tell you what those things are, and discovering them can be amazingly beneficial.
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