On average, you’ll spend 109,980 hours of your life at work. It makes sense to take action and make this time as happy as possible.
You can do this by managing yourself and by shaping the context for others so they can give their best.
Here is my overview of 4 reliable ways to improve your happiness at work. They are:
- Make sure you focus on doing work which for you has both meaning and purpose.
- Develop your self-discipline to make the best use of the three resources you are given: your time, your energy and your attention.
- Take your personal development seriously and be prepared to take action to improve yourself.
- Take responsibility for setting an environment within which other people can give their best.
Let’s look at each of these four elements in turn.
Focus On Work Which Has Meaning and Purpose
Purposeful people take consistent action on their goals. Endlessly completing tasks is not an end in itself, however. Goals only become meaningful when they positively impact on other people.
If you can fill your day by taking action that has a positive impact on others, then you will increase the level of meaning in your day. Doing meaningful work is positively correlated with happiness so if your aim is to improve your happiness at work, you should consider how you can increase the sense of meaning you are getting from your work. I’ve written a couple of posts which you might find useful.
Using Self-Discipline To Focus On What Matters
Priority is something given or meriting attention between competing alternatives.
Your goals are your responses to the most important questions you ask about the future. Deciding on them will give you direction.
- What do I want out of life?
- What work do I want to do?
- Where and how do I want to live?
- What personal development do I need?
To improve your happiness at work, you need to build a link between your most important goals and the choices you make each day about how you spend your time and energy.
You need a system to make sure that you commit time to your goals each day. Here are some resources that can help you build your own approach to make this more likely to happen consistently.
- Getting Things Done — David Allen
- Getting Results The Agile Way — JD Meier
- How To Be A Mobile Device Hero
- Creating Flow With OmniFocus — Kourosh Dini
- Organising Creativity — Daniel Wessel
How To Set Goals
Your goals should span all of your interests. The easiest way to do this is to think of life as having some ‘buckets’ or categories. Here are the ones I use which I call my ‘areas of interest.’
If you set goals in each of these areas of interest, you will have something you’re aiming to do in every facet of your life You can then build time on each of these goals into a small (or large) part of each day. There are some excellent reads on the topic of goal setting below.
- A Scientific Guide To Setting and Achieving Goals— James Clear
- The Beginners Guide To Goal Setting — Michael Hyatt
- Goals — JD Meier
Take Charge of Your Personal Development
Managing yourself means you understand how you work. The first step to take is to gather data about yourself. There are many ways you can do this.
- Sign-up for a self-development programme. I list some of the better ones below.
- Do on-line questionnaires. There are some useful links below.
- Ask work colleagues for feedback. Here’s a framework you can download and use to make this easier.
- Ask family and friends for feedback.
The purpose of doing this work is to get a fix on what makes you work at your best.
Development Programmes (recommended by JD Meier)
- Personal Power, by Tony Robbins
- The Personal Mastery Program, by Srikumar S. Rao
- Lead the Field, by Earl Nightingale
- Enneagram For Myself
- 16 Personalities
- 14 Free On Line Personality Tests
- Keirsey Temperament Sorter
Habits are based on a straightforward, evolutionary feedback loop. Cue-response-reward. These loops ‘automate’ some of our behaviours. Habits can be either ‘good’ ones or ‘bad’ ones. The feedback mechanism makes no distinction.
You can use an understanding of how habits work to change a pattern you no longer want. In the same way, you can use what you learn about habits to ingrain new behaviour which you do want. I’ve collected some useful starting points for you below.
- How To Build A New Habit — James Clear
- The Strange Way Being Good Hurts Your Willpower — Nir Eyal
- The Power of Habit — Charles Duhigg
Link Habits Together To Create Rituals Or Practices
You can build on your understanding of habits to create a string of new behaviours. I call these strings ‘practices‘ while others refer to them as rituals.
Practice in this context means a list of individual activities which are bundled together as a package. For example, you could have a ‘start the day’ practice. Here’s what mine looks like.
- Before setting off to work meditate for ten minutes.
- At work, open OmniFocus (my task manager) and run through the ‘start the day‘ task list.
- Complete entry in Day One — 3 things I’m grateful for today.
- Clear all in-boxes.
- Review calendar and priorities task for the day.
- Do today’s worst job — Looking at what I have to do today, what am I most likely to want to put off, or resist doing.
- Do that.
If you’re interested in how you can use your understanding of the power that habits bring to alter your behaviour, you could start by reading some of the articles below.
- 3 Ways Rituals Are Different From Habits — Asian Efficiency
- Develop Productivity Rituals — Harvard Business School
- A Simple 24-Minute Ritual To Kick Start Your Day — Productivityist
The evidence for the benefits of a mindfulness practice is now well reported. Not only will you see the world more clearly, but you will also have the potential to reduce your personal suffering. A mindfulness practice is protective of diseases such as depression and anxiety, and it can also strengthen the parts of your brain responsible for higher cognitive functions.
Useful Mindfulness Resources
If you improve your happiness at work — you will find it easier to increase the happiness of those around you. Leaders can significantly increase workplace productivity by ensuring that as far as you can you:
- Remove fear from the workplace — fear is negatively correlated with creativity and productivity.
- Ensure your positive statements outweigh your negative comments 10-1.
- Thank and appreciate colleagues for their work in a sincere way — What you notice in this way, you’ll get more of.
- Ask more than you tell.
- Listen more than you say.
There are a lot of great books about leadership. Here a few of my favourites [note] If you make a purchase using the link on this page I will receive a small reward at no extra cost to yourself. Feel free to Google the link instead.[/note]
- Humble Inquiry — Edgar H Schein
- Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage — Alfred Lansing
- Drive — Daniel H Pink
- Tribes — Seth Godin
- Good To Great — Jim Collins
Your natural leadership style may be a better fit for different organisations. Complete the survey below to find out whether you’re more comfortable in loose, informal cultures or more organised and hierarchical. To improve your happiness at work, it pays to choose the kind of organisation you feel most at home with.
If your score is positive, your preference could be for the latter if negative the former. It’s just a guide. The maximum score is +/-20.
Understanding your preferred work culture can have an impact on both your happiness and your effectiveness. Here’s a quick summary of some of the evidence from April Strategy.
4 Reliable Ways To Improve Your Happiness At Work
If you’ve enjoyed this article and you think you might be able to improve your happiness at work by following some of the suggestions contained in this post, you can download it by clicking on this link
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