Picture this: You wake up to the alarm in the morning. You know you can hit the snooze button twice before you really have to get up. When you do get up, you are on autopilot. You brush your teeth, shower, change into your work clothes, grab breakfast, and you’re out the door. On your way to work, you are either totally immersed in your to-do list or you are trying not to think about work. As you walk up to the door to your office suite/building, you pause and take a deep breath, and then walk in. After that, it’s the usual – checking emails, chatting, working, prepping for a meeting, having the meeting, breaking for lunch, and repeat. Toward the end of the day, you either scramble to finish off the urgent matters, and get out after exactly 8 hours on a good day, or you get most of your work done after the majority of your colleagues has left, and walk out after 10-12 hours. On the way home, you are either totally immersed in that thing that happened at work (that email that took you 2 hours to write; the 3 meetings that prevented you from getting anything important done; the colleague who dumped their work on you, took credit for your work, or just made your day harder; etc.) or you are trying not to think about work. You get home, and depending on what kind of day it was, you either do your evening activities with relief and enthusiasm or you sink down onto the couch and don’t get up till you have to go to bed. And then it starts again till the weekend, which feels like it just speeds by.
Do you recognize yourself? If so, you’re making easy money. I’m not talking about the quality of your work or saying that you’re lazy. I’m talking about just getting pulled along by the current of your life. If you do have thoughts about what you’re doing with your life, you get caught up in the fact that you have to: make a living; support your family; support your lavish lifestyle, etc. Your job is a necessary activity so that you can do, and have other things, like status, high quality possessions, relative financial security and freedom. There’s nothing else to be done and off you go back into your life flow.
Except, you can do something. You can change that perspective. You can add more value to your life with rewards that may be a little less tangible, but are just as important as the ones mentioned above. Rewards like being more productive, being able to use the most of your strengths and skills, being able to meet challenges head on and overcome them and, at the end of day, feeling pleased with what you accomplished, relaxed, and ready to enjoy the rest of your evening and face the next day with equanimity and focus.
Answer the following questions with honesty and consideration:
Why do I like my job?
Why don’t I like my job?
These questions help you remember why you chose this job (or why you’ve chosen to stay at this job) and the specific reasons you dislike the job. These answers can be anything — the people (I once didn’t go after a promotion that would have taken me to another branch because it was more important to me to continue working with my colleagues at my branch – they made the job easier and my days much better); the money; the boring administrative part of the job; the location, etc. Take your time and put down whatever comes to mind.
What can I change about my daily responsibilities that will allow me to do more of what I like and less of what I don’t like?
With this question, you get to see how you can take the initiative to improve your workday. You may not have total control over your daily responsibilities, but there’s value in answering this question even if it’s just about what you would change.
What are the important duties vs. the urgent duties?
This is quite critical. So much of our time is spent answering emails; having impromptu discussions; dealing with obstacles that come from other people/departments that it can seem that all we are doing is reacting to everything rather than being on top of everything. By splitting up your responsibilities into two categories, you can spend your time more effectively. Ideally, you should do the important duties right after you get into the office, when you are at your best in energy and brainpower. These are the obligations that will have the most positive impact on the bottom line/the ease of your near future work/your value to your boss, department, and/or company. Likely, these duties will be weighing heavily on your mind, and you’ll use a lot of energy trying to avoid them because you think they are going to be difficult or time-consuming. Once you get those out of the way, you’ve already accomplished the most valuable work of your day. Next come your urgent duties, like answering emails and making phone calls, and you should get through these as fast as possible. You’ll need to create your list and schedule of important and urgent duties everyday depending on your calendar, but if you choose to be proactive, you’ll be able to be effective and efficient in spite of the typical interruptions of a workday.
This is just a start to changing your mindset about your work and life. But, just by being aware of what exactly you are doing at work and why, you’re halfway to taking back control of your life. If you act from deliberate thought and therefore effort, you stop making ‘easy money’ and start earning your just rewards.
Let me know your thoughts!