Brand You: work hacks to help you love your job

January 22nd 2017 / Alice Olins

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Finding your career sweet spot doesn't have to mean looking for a new job, say the Step Up Club's Phanella Mayall Fine and Alice Olins. Here's how to love the one you're with

OK, so you are probably already laden down with resolutions. Making commitments to yourself as the clock strikes midnight on 1 January is a dangerous game; we know this because research says it is around this time (yup, already) that most of us give up on the resolutions, and slip effortlessly back into those old ways and routines.

So whatever you do, don’t think of this Step Up Club list as a set of immovable commandments – rather, it is your guide to feeling better at work throughout the year. Keep the list on your desktop and refer to it every so often if that feels easier than a complete overhaul. Or, try implanting one a week, or even one per month, so that you don’t feel overwhelmed by change or expectation.

What we would say is that it is worth accepting now that you can feel happy at work – even if you are in a job that doesn’t fulfil every one of your career aims at this moment in time. After all, as we say in our book Step Up: Confidence, success and your stellar career in 10 minutes a day ‘Being happy at work, and being good at your job… are very much things that you have control over; finding your own slice of career paradise doesn’t have to mean looking for a new job.’

We all feel stressed, overwhelmed and frustrated from time to time. But contrary to popular belief, these negative feelings can be reframed, refocused and reused in your quest for happiness. Even moderate stress, when handled correctly, can be a positive force that makes us more productive – and productivity is a proven conduit to work happiness.

So here’s to your best year yet – because when we are happy at work, wonderful things happen.

1. Allow procrastination

This should make you happy from the off: regular breaks in your workday are scientifically proven to make you more productive. And often, procrastination is just you taking little breaks from the big stuff. We all procrastinate, it’s inevitable. And we say, rather than going cold turkey on a bit of internet surfing (a bit like a diet, as soon as you deny yourself the pleasure, you immediately feel the temptation more), give yourself permission to waste a bit of time each day.

When you accept that all of us waste some of our working day - Instagram, you have a lot to answer for – it removes that horribly guilty niggle, so you’ll instantly feel better. How often should you allow yourself a bit of desk downtime? Well, there is good evidence that 90 minutes is the maximum we can concentrate for in any one period, which interestingly, echoes the rhythm in which we sleep.

So for optimum focus and productivity, work for 60 to 90 minutes at full concentration and then give yourself a scheduled ten-minute break to do whatever time-wasting you enjoy: whether that’s a chat with colleagues or social media fix. If you work and procrastinate in an organised manner, you’ll do both without guilt and feel happier as a result. Plus, major bonus, your efficiency when you are working should improve too.

2. Cut your 'life pie' right

We all have a unique combination of wants, needs and values at any point in our lives – and only when we feel that this set is in kilter can we feel really happy and fulfilled. To help feel your best, take ten minutes to rebalance.

- Imagine your life as a pie split into eight pieces, with each slice as a different aspect of your life: work, friends, health, personal growth, relationships, money, family and fun are a good starting point.

- Now spend some time reflecting on how happy you feel and how much time you devote to each of these areas right now. Are you happy with the status quo or do you feel in your gut that things need to change?

- Rank yourself from 1 (neglected) to 10 (fully focused on this, pretty much perfect) in each area.

- Now take a step into the future. Where are you lacking and how would you like your life to look?

- In a new pie chart, give each area a score for how you’d like it to be. Be aspirational but realistic, you can’t have a 10 in every area, there just isn’t time, but nor are low scores likely to make you happy either.

- Now compare the two pies. Break down each area. What practical steps can you take this month to bring some love and focus to the areas you’ve been neglecting and create a more balanced, happier whole?

3. Learn to 'job craft'

Research says that the most successful people really love what they do. Fortunately, finding your own slice of career paradise doesn’t have to mean looking for a new job, it can simply mean molding the one you’re already in, to perfectly suit your personality, lifestyle and aforementioned pie chart.

Job crafting is the technical term for taking the job you're in and making it in line with who you are, because often it isn’t practical or achievable to leave the day job for your dream career situation at this very moment in time. Having said that, keep your dream job there in the plan, but in the meantime, learn to take what you’ve got and make it better. That’s where job crafting comes in. To be successful you need to understand what you enjoy and then use this knowledge to make your current role suit those needs.

So how do you do it? Answer: it takes just 10 minutes.

Step 1: break down your strengths, weaknesses, passions and most hated tasks.

Step 2: Now do the same for the different elements of your job - what you have to do on a daily or weekly basis.

Step 3. Review the lists side by side and reflect. Where can you use more of your strengths and passions in the job list? How can you remove tasks that you enjoy less from your daily grind (think redesign or, better yet, delegation) and, most importantly, where do your passions coincide with your work? Being thoughtful and deliberate about your day-to-day is an automatic work happiness enhancer.

4. The one point to-do list

To-do lists that reach the bottom of the page and seem to role from one week to the next, never completed, never ticked off, end up feeding our stress levels and making us feel inadequate and unproductive. Instead of overloading your daily goal setting, clean the slate and start again differently: just one to-do per day. Yup, by fully focusing on one goal each day, you will inevitably become more productive, less overwhelmed and happier as a result. By the end of each day, you’ll feel buoyed by completing the list, and you’ll be ready for the next day, and new to-do.

Better even than using the first ten minutes of each day to set your goal, do it last thing before leaving your desk and arrive ready for action in the morning.

Effective goal setting makes us more productive at work plus achieving our goals is proven to make us a happier. Try it. We bet you’ll never go back to the endless to-do list again.

5. Take a work hike

Nothing boosts happiness, energy and productivity like getting outside. So our final tip is as effective as it is simple. Walk outside for at least 10 minutes every day. Schedule it into your diary, whether it’s a morning walk to work or, even better, a lunchtime stroll. Getting away from your desk improves creativity and sunlight (especially during these dark days) is an instant mood boost. Once you’ve committed to the daily hike, be ruthless. Nothing gets in the way of your walk. Colleagues need a meeting? Get them to walk and talk.

Step Up – Confidence, Success and Your Stellar Career in 10 Minutes a Day (£12.99) by Phanella Mayall Fine and Alice Olins

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