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 you can make it.
You can do this in two ways.
1 By managing yourself.
2 By shaping the context within which others can give of their best.
In this section the focus is on the first of these — Managing Yourself.
Approach To Work Happiness
The approach which a Healthy Leader takes to work happiness has four elements. These are:
- A Healthy Leader is focused on doing work which has both meaning and purpose.
- A Healthy Leader is self-disciplined and makes the best use of the three resources you are given: your time, your energy and your ability to focus your attention. This is the organised self.
- A Healthy Leader takes personal development seriously and is prepared to take action to improve him or herself.
- A Healthy Leader understands that setting the culture within which other people can give of their best is massively important.
A Healthy Leader understands that to be effective they have to both manage themselves and other people in the best possible way.
1. 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.
2. The Organised Self
Goals and Priorities
Goals can take many forms.
A priority is: Something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives.
Your goals are your responses to the most important questions you ask about the future. Deciding what these are gives 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 increase the level of your happiness 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.
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 a number of ‘buckets’ or categories. Here are the ones I use which I call my ‘areas of interest.’
If you set goals in each of these key areas of interest you will have something you’re aiming to do in every facet of your life.
Managing yourself means you understand how you work. The first step to take is to gather data about yourself. There are a number of ways you can do this.
- Sign-up for a self-development programme. I list some of the better ones here.
- Do on-line questionnaires. There's a number of good links here.
- 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.
Habits are based on a very simple, 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 habit you no longer want. In the same way you can use what you learn about habits to ingrain new behaviour which you do want.
You can build on your understanding of habit to create a string of new behaviours. I call these strings ‘practices’.
A 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.
The evidence for the benefits of a mindfulness practice are legion. Not only will you see the world more clearly, you will 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.
You can create happiness around you by ensuring that as far as you personally are able to 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.
Your natural leadership style may be a better fit with different organisations. Complete the survey below to find out whether you're more comfortable in loose, informal cultures or more organised and hierarchical.
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 effectivness.