How to Find Joy in Your 9 to 5
Your days are too precious to spend them simply marking time until every Friday evening, when your life begins.
How often do you look at the clock at work?
As a member of today’s workforce, you spend a substantial amount of your waking hours at your job. And how you feel about those hours impacts your overall well-being and sense of purpose. Unfortunately, reportedly less than half of the workforce feels happy in their roles. The nonprofit industry, specifically, has a 19 percent turnover rate each year.
While your workplace environment contributes to your level of engagement and satisfaction, the real determinant of whether or not you’re happy in your role is you. With the right frame of mind, you can markedly improve your happiness and overall well-being, no matter your role. Here’s how.
Step One: Repeat after William Ernest Henley, “I am the master of my destiny. I am the captain of my soul.”
Reframe Your Position in Your Mind
We recently took an Uber home from the airport. My husband warned the driver that he may need to present his ID at the gate in order to enter our community, but explained that it depended on who was working that day as some guards were stricter than others. The driver nodded, readied his wallet, and replied matter of factly, “You have to respect someone who takes their job seriously.”
Indeed, there’s something to be said about someone who demonstrates commitment to their work. They believe their position commands respect. They’ve chosen to not only show up, but to be present.
This is easier said than done, especially if you have any negative feelings about your role. But to take control of your own happiness, you can take steps to transform your state of mind, and to take your job more seriously.
Find Your Connection
If passion is what you lack, find a way to create it. Ask yourself how your individual tasks relate to something you are passionate about.
In the nonprofit world, unless you regularly work in the field, it can be difficult to maintain a sense of connection to your work’s impact. Whether it’s a monthly “boots on the ground” activity, or a weekly interview with your beneficiaries, take time to be reminded of what’s at stake.
Even if you plan to leave your role sometime in the future, a positive attitude now can mean higher performance and better reviews from peers and superiors when the time comes. When you understand how today’s role contributes to tomorrow’s dream, suddenly you’re unstuck. You’re living with intent and every day is part of a larger plan.
Find Your Sources of Passion
Alternatively, if you struggle to build those connections, you might structure your day in such a way that allows for more time to recharge and work on what truly brings you joy. Perhaps its reading a non-work book on your lunch break, or breaking up your day with several walks. Ask yourself, what small things energize me and help me to bring fresh energy to my role?
You might also dedicate time each day before or after work to participate in an activity you are passionate about. When you can count on that time each day, you can consider your 9 to 5 with thanks and understand that it is the financial means that makes your passion possible.
After you’ve worked to shift your perspective, it’s important to look for more ways to create energy in your life.
Prioritize Work/Life Balance
How much energy you bring to work has a lot to do with your work-life balance, or lack thereof. Many nonprofit professionals cite feelings of “burnout” as a reason for turnover. While the demands of nonprofit work can be intense, these feelings can also come from a lack of sustained energy throughout each day. That’s why it’s essential to take the time you need to recharge and bring your best self to work. So while it’s tempting to work into the night, especially in a culture where that is perpetuated, commit to the following:
- Set expectations for when you’re reachable and when you’re not
- Communicate those boundaries to your team
- Be truly present at work (I’m looking at you, person checking your email during a team meeting)
When your coworkers see what you bring to the table during the day, they’ll have no room to question your sign-off right at 5, or your half-hour lunch break away from your desk.
After you’ve set a new precedent for the structure of your day, consider what tools might help you make the most of every minute at your desk.
Get Resourceful, Get Organized
In order to feel energized, it usually helps to feel organized. When you feel in control, in an environment that’s predictable and easy to navigate, you may feel less overwhelmed in your daily grind.
Keep in mind organization does not necessarily need to mean tidiness. You can have a sense of organization without feeling like you work in a clinic. Some research even suggests that disorderly spaces can lead to greater bouts of creativity.
Once you have a new frame of mind, daily structure, and the tools you need, all that’s left is to understand what helps you, personally, feel more energy in your day—and to communicate that to your team.
Perform a Self Audit
Ultimately, only you know what energizes and inspires you in your role. Consider a number of things that can contribute to your sense of happiness.
For example, physical exercise can improve cognitive ability. How are you starting your day? How do you choose to fuel your mind? Things like what you eat for breakfast, and whether or not you go for a jog in the morning, can significantly impact your performance, the nature of your day, and your overall attitude.
It’s also important to ask yourself when you perform your best work. What time of day do you tend to be most productive? If you know you’re most productive in the afternoon, protect those hours, and schedule meetings earlier in the mornings.
Ask yourself what small actions help you feel accomplished. Do you like to cross items off of a list? Is it important for you to receive recognition from your peers? Your superiors?
The better you know yourself, the easier it will be to ask for what you need to feel supported and succeed in your role.
Speak Up for What You Need to Succeed
The first step to feeling supported is to ask for help. How will you get the support necessary to excel at your job if you don’t take the steps to identify and ask for what you need? While a dialogue might not always produce results, your effort to communicate will help your team understand how to best support you and take steps in the right direction.
Tools like Strengthsfinder and the Myers Briggs assessment are great ways to better understand how you operate in your role, and how you prefer to interact and collaborate with others in a professional setting.
If you blame your workplace environment and feel trapped in a world where no one appreciates your hard work, remember: YOU are the captain. Choose to be insufferably great at your job until you find a way to move into a more positive environment. Who knows, maybe your newfound positivity will breed more positivity. Maybe your great attitude is just what your workplace needs to see the world anew.
A Leader’s Guide to Motivating Employees
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