We can improve our working lives by making small adjustments, and challenging our own perceptions of what is doable. Writing things down, taking exercise and rest, and being curious about the world around you will help. Cultivate an experimental mindset to find out what improves your working life.
Ten years ago my friend Nick started a new job based at Canary Wharf in London’s Docklands. He was excited about the new role but wasn’t looking forward to the commute. The quickest route would be by underground but there was another option: the Thames riverboat service. Traveling by boat would be the least efficient route. It would mean setting his alarm earlier but Nick felt it might be a more relaxing start to the day.
He tried it as an experiment. It made such a positive difference to his day, he continued taking the boat to work as many days as he could. In contrast to the hustle and bustle of the tube, travelling by boat meant Nick arrived at the office energised and in a good mood.
Of course, many of us are no longer commuting to the office five days a week, but it’s a good example of how a small change to any one area of our work life can make a big difference. Challenging our own perceptions of what’s doable – such as taking a longer journey instead of the quickest route – can be what we need to make a positive difference. When we nudge our own mindset to think and act differently, we might surprise ourselves with the outcome, even if on the surface it appears less efficient or productive.
The last two years have upended our lives and presented us with a lot of challenges and obstacles. Stress levels are at an all-time high. Yet it’s also been, for many, a time of reflection. The pandemic has forced us to pause and take stock, and to find a new perspective on what really matters in our life and work. This has made us question what we want more of and what we want to let go of.
In 2022 we’ve got the opportunity to create and shape how we want our lives to pan out. And that starts with focusing on the everyday, making those tweaks, tuning into what we need. When we have a good day, it makes a difference not just to ourselves, but spreads positivity to our partners, family members, friends and colleagues. It improves our productivity and wellbeing. And the good days add up to happier, more fulfilled lives.
Here are four ideas for improving the quality of your work life that you can try this week:
1. Track the good times
Each day, reflect on the experiences that you’ve enjoyed or have nourished you, and write them down. Review the list at the end of the week, identifying patterns to help you understand what you need to do more of to have a better day.
2. Take a walk
Walking is my single biggest hack to boost your day. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, a walk outside does wonders. A walking meeting is a productive way to catch up with a colleague or to work through a challenge. And if you want to get the creative juices flowing, the fluid movement in the body will help to trigger fluid movement in the brain.
3. Look around you
Being curious and noticing the world around makes a difference to your wellbeing and mood, and it also fuels ideas and innovation. Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz tells the story of how he once visited a cheese stall at a Seattle food market and was impressed by the woman serving him. That chance encounter prompted a major retraining exercise for the brand. Shift your mindset to see the world outside your window as a source of inspiration not a distraction.
4. Carve out some blank space in the calendar
Many of us are working harder than ever, juggling family care alongside our job roles. Research suggests that many employees are chasing the idea of ‘optimal busyness’. Add to that concerns about our health and livelihoods: no wonder our brains and bodies are feeling fatigued and stressed. We might see work and rest as opposites, but expert Alex Soojung-Kim Pang makes a strong case that work and rest act as partners, with each supporting and justifying the other. We all need respite from the daily toil. Treat rest like an appointment – schedule blank space in the calendar if that’s what it takes. It’s too important to ignore.
In 2022, become the designer of your life. Embrace an experimental mindset to try different ideas out. Some might not work for you, others might be life changing. Let’s not sleepwalk our way back into the old ways of doing things. What are our own particular set of habits and behaviours that are going to boost our every day? What are the tweaks we need to make, and the mindset we need to embrace, to get us working smarter, happier and more creatively? Let’s grasp the opportunity.
365 Ways to Have a Good Day by Ian Sanders is published by John Murray Learning/ Hachette.
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