5 tools to feel better about work (wherever you’re working)

Why do I think it’s important to feel better about work when you’re working? Because when I started coaching professionals, I remembered something I’d always known. People are already excellent at what they do.

They do not need me telling them how to do their jobs. And even when my coaching starts at business strategy, it inevitably shifts to what’s really in the way: bad habits, emotional triggers, prickly people, politics, silos, monotony, mediocrity, myopia.

These are the things that we (people) are not very good at handling, and which professional training, grad school, and development efforts can’t fix.

We’re told to be mindful, but do we really want to meditate? We want to prove our emotional intelligence while struggling to apply it in even the most mundane meetings. We’re asked to believe in everyone’s “best intent,” but can’t ignore abundant evidence to the contrary.

Feeling better about work and honing a chill attitude elude us. Maybe one day….

So I’ll risk repeating myself: work is hard, really hard.

And our pesky personalities get in the way of both business strategies and our own growth. But I won’t tell you to build a new habit or worse, new behaviors. (Yuck.)

You could, however, experiment….

Here are 5 tools to feel better about work while you’re at work – today.

1. Conserve your energy.

We spend a lot of time mired in minutiae. We’re already worn out and worried. Why then do we waste energy and effort on things that make us feel awful? Meditation experts assert that 90 to 96% of our thinking is repetitive and useless. REPETITIVE AND USELESS.

Combine that with the dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people you work with. That’s a lot of noise.

So conserve your energy by just noticing the noise. And now you have a game, where you finish your workday with a little more energy, which always feels better than exhaustion.

2. Do the opposite.

Try doing the opposite of what you normally do. Side-step the mental loops, semi-conscious habits, and emotional triggers that leave a pit in our stomachs and make us sweat. (Tip: those reactions let us know we’ve tripped into one of these cavernous traps.)

Instead of complaining about the stuck project for the 100th time, just don’t.

Rather than be a pill because you always forget to eat, go eat lunch.

If you ignore phone calls from people who actually love you, answer the phone.

When you pick up your phone to text your team, have a real conversation.

When you can’t fight the urge to poke at your forgetful boss, do ANYTHING else.

If you’re always late to meetings, be on time…today.

When the latest request from your demanding boss triggers another panic attack: Get up from your chair before you reply (or send an IM to your co-worker). Go get something to drink and take some deep breaths. Then, ask yourself, “What’s really going on here?” And then, “Do I know how to handle this?” Now, go back to your laptop and reply to your boss.

3. Don’t unpack the mess.

Problems are messy. Solutions aren’t. They might be complex and challenging. But a solution requires structure, focus, critical thinking.

I recently coached a leader who needed a concise narrative for her executive team. But when I asked her what she wanted to say, she explained the work and complex dependencies in exasperating detail.

“You cannot say that to this audience,” I said with an eye roll.

“But they need to understand all of the work, risks, and dependencies,” she countered. I assured her they didn’t. Still, we went in circles, which delayed solutions and left us both exhausted.

Thankfully, there’s a simple alternative: leave the mess alone.

Work is always messy. And the purpose of these tools and prompts is to help you feel better. Try not to follow the rabbit holes of complexity and contradiction. Then you might be able to solve real problems.

4. Avoid saying no.

The idea of “saying yes” to everything is glib and boring. Plus, you’ll never do it.

But not saying NO... that requires some real imagination. And using imagination at work (of all places) gives our minds something meaty and different to think about. Even meatier is noticing how people react to us not saying NO.

We have to think in a way that’s fresh and useful. And that always feels better than repetitive and useless.

5. Don’t debate process. Please.

If you’ve sat in any one of the thousands of meetings I have, you’ll attest to the energy wasted convincing each other to use our unique process and frameworks. This leads to soul-sucking, pointless arguments, where

“My [agile, lean, design-thinking, innovation, strategy, project management, RASCI, organizational effectiveness, execution, process map, product lifecycle, change management, decision matrix, solution architecture, blueprint, generic Excel template]
framework is better than yours.”

It isn’t.

Process is great. It also DOES NOT MATTER. All formal processes are adequate. And all of them are incomplete. All of them.

Formal process teaches us how to structure and focus our thinking. But you’re better off combining three to advance any meaningful work.

And you have important work to do.

So agree with yourself to not debate process. Adopt someone else’s, propose a compromise, or ignore the conversation altogether. If you must weigh in, it will be there tomorrow.

Feel better (you can do it).

You don’t have to try these all at once. And the goal isn’t to be perfect. It’s for you to feel better about work while you’re working. If that happens to make your work easier, all the better.

Feel better about work.
One on One and Teams and Groups.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash