How To Find Gratitude At a Job You Hate

I know I’m one of the lucky ones... I actually like my job!

But rest assured I’ve been in some less than desirable roles in the past, where I’ve been struck down by Sunday blues, slumped through the week and drowned my sorrows in a wine on a Friday night.

Although I enjoy my work now, I learned that even in the worst circumstances, you can make the most of your week.

Yes, it can be depressing to dread your tasks or feel fed up with your coworkers. Yes, it feels uninspiring at (all?!) times but no, that doesn’t have to be the absolute focus of your week.

So how can you rise above a job you hate?

Quit living outside of the moment

Jess Lively talks a lot about this one - if you wish away your work days and weeks, you are literally living outside of the present moment for 40 hours a week or more.

We don’t have infinite time ahead of us and we all know how quickly each hour, day and week passes when we look back. Wishing time away doesn’t serve you so it’s time to...

Fill your days with active choices

Now I’m not expecting you to lavish every joyous moment if you’re in a boring or uninspiring job, but please remember, you do have choices.

Even if you can’t change your day-to-day tasks, you can change the peripheral circumstances.

Beautify your desk with flowers, new stationery, photos of loved ones; plan fun lunches each week; listen to audiobooks on the way to and from work. Frame the lower moments with things you enjoy and you’ll notice...

What you focus on grows

If you focus on the mundane tasks of your job or spend your time obsessing about painful colleagues, those aspects of your life will grow and grow in your mind.

If you focus on the tasks you do enjoy or on the activities surrounding work that bring you happiness, that’s where your thoughts will start to default to each day.

And if all else fails…

Take responsibility for making change

Change can be terrifying at times, but if you’re sure you’re unhappy and find yourself wallowing each and every week, then you have to take charge of your circumstances.

I’m living proof that you don’t have to be unhappy in your job and if you keep searching and persisting, you will find a place you're happy to turn up to each day. Please believe me!

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What can you do this week to appreciate your job? What’s your number one tip for those stuck in bad career circumstances? Let me know in the comments below. 

 

How I Manage My Email Inbox

I’ve had lots of requests to write time management posts here on the blog, and one of the biggest ways I manage my time is by managing my email.

I’m not perfect.

I’ve suffered that sinking feeling when you leave a meeting, only to see you have 32 new emails that weren’t there an hour ago.

I’ve woken at 5am and thought ‘I’ll just take a quick peek at what happened overnight’ then lay awake anxious about the day ahead.

But it’s all a mind game. You are in control of your reaction to email and you are in control of how you manage it.

These tips may not be ground-breaking but they’ve served me well as I’ve navigated through what we all have to navigate - a busy work and personal life.

Compartmentalise your day

The quickest way for me to leave work without having achieved anything is to sit on my email all day. As soon as I reply to one, the next comes in and I’m jumping all over the place, all day long.

I don’t have strict rules as to when I check email but I do make sure once I’m working on a task that I don’t flick back to my email client out of habit and lose focus.

Lately I’ve been trying to work on projects in time blocks or Pomodoros (a la the Productivity Planner). I work on the tasks, but I may also review and reply to emails related to that project specifically. This saves me feeling overwhelmed by the number of emails awaiting my response.

Acknowledge receipt

I work mostly with clients but I think this tip applies to coworkers and family and friends too.

A quick email to say you’ve received their note and will get back to them soon / tomorrow / next week will:

  1. Make them feel heard and let them know you’re onto it.
  2. Make you feel better as you’re not staring at a stack of unanswered emails feeling guilty.

File file file

Get emails out of your inbox. It’s so satisfying to file emails as they are dealt with and to watch that inbox number shrink.

I used to try and keep my email inbox to around 20 emails but unfortunately these days it’s more like 50.

Either way, pick a number to work towards to avoid your inbox spiraling out of your control.

Unsubscribe

Ah, the sweet pleasure of unsubscribe.

As we all go down the rabbit hole of news sites, blogs, digital product offerings and so on, it’s easy to hand over your email address in order to receive a freebie, a newsletter or regular updates from a site.

But sure enough within a month you’re deleting those emails without reading them or wondering how the hell you’re receiving them in the first place.

I have a few that I love to receive (I'm looking at you Jess Lively, Laura Vanderkam and Paige Schmidt) but most of the others just end up annoying me or adding to the feeling of overwhelm.

For me, every time I take a holiday I go through my emails and unsubscribe from all the stuff I’m not reading. Try it now!

How do you manage email? What’s your favourite tip I’ve given?

 

Light links: November

 
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November has been pretty intense! I started a new job and am really enjoying it. I am learning stacks, have cut my commute in half and am working in one of my favourite areas of Melbourne.

But, I’ve really had to catch myself when it comes to placing pressure on myself.

Despite always telling my new team members this, I need to practice what I preach when it comes to overwhelm. I won’t know everything straight away and I need to accept it’s going to take time to get up to speed. Leave a comment with your wise words on how to admit this!

In the meantime, relax and enjoy some of my favourite links from the last month.

Probably the most powerful thing I’ve read recently – motivating yourself by adding the date of your death to your calendar…

A fascinating article on career burnout. So many striking statements about how our careers now demand constant availability, and how unsustainable that can be.

I feel like most of us insist on a disclaimer when it comes to spoiling ourselves, in the fear of coming across as self-indulgent. Here’s why you should definitely treat yo’self.

I love a top 10 and I love a Ted Talk. I know how I’m spending my Sunday evening. So many good topics here.

And a reminder for myself going into December. ‘We all want to be all the things and we just cannot be.’

4 Reasons You Should Stop Feeling Like A Phony

 
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Imposter syndrome, your inner ‘mean girl’, fraud complex, your ego who is certain you’re going to be found out as a bogus sham – whatever you want to call it, it’s likely we all have a similar voice swirling in our heads. 

Being hard on yourself is not uncommon, but feeling like an imposter at work, in your relationship, or in a personal pursuit, is no fun for anyone, least of all you. Below are four reasons to help you make peace with that voice, or at least not let it take you down the rabbit hole.

1. People believe in you or you wouldn’t be where you are

This one often relates to career – many women I know are a bit baffled as to how they’ve made it to where they are. They are intelligent, hard workers but still hear internal murmurs that they’re not deserving or that they’ll be ‘found out’. When I became an editor many moons ago, I had a deep seated fear that someone would arrive at my desk and demand I complete a pop quiz on split infinitives and non-verbal clauses. Needless to say it never happened.

Don’t disrespect the judgement of those who have hired you, promoted you, given you good feedback and helped you get to where you are. The more people you work with and the more workplaces you work for, the less likely it is that it’s a coincidence!

2. We’re all playing roles in our lives

A dear friend imparted this advice on me years ago. We are all ‘acting’ in some capacity – sometimes my role is a project manager, sometimes my role is wife, sometimes it’s zen yogi. The principle is that you don’t have to know everything in all of your roles and you don’t have to embody all of the roles at once, 24 hours a day.

It’s ok to act as if you’re gorgeous and funny and deserving of your relationship. It’s ok to pretend you’re a high-powered, confident employee, even if the little voice is trying to throw you off track. The more positive talk you instil in your mind, the closer you’ll get to believing it and showing it outwardly.

3. Everyone feels the same

I promise, ask anyone and they have likely felt like an imposter at some point in their life (if not, day / week / month).

I remember having to give a nerve-racking speech a few years back in front of the CEO and MD of my company. A number of other people had to give a speech that morning, including an experienced publisher, who I looked up to as a kind of mentor. After revealing my anxiety, he admitted he felt the exact same way. I knew then that if someone with 30 + years experience was doubting themselves, it was totally ok to feel how I did and enlightening to know that I wasn’t alone.

4. It’s ok to feel negative emotions completely

This one is a struggle for many women. It’s much easier to favour the upbeat emotions and brush away nerves or sadness in an attempt to get back to brighter days. But if you never fully feel these emotions, it’s likely you’ll never actually deal with them.

When you’re spiralling with negative self talk, set aside time to feel it. If you’re jealous in your relationship, freaking out at work or doubting your creative skills, step back and assign some time to dwell on it. Just not at that exact moment.

Set aside 15 minutes that evening or the next day to let the negative talk go crazy. Chances are it will have passed or quietened down a little by then. Either way, spend some time writing down how you feel and what you’re afraid is going to happen. What is the absolute worst thing that could materialise?

Once the time is up, you’ll often feel better and can resume your day. What’s even more useful is going back and reviewing the journaling – did any of it come true? If it did, was it as awful as you thought? I hope not but I’m also pretty sure not too.

Tell me – how do you deal with your inner critic?

And in what area of your life are you afraid of being ‘found out’?

10 Lessons Learned This Year

 
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Happy birthday to me! Yesterday was my birthday and I thought I'd share some pretty personal deliberations from the last 12 months.

1. There's never a perfect time.

In the last 12 months, I've bought my first home and started this blog. Two big steps I was putting off until the 'time was right'. The time is right when you make it right - I'm so happy in my new home (yes, even with the extra outgoing $$ each month) and I love getting lost writing for and tinkering on the blog.

2. Wheels of brie don't solve your problems.

More broadly, I've noticed over the last year that when I'm stressed, I often turn to food. After a hard day at work, I tend to give up on my healthy dinner plans and turn to comfort foods or childhood favourites. Don't tell anyone but that includes bags of Allen's lollies, cheese, salami, cheese and more cheese. It never makes me feel any better and when I come out of the food coma, I realise that I need to deal with stress and issues by confronting them head on. Not by stuffing my feelings down with food.

3. Slow down.

Over the last few years I've tended to cram my evenings with activity - whether it's catching up with friends, exercising, cooking, tidying the house, I would rarely ever stop. My husband will attest to me not being able to sit for longer than 10 minutes before I think of something else I need to do. This year, I've made the effort to slow down and recharge in the evening. Reading a book, taking a bath, doing some yoga - these types of activities make the evening minutes stretch longer and my heart rate come down after a busy day... I particularly like the below yoga sequence from Kimberly Snyder:

4. Stop listening to that little voice that says you're not good enough.

I'm going to delve into 'imposter syndrome' in a future post, but I'm learning to ignore the negative little voice in my head more and more. The voice that taunts me with the to do list I haven't gotten to yet, or leaves me lying awake in bed stressing about what might happen at work the next day. Speaking only positive words to myself makes a huge difference and hey, if Maya Angelou had to work through it, I know it's worth my time to overcome it. 

5. Take time for yourself in the morning. 

Similar to number 3, slowing down in the morning has made a huge difference in my daily routine. I'm not brilliant in the mornings and rush through my routine with a kind of disdain for being required to get up to an alarm again. It's clearly not the best frame of mind to start each day with. Implementing 10 minutes of yoga in the morning has changed my attitude in the mornings, as has lingering for 15 minutes over breakfast - only reading a couple of news articles or blog posts, rather than trying to keep up with every social media feed first thing.

6. Lean on your girlfriends.

My closest girlfriends will agree that I have a distinctive trait. More often than not, once I've figured out the solution to whatever my current problem might be, I'll run them through the issue over a glass (let's be serious, bottle) of wine. I take them through the whole story and, usually that week or day, it's come to a head and has just been solved. They have had little idea that it's been happening and, being the great friends that they are, wish they could have helped earlier. Between me and the internal voice I mentioned in number 4, I've always felt a need to solve my own problems. More and more I'm calling on girlfriends, scheduling that wine much earlier in the piece and leaning on them for help.

7. I don't want to be a nag. And it rarely gets the result I want.

Ok, ok, I'm guilty of nagging my husband. It's no fun for anyone but sometimes I truly can't help myself. I received a newsletter from Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project last year and have hung on to her great idea for home life ever since - under-react to problems. Don't ignore them, just under-react. As Gretchen points out, sometimes the things you nag about are only as annoying as you allow them to be. 

8. Dig deep, and don't settle, career-wise.

One exercise Sage Grayson introduced me to this year is creating a list of 'must haves' and 'must not haves' when it comes to your work. I was at a crossroads in my career this last year and keeping these two lists clear in my mind helped me when making the decision to move jobs. There's no point compromising if you're going to end up in the same confused state again in another 12 months. Stick to your standards, ensure you ask for what you want and don't accept what doesn't work for you.

9. Worries rarely eventuate.

I have been trying to learn this for years. My sister is a psychologist and literally took me through this 10 years ago. But hey, we've got to get there ourselves sometimes right?! A little trick I've used recently is if I'm going to bed with a head full of worries, I write them down. No matter how crazy they sound. The best part of this is, not only does it help get them out of my head so I can sleep, but I read back on them a week or a month later, and usually NONE of them have eventuated and they are fairly irrational worries looking back. I'm still allowed to have them but I'm noticing more and more that they're unnecessary to dwell on.

 No more of this! 

No more of this! 

And the most important lesson:

10. Every year gets better.

It's true people. The years are getting better and better. And if I've cemented these 10 lessons over the last year, I can't wait to see what happens over the next 12 months. 

Why schools are ahead of workplaces

At a recent work conference, I found myself in an awkward situation.

‘Close your eyes and smell it. Place it in your mouth and roll it around…’

No, my career is not going down the path you think. I was in a positive psychology session, savouring my malteser.

sunny disposition

Positive psychology

The session was run by Karen Marangio from Monash University in Melbourne and Kerri Morey, a psychology teacher from Brauer College. It was aimed at psychology teachers of 12–16 year old students. The presenters discussed the rise of positive psychology in schools and in wider society over the last 15 years or so.

Positive psychology is about creating and relishing the happy moments in our everyday lives and one of its main pioneers is Martin Seligman – he explains the concept succinctly in this video.

 

Brain breaks

Kerri talked about using positive psychology activities in class to refocus her students and improve concentration and enthusiasm – she called them ‘brain breaks’.

Why every trainer or workplace doesn’t use this strategy, I don’t know. Not only do we lose concentration in our day-to-day work, but longgg meetings and full day training courses are perfect opportunities to recharge.

As mentioned, one of the simpler activities we completed was to each take a Malteser and spend up to three minutes savouring it – the glossiness, the smell, the feel in our hand, the taste. It was great to reset the brain during a long conference, while also bringing up feelings of gratitude and activating our senses.

Other simple brain breaks might include :

•           the ol’ tap your head and rub your stomach trick
•           doodle time on a blank sheet of paper
•           a quick game of noughts and crosses.

Basically anything that sends your brain away from your work completely.

8 tips for a more satisfying life

We also discussed some of the strategies students at Kerri’s school are using to try and create a more satisfying life. Developed by Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, there are eight steps they are implementing:

•           Keeping a gratitude journal

•           Practising acts of kindness

•           Practising mindfulness

•           Thanking a mentor

•           Learning to forgive

•           Spending time with people you love

•           Taking care of your brain and body

•           Developing strategies for managing stress

 

Psychology wasn't even offered at my high school, and I think these strategies are so important and could be really beneficial in both schools and workplaces today.

Are there workplaces out there employing any of these strategies? Let me know if you work for one or have heard of any.

Martin Seligman also gathers and compares happiness data via his questionnaires. You have to sign up but it’s worth adding to this important study here

Eat frogs and revamp your days

 
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Wrangling time

Life Editor, Sage Grayson, recently recommended the book Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy. Its focus is on reducing the feeling of overwhelm, while improving time management strategies. I’ve always felt like I’m pretty au fait with time management but maybe that’s only when there’s enough time in the day to fit in every task… which has not been the case at my workplace for around the past year.

Four realistic lessons

In the spirit of living life with more ease, Mark Twain was quoted as saying:

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

So if you complete your least favourite task (your ‘live frog’) first thing – anything beyond that will be better than that first task. I have been working on implementing this at work for the last few months and I’ve noticed a real difference, and less horrible frogs lurking on my list all day or at the end of each week.

Some of my key takeaways from the book are:

1  Set a theme for the day – today is all about what? (e.g. productivity, ease, catching up, strategising)

2  Spend 15 minutes in the morning planning your day. Not ground-breaking I know, but it helps so much and focuses you to work on tasks that yield the most result. If I don't do this when I arrive at work, my day tends to spiral madly.

3  Rank your priorities – once you’ve made your to do list, rank the priorities. Are they A, B or C priorities? Or my personal favourite… – Ds! D = Delegate.

And my favourite lesson? I am spreading this through the land to anyone who will listen. 

You will never be caught up on your to do list. What is the most valuable use of your time right now?

Once I accepted I'll never catch up on my to do list (both at work and in my personal life), it felt like a huge weight had been lifted. Let me know in the comments if this resonates with you.