How to Find Joy in the Daily Grind
"Too many people -- especially young people -- think that pursuing your passions means that everything you do is going to feel important, meaningful, and engaging," says Heidi Grant Halvorson, a psychologist and author of Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and Influence (Hudson Street Press, 2013). "The reality is that you aren't going to enjoy every single aspect of what you do."
Rather than dwelling on what you dislike or amassing a pile of overdue work, focus your mind on more productive thoughts. "You can choose to think about the positives, about your overarching goals, and about ways you might improve your situation," Halvorson says.
Here are three suggestions to help you find greater satisfaction in your everyday work life: 1. Connect rote tasks to bigger goals. To prevent boredom or procrastination during tasks you'd rather avoid, remember what you stand to gain if you complete the task. "Focus on the payoff," Halvorson says.
A motivating payoff is something you really care about -- a major goal of your company. For example, sending out invoices (a boring task) may give you the money you need to expand into a new market (a motivating task). “The 'why' of what we do is much more motivating than the 'what,'" Halvorson says. 2. Create small challenges for yourself. While you're working on a task you dislike, artificial challenges can be surprisingly helpful. You might set a timer and try to beat the clock, or break the task into small chunks and energize yourself with jumping jacks after you finish each one.
"Challenge yourself to work more efficiently, or more quickly," Halvorson says. "Make a game out of it." The game can be as silly as you like, so long as it keeps you going. The point is to keep your brain engaged and prevent the monotony of boredom.
3. Hack the tasks you hate. Consider boredom a golden opportunity for improvement. Instead of moping, ask yourself, is there something I could do to make this better? Could you organize it differently? Modify the structure? Change the medium? "Don't be afraid to innovate," Halvorson says.
By hacking your least favorite tasks and finding new ways to complete or approach them, you'll boost your motivation. "Getting your creative juices flowing will help you feel more engaged," Halvorson says. It'll also make the task more tolerable in the future.