Creating work place happiness – Part 1
It might sound a little strange to say that we should be happy at work. After all, it’s called work! But we spend more time at our jobs than we do engage in almost any other activity. If we’re unhappy at work, we’re likely to feel the effects in other areas of our lives, too. Finding ways to be happy at work not only brings you greater productivity and greater job satisfaction, but will help you achieve greater overall mental, emotional, and physical health.
Most of us spend more time at work than we do engage in any other activity other than sleeping. If we consider how much of our lives we spend in our workplace, it quickly becomes clear that spending this time unhappy, unfulfilled, and just counting the days until the weekend is a waste of time and energy. Finding ways to be happier at work can not only lead to better mental health but also can improve your productivity and overall work performance. One key way to cultivate more happiness at work is to plan for it! Develop habits that get your workday off to the right start, and you’ll see greater happiness throughout the day and week.
Nothing gets your day off on the wrong foot like rushing around in the morning! Lost keys, skipping breakfast, discovering that the suit you wanted to wear doesn’t quite fit any more – all this can throw your morning into chaos. Taking time the night before to organize what you need for the next day can help avoid this morning rush and let you start your day centered, organized, and with everything you need. Create a nightly routine – and follow it! Choose your clothes for the next day, set up your coffee maker (especially if it has a timer and automatic brew!), pack your lunch. Take time to place the things you will need to work the next day in your briefcase or bag. You might even choose a space near the door to be your “launchpad,” space where everything you need for the day is in one place and easy to pick up. Your routine will vary depending on what you need each day, what your workday looks like, and what the needs of your family are. It might even help to make yourself a checklist until the routine truly becomes a habit.
Sleep deprivation is bad for your mental, emotional, and physical health. It’s hard to feel productive, happy, and positive when you’re exhausted! Making sure that you get at least 8 hours of quality sleep per night is one step you can take to help prepare yourself to be happier and healthier, both at work and in the rest of your life. Many of us are used to running on just a few hours of sleep, or to getting the sleep that isn’t truly restful. There are a few steps you can take to ensure that you get the most restful sleep possible and wake up ready to face the day with a positive attitude.
Steps to Quality Sleep include: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day – including weekends; Have a nightly routine that prepares you for bed – shower, tooth brushing, prayer or meditation, etc.; Put away the electronic devices, and make your bedroom a sanctuary.
Getting enough sleep is important, but waking up early enough so that you have time to transition into your day can also help foster happiness. If you usually hit the ground running and leave the house with just enough time to make it to the office on time, you are kicking your day off with anxiety. Waking up even 15 minutes earlier so that you can have some “me” time can help you ease into your day with a sense of centeredness instead of a sense of panic. Some people like to wake up very early and have an hour or more of “me” time, while others just need an extra 10 or 15 minutes to linger over a cup of coffee or tea. Figure out what works for you!
Ways to Use Your “Me” Time:
• Read the newspaper or a passage from a book you are enjoying.
• Pray or meditate.
• Do some light stretching or yoga.
• Linger over your coffee, tea, or breakfast.
• Spend time stroking your pet.
It’s important not to use your “me” time to get a head start on your workday by reading emails, working on projects, or checking voicemail!
Commuting is often the most stressful part of the workday. Whether you drive, walk, bike, or take public transit to work, delays and traffic jams can get your day off to a stressful start. We all realize the erratic nature of Lagos traffic, so it’s important to give yourself time to maneuver. Too often we make this worse on ourselves by leaving for work at the last possible moment, meaning there’s no room for error, and that we arrive at work with only moments to spare before we have to jump into our first project or meeting. All this can leave us frazzled, anxious, and short-tempered. Altering your morning commute so that you can arrive 10 to 15 minutes early for work helps you ease into your workday instead of having to throw yourself right in. And giving yourself that cushion can also give you much-needed wiggle room in your commute to account for the unexpected. When you arrive early, you have time to transition gradually into your work — check email, get a cup of coffee, check your schedule and to-do list, or simply say good morning to your coworkers. This helps you meet the day in a positive frame of mind.
It sounds like common sense, but the most important thing you can do to plan your day is to check for action items. Use your time immediately after arrival at work to check your mail, voicemail, email, and calendar or agenda for action items. Being sure to check all these places helps ensure that you don’t miss an important item. Once you know what your action items for the day are, you are better able to plan your time and resources. Additionally, knowing what must be acted on helps you fit in longer-term projects into your schedule. Taking even 10 minutes each morning to check for action items can go a long way towards reducing stress and promoting your workplace happiness.
Once you’ve checked for action items, take a few minutes to make a to-do list for the day. This gives you a picture of how your time will be used, what resources you will need, and any other people you may need to involve. How you set up your to-do list is up to you – whether it’s my most pressing items first, “low hanging fruit” (easily completed items) first, or some other system. What’s important is that you create a list so that you have a plan for the day. While your plan may have to change to accommodate emerging needs or unexpected events, having a plan means you can get back on track when the immediate crisis has passed. Keep your list manageable, and limit it to just what you will work on today – that way the list doesn’t become overwhelming and discouraging.
We all want to be productive at work. While it might at first seem counterintuitive, building breaks into your day can help you be more productive and happier at work. Building short breaks into your day helps to break work into manageable chunks. It also gives you guideposts to aim for – and if you make a break something to look forward to, you may find yourself working more efficiently to get to it. Breaks give you time to reset, relax, and tune in. They also help you as you transition into different projects or other aspects of your work. Build regular breaks into your workday as you create your to-do list – and put those breaks on your list or schedule, just like you would any other appointment!
You can use your breaks to check email, take a walk around the office or even get outside for a few moments, get yourself a drink or snack, or even just take a few moments to not think about work. You might build in different types and lengths of breaks as well, or consider having a coworker who is your “break buddy.” Breaks should be long enough to give you time to reset but not so long that you get completely distracted – 5 to 15 minutes is a good guideline, with a lunch or dinner break being longer. Even if you can’t get up from your desk or out of your office, taking a quick 5-minute break can leave you feeling refreshed and recharged.
*Professor Akindotun Merino