A lot of us hold our careers very near and dear to our hearts. Does this mean we absolutely love them to death? Maybe, maybe not. But it does mean something that happens at work directly impacts our mood, our income, and our families. That’s a big deal. Let’s get our work life in shape to let the good feelings funnel down and around to the other parts of our life.
This post is part of a 14 part series on How to Be a Better Person. I’ve also super-duper fancied this group of posts up into an Amazon Kindle book. Check it out: Forget Perfect, Just Be Better: 101 Simple Ways to Grow in Relationships, at Work, in Life, and Through God.
1) Be Great to Your Cube Mate
When I’m at work, I like to be busy doing stuff that makes a difference. But every once in a while I’m pushing and pushing so hard I lose my super-cheer and go into “gotta get it done” mode. It’s usually about this time someone slips a candy or two onto my desk without my knowing. Such a nice little surprise and it helps anchor me back to my good place. Much appreciated.
We can sometimes fall into the trap of forgetting we’re working with people, and not just coworkers. If you constantly think of Bobby Joe as “just the guy who packages stuff,” then you’re doing a real disservice to yourself, Bobby Joe, and the company. We need to remind ourselves to step back every once in a while, realize that we’re dealing with honest-to-goodness people, and work will get done better if we work everything out.
Just Be Better: Ask other people if they need help with something today. If they say no, gently press a little bit and see what you can help out with. If they offer a choice, don’t pick the easiest choice. Heck, go buy them a fancy coffee or refreshing tea as an added surprise.
Be a cubical ninja of kindness.
2) Inbox: Ground Zero
Too many times I’ve been to a meeting where the person presenting has Outlook open. In addition to the twenty-three reminders that pop up in the middle of the presentation, there are usually hundreds of unread emails glaring at them. I can’t understand how anyone is encouraged to work with Outlook when this mass of time-consuming junk is always staring them in the face. That’s a lot of pressure.
Anxiety, stress, and a feeling of overwhelming burden can settle in when things start to get out of control in important areas of your life. Don’t think it’s that big of a deal? Do you have a pile of mail sitting on a table at home? How high is it? I’m guessing it’s not high at all, if it even exists. At home, it’s easier to see how such a mess of “things to do” can grate on your well-being. Well, just because those “to do’s” are digital it doesn’t mean it’s not affecting your mental stability in some way.
Just Be Better: Clean out your email inbox using the four level approach. (1) Do the quick stuff immediately or file it away for good, (2) make the hard stuff a ‘task’ or ‘todo’ inside of your mail program, (3) delegate stuff you shouldn’t be doing, and (4) delete the rest. Be at less than five emails remaining in your inbox by the end of the day. I do it every day and so can you.
Show that inbox who’s boss before you miss something from your boss.
3) Walking Tall
I know some people that’ll circle around a building for a good ten minutes before they pick a parking spot. I have no idea why since they’d be in the building eight minutes earlier if they chose the open spot in the back. Plus, doesn’t it seem like a nicer thing to do when there are folks that may be more tired, aged, or less mobile and need the closer spots more than you do? A few more steps in the parking lot gives you a few more steps to enjoy the beauty that is outside before chugging along inside.
Life always seems to be more enjoyable and beautiful when we slow down, stop to smell the roses, and begin to take in what’s out there. Too often, we’re focused on the most efficient, cost-effective, and easiest path. That may work for most things, but sometimes we need to slow down and soak life in. There’s a lot out there to miss and it isn’t always best to go flying through it.
Just Be Better: Park in the farthest parking spot from your office for two weeks. Alternate between two or three spaces in the general area so you don’t get used to the same spot. Really enjoy the walk. Look at the landscaping, the clouds, and how pretty the weeds poking out of the cracks are.
Go a little slower and make life happen.
4) Boycott Email and Get More
I made the mistake of putting five of my personal email accounts on my phone and changed their checking frequency to every hour or so. I also turned on Facebook®, Twitter®, and other notifications. Can you imagine every time I looked at my phone I saw hundreds of little bugaboos winking at me? Oh my goodness. How am I supposed to work when I have all of these important things waiting for my immediate attention?
That’s the big challenge. Is any of that stuff really necessary? Do you need to know what’s going on in your outside-of-work life during your normal work hours? Don’t you think if it’s something very important, someone would actually pick up the phone and call you? Anyone who relies on any other form of communication besides the phone for an emergency is asking for trouble. Take back your attention and start working more effectively.
Just Be Better: Do not check your personal email, Facebook®, or Twitter® at all today. Don’t even peek once. Turn your phone off if you have to. Do not make excuses when you eventually reply to the few people you missed. But I have a sneaking suspicion nothing Earth-shattering happened while you were gone.
Put the constant barrage of ‘social’ on hold. They can wait. You can wait.
5) Break Room Dancing
They had four different lunches in my high school days. Four! How they hee-haw was I supposed to sit with my three friends when they’re split over four separate lunches? I thought that was a horrible idea and almost torture for nerdy kids like myself. It’s hard enough to make friends when you’re only interested in talking about Star Trek®, Dungeons & Dragons®, and programming. The last thing you want to do is take away those few hours with the friends you worked so hard to gain.
How things have changed. Or have they? How many people do you know at work? No, no, no. Not just how they work, what kind of details they catch and miss, or how well they can meet a deadline. I’m talking about really interacting with those who are around you for more than one-third of your weekdays. That’s a good chunk of your life spent with people that are coworkers, but could also be called just acquaintances. How fulfilling are your work relationships, really?
Just Be Better: Bring your brown-bag lunch and eat in the break room today. Eat slowly. Be friendly. Bring extra goodies to share, offer a seat, and see what kind of awesome conversations you and your coworkers can strike up about non-work stuff. Hey, maybe talk about any new books you’re reading.
Open up the doors to your world a little and see who comes in.
6) Relocation Vacation
For the past seven years, the space industry was a roller coaster ride. The space shuttle was officially retired, the space station has new contracts and no definite future, and there are tons of people caught in the middle. This sometimes leads to a constant barrage of requests, interruptions, and a sense of restlessness to meet constantly changing deadlines. It also results in a few empty cubes here and there. Can we combine these things and regain some control?
Change is hard. I don’t know too many people, other than myself, that enjoy or are especially good at dealing with constant change. Some view it as a threat to the status quo, that comfort we all know and have come to love. While others view change as yet another learning opportunity. Sometimes we have to take back control from drastic change in order to steer things in the right direction.
Just Be Better: Find one of those empty cubes from your latest wave of change. Sit at that new desk for four hours today and hammer out the project that needs the most attention. You might want to leave a sticky note at your main desk and let your boss know what you’re doing, just in case. Be surprised with how much you get done in those four hours.
Use times of change to change the way you get more done.
7) Focus Like a Laser Beam
If you can coordinate the quiet time at home, teleworking can be an absolutely amazing experience. No one can drop by your cube for a surprise visit, no-one can dump a stack of papers on your desk, and there will be fewer calls to break up your focus. You have complete control over what you get done, how well it gets done, and how much time goes into getting it done.
Tweets, emails, texts, alarms, reminders, letters, and sticky notes barrage us from sun up to sun down. The human mind takes about six minutes to reset itself and refocus on the task at hand after an interruption. How many times are you interrupted throughout the day? Multiply that number by six and count up how much of your time is spent recovering from an interruption. Could you have gotten more work done without as many of those beeps and bloops?
Just Be Better: Okay so your boss won’t let you telework. Fine. Here’s the next step. Turn on the “out-of-office” notification setting in your email program today while you’re at work. Put a note in the message asking people to call you if it’s super important, otherwise you’ll get back with them tomorrow.
Telework from work and get more done on your own terms.
7 Ways to Be a Better Person at Work:
- Be Great to Your Cube Mate
- Inbox: Ground Zero
- Walking Tall
- Boycott Email and Get More
- Break Room Dancing
- Relocation Vacation
- Focus Like a Laser Beam
Now’s the time to buckle up and start getting more things done around your work. It’s time to be a better person and what better place to start (after at home!) than the place that brings home the bacon. Please excuse me while I go fry up some bacon – this was a long post and I’m famished. Have a good one!
Want to get the whole series in a convenient ebook?
Check it out: Forget Perfect, Just Be Better: 101 Simple Ways to Grow in Relationships, at Work, in Life, and Through God