[03.11.10]
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How To Be Truly Happy At Work

The average person probably spends 10 hours of their daily life actively engaged in their job during the work week.  If you count the hours on the job and the hours to get there and back.  That’s 41.7% of your life.  And 44.5% of your non-sleeping hours.  Assuming you get 8 hours of sleep.  Bad assumption?

So the happiness thing seems kind of important.  And then if you add in the carry-over effect of how your job makes you feel during the rest of your awake time, that means that your job affects 66.7% of your life.  I don’t even want to touch the lack of sleep people experience when the job isn’t right.  But that’s real too.  And I think now you have my point.

Not to mention all the people that don’t want to hear you grumbling about it . . .

So finding happiness at work should be an ongoing, important objective in your life.

But how do you do it?

You find happiness at work by finding jobs that allow you to use your natural talents.  Because let’s face it.  We all have things we are naturally predisposed to doing well.  And other things we do because we have to do them.

So if you are looking for work today or if you are passively looking for something better, make sure you know what you really enjoy doing.  And here’s a method to figure that out.

  1. Make a list of all the tasks you are asked to perform in your current or former job.  If you have been in the same industry or function all of your career, keep it specific to that for now.  If not, you’ll need to broaden the list.  Include things like: creating/giving presentations, writing business plans, building time-lines, meeting coordination, training, calculating numbers on a spreadsheet, managing the work of others.  And so on.
  2. Once you have your list, separate the items into two columns.  And this is where knowing yourself comes into play.  Column A is “Things I Can Do Well” and B is “Things I Naturally Do Well”.  And some people have trouble with this because we are used to telling our bosses and others that we are capable of doing it all well.  And that’s true for many of us.  You can use personality type data here if you have it (Meyers-Briggs) to supplement or help you decide on a column for each.  You can also asks friends or former co-workers.  They often see things in you that you don’t see.
  3. If the separation process is difficult, take it to another level.  On a separate piece of paper, write down specific times in your life (work, home, college, events) when you felt truly happy.  You weren’t clock watching or otherwise waiting for this thing to end.  You were loving it and, importantly, loving how you felt while doing it.  Then ask for each: what tasks were you performing?  When I did this exercise, I found that I was happiest when I was (1) creating, (2) taking action on my ideas (3) leading and (4) focused on strategy. So now I look for jobs that allow me to do that a larger % of the time.
  4. You can also simply pay attention to how you feel today.  And tomorrow.  Keep a log at work writing down how you feel as your job function shifts from running numbers to holding a meeting.  From writing a presentation to actually giving it.

So here’s my answer to how to be truly happy at work:

Identify jobs and companies that allow you to do the work you naturally enjoy a larger % of the time.  And even though there are functions you are capable of doing, promise me you’ll not let that solely dictate which offer you’ll accept next.

Because some day this recession will end.  You may, believe it or not, have more than one opportunity to choose from.  And you better be ready to choose the one that allows you to use more of your natural talents.

So that you can be happy.  So that others will want to be around you.  And you can sleep well.

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Read the follow-up post here:  Happiness At Work: It’s Also About People And Culture

Tim Tyrell-Smith is the creator of Tim’s Strategy. As a blogger, Tim has been a regular contributor to U.S. News and World Report, interviewed twice on NPR and is the author of two career books (“30 Ideas” and “HeadStrong”). Become a fan at http://facebook.com/TimsStrategy and follow on Twitter (@TimsStrategy). He lives with his wife and three kids in Mission Viejo, California.

Tim Tyrell-Smith – who has written posts on Tim's Strategy®.



Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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