A Happier Labor Day

anytime

Gretchen Rubin has proposed a #happierlaborday movement – and I am all in!

Tied to the upcoming Labor Day holiday in the US, Gretchen proposes we use Labor Day not only as the transitional holiday between summer and fall, but as a touchpoint in the calendar to reflect on our own labor. Labor in this case being the work we do – our professional lives.

I’m all in for finding ways to be happier, particularly at work. As my contribution to a happier Labor Day, I’ve come up with five questions and three I-statements to help us each inventory our work-life and to plan ahead for the following year.

Five Questions to Ask Yourself

How do I feel about Sunday nights? You don’t have to love setting an earlier alarm than on the weekends, but if your Monday ruins your Sunday, it’s time to think about significant shifts in your work. I like to have a Friday night and Sunday evening “special thing” to look forward to bookend the weekend. It helps with switching between weekend mode and work mode, both of which I enjoy. On Fridays, it’s family dinners and later bedtime for my son, and on Sunday’s it’s ice cream for when it’s warm and a mug of tea and a new episode of a favorite TV show when it’s cool.

 Do I have a career or a Career? A “big-C” career is how a good friend of mind describes the reality of wanting to advance and contribute in corporate America. I like this distinction, because a big-C career (in my book) comes with rules that are set by others for a game you’ve chosen to play. Little c vs big C isn’t a better vs worse option, but understanding how you think about your work in terms of ambition and goals can help clarify how you talk about your work with others.

Where is there friction in my workday? Everyone has some small daily annoyance that makes our workday just a little less enjoyable: a coworker who always sends an IM with just “Hi” and no question, someone who stops by your desk and talks for 25 minutes every morning, a commute that doesn’t go by a Dunkin Donuts. Identifying small things that you’ve learned to deal with but if changed would improve your day can be a good first step to being happier in the office.

Who makes up your tribe at work? There’s internet ‘wisdom’ floating around saying we’re an average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Who are those 5 people in your work life – and do they reflect how you want to experience working? Lunch with the office gossip can be fun, but it can become a source of negativity when left unchecked. Check to make sure you’re spending time with the people who encourage your work goals and who make you feel good about where you’re spending your time.

How would I describe my work without using a title? Titles are often meaningless outside a specific organization. A friend recently shared a LinkedIn profile of someone who gave themselves the title of “Curator of Dreams”. You could call yourself anything you wanted, which is why we’re seeing an uptick in creative titles. Since a supervisor in one industry might be called a president in another, what you do is more important than what your title is.  Begin describing what you do in plain English – focusing on the parts of your work you want to do more often.

Three I- Statements

I work so that…
Why are you working? Knowing why you are in a particular job at a particular company, or have chosen to be self-employed or are pursuing a new field of work is key in reminding yourself why you do what you do every day. If the reason you are working is to get a paycheck and get home so you can be a dance instructor, you only need to be doing “good enough” at work. If you’re looking for that next promotion at the office, you probably want to be stepping up at work and giving 110%. Know your why so you are working with intention.

In a year from now, I will have….
What do you want to be able to say you’ve done next Labor Day? Attended a conference? Tried a new idea? Changed jobs? Learned how to code? Whatever it is, Name it to claim it!, as Oprah says. This has nothing to do with your production goals at work – this is a time to be selfish and prioritize why you’re working. Then make a plan to set things in motion to get what you want out of your work.

In the next week, I will try…
Finding happiness at work can be a bit of an experiment. Commit to testing one change to see how it goes. If it doesn’t work, try something different next week. Consistency in the attempt is the key, not success on the first try.

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I want to hear from you: Did these questions help? Is there something getting in the way of making a small change? How are you having a #happierlaborday?

on advice

Advice is easily given and rarely taken. Often unsolicited or unwanted, and usually vague. We ask “what’s the best advice you’ve been given?” in the hopes that someone else’s tested advice will be our new found wisdom. I find that question itself revealing: asking about what has been given, not what we took to heart and used to change and grow.

I believe sharing that knowledge to help someone else be happier is intrinsically human. We want to be connected to one another, and we want to be of service.

So, how to share what we’ve learned so it is truly helpful? The best advice is advice that helps us change, resolves something personal and is given without expectation. Often small, good advice creates positive ripples throughout our daily lives.

The best advice I’ve taken came from one of my best friends. While on maternity leave, I’d been finding half-drunk cold cups of coffee around my house and even in the microwave. I had a theory you could only reheat the same cup of coffee three times before you’d ruined the coffee. I told her I was disappointed that the mom-memes were true. Apparently, having a kid and hot cup of coffee were mutually exclusive. And, I’d never appreciated a hot drink as much as I did when home full-time with a newborn.

Her advice? Get a travel mug.

Of course. The simplest solution and it already existed! Cold coffee wasn’t just a new parent problem, it’s a busy people problem.

And man, did having hot (or warmer) coffee every day make me happier. I appreciate a cup of coffee more now than I ever thought possible. I am grateful for warm coffee every day. And I think of my best friend over many of those cups of coffee. How fantastic is it that she didn’t make fun of my new mom-ness, or tell me to get a travel mug while laughing at my inability to solve such a small problem? Especially since we actually had no less than 3 travel mugs in our house at the time! The solution was literally in front of my face.

My go-to travel mug | doesn’t always match my outfit

Those small, possibly forgotten moments of sharing wisdom with each other are some of the most powerful points of connection we have with one another.

My lesson from the Travel Mug Advice is to give advice only when you aren’t invested in the outcome, when it’s something the other person can do, and when it’s solving a problem the other person has already identified themselves.

So, tell me about the best advice you’ve taken recently?