Ah, the day job.
The ole 9-5.
Working for the man.
I’m out of cheesy phrases, but you get the drift.
Now more than ever, work may or may not just be feeling like…well, work.
It’s cold. It’s dark. The sun sets while you’re in your sixth meeting of the day. You’re sitting in your little home office looking at faces on a screen. You wonder what the humans are doing outside (briefly), before continuing with your to-do list and sipping lukewarm coffee.
I get that.
I’m typically a very motivated person. I genuinely enjoy my work and my job. I feel purpose and intention. I feel supported by my colleagues and the super talented people I get to work with each day. I gain energy from the opportunities I have to lead, learn and grow.
But even I have days when I can feel the motivation and momentum slipping through my fingers.
I imagine the ‘new world’ post-pandemic (is it ever really post?)has something to do with that.
It’s hard–figuring out how to set goals and forge forward in a world that can feel unpredictable and unfamiliar.
The pandemic has challenged everything–our priorities, our values, our sense of selves.
It has also challenged careers and the workforce at large. It’s been a resounding wake-up call. People started asking themselves questions like:
“Is this actually what I want to be doing with my very short life? Am I happy/compensated/valued?”
And for many, the answer has been no.
“The Great Resignation has U.S. workers quitting their jobs in record numbers—more than 24 million did so from April to September this year. The pandemic has taken a toll, with surveys showing an increase in feelings of burnout and a deterioration in mental health in many nations.”Bloomberg business week
So, if you’re feeling any of these feelings, it’s safe to say you’re not alone. And if you are in fact considering a career or job shift, we have some great articles below.
BUT if you do love your work/job and are trying to get a little extra inspiration and direction on how to achieve more value, you’ve come to the right place.
There is still growth, fulfillment and meaning to be found in the work you do every day. The world has not ended. We are still here. We can still achieve and succeed, grow and lead.
There are many ways you can make a big impact, and get the most possible value out of the job you’re doing each day. Here are a few tactics that I have found to be most meaningful and helpful!
1. Build genuine connections with your colleagues.
And I don’t just mean on LinkedIn.
Talk to them. Listen to them. Learn about them.
The easiest way to feel disconnected from a job is to not have any real connection to the people you do said job with.
I know it sounds dorky, but that’s your team. Those are the people you’re spending hours and days and months and YEARS of your life with.
That time matters. Those relationships matter.
And it increases the quality of your work as well. In my experience, people who trust each other, who can communicate honestly and who feel supported by one another, produce so much better results than the opposition.
I know it can be harder to organically build connections with your coworkers now that so many of us are working behind screens, masks and plexiglass. But however you can safely and comfortably make an effort to engage with and learn about the people you work with, do it. I promise you the value is there, and it builds with your career.
2. Set realistic, achievable goals for yourself.
This is a tip I have historically struggled with but can say 100% without a doubt is so so important.
I love a big, lofty, complex goal.
I love long strategy decks, multi-prong objectives and a challenging mountain to climb.
But setting goals that require you to either sacrifice quality or sanity to achieve them is not helping anyone.
Set goals that are ambitious and motivating, but achievable.
Do the same with timelines, project planning and those trusty to-do lists.
There’s nothing more frustrating than constantly over-promising, not just to your colleagues and superiors but also to yourself.
Or creating the proverbial endless to-do list where you can only cross off half of the items, and you end the day feeling like a failure.
EVEN THOUGH YOU CROSSED ALL 15 OF THE OTHER ITEMS OFF!
Don’t do that to yourself.
Set realistic expectations, milestones and goals. You deserve the opportunity to reach them, and to feel the progress and pride that comes along with that.
3. Take every opportunity you can to learn and expand.
This can be more traditional, like online courses, certifications and formal education. Or more events-based, like webinars and virtual/in-person industry conferences.
It can also be as simple as asking to sit in on a project with another team that you know nothing about. Or blocking time off in your day, every day, to catch up on the latest news, innovation and strategies in your industry.
Keep learning and make it a daily part of your routine. It’s stimulating and rewarding, and at times even addictive in the best kind of way.
4. Take every opportunity you can to share and teach.
My favorite kind of education is reciprocal.
I learn something and I teach something. That’s what growth really is, and that’s what you can gain from your work as well.
Share your learnings.
Lead a lunch-and-learn or webinar. Share out something you learned, worked on or discovered with your team. Present your findings and data. Share your ideas.
You get value too- by strengthening your presentation skills and demonstrating value.
It’s a win-win.
5. Step outside your comfort zone.
Complacency is the fuel to the fire of professional apathy.
If you don’t feel challenged, you can start to feel disconnected. Keep finding opportunities to challenge yourself.
I’m not suggesting you take on an absurd amount of new work (see upcoming tip #7) but I am suggesting that you consistently evaluate the work you are doing.
Maybe there’s a new project that’s always interested you but it’s a bit out of your scope and you’re not sure if your manager would approve. Ask. Showing initiative (at the right company) is a good quality, as is ambition and the drive to grow.
You may be surprised how willing many managers and leaders can be to shift around some responsibilities and priorities to allow you to take on new skills and growth.
Take that chance and set that precedent.
Above all, believe in yourself.
6. Find personal meaning and value in what you do.
We all want it, seek it and search for it.
Sometimes the most discouraging element of day-to-day work is feeling as though the work you’re doing doesn’t really matter in the scheme of life. For many people, purpose, passion and the idea that they’re making a positive impact on the world are important for professional motivation. I know I certainly feel that way.
But most people don’t have the power or resources to change/impact the world at scale.
That doesn’t mean that the work you do doesn’t have meaning. You don’t have to save the world to make a difference.
Try to remember that, and focus on the ways your work impacts others–as a leader, colleague, creator and friend.
There are also active ways you can drive more personal meaning in the work you do:
Mentor: Help your colleagues grow, support their dreams and mentor them to succeed.
Champion the causes you care for: Join the groups and boards at your company that organize volunteer efforts or represent change needed in the workforce.
Personify the values you believe in: Be the change you want to see in the world, Gandhi style. Represent what matters to you in the work that you do.
7. Maintain work-life balance and healthy professional boundaries.
Yes, part of getting the most value out of your day job is NOT doing it all the time.
Overworking can lead to burnout and poor mental health, or at the very least feelings of resentment and frustration towards your job. Basically, if you feel like you aren’t able to have a life outside of your work, you start to hate your work, and hating your work isn’t good for anyone.
Set healthy boundaries and expectations.
For some that might mean no meetings after a certain time because that’s when you need to pick up your children and make them dinner. For others that may mean no replying to emails on the weekend, or worse yet, when you’re on PTO.
Rest. Eat. Exercise. Dedicate time to your hobbies.
Take care of yourself.
This will actually HELP you achieve your goals, not harm your progress.
I have admittedly not always been good at this one, but I find the better I am at work/life balance, the better I perform and feel at my job.
There will always be work. Important work, yes. But so is the important work of being a healthy and sane human being.
Remember that a healthy and happy career requires nurture and intention.
It warrants the moments of pause we all need to recognize areas of growth and center ourselves towards a meaningful path forward.
You deserve to find value and joy in the work you do each day.
Remind yourself of that too, above all.