Mental Hacks for the Modern Worker
As readers know from my previous posts, my career has been a state of flux as of late. Although I still like my employer, I am not crazy about my current position and I’ve put together a sort of get-well plan for putting things back on track. A big part of this process has been mental. Building confidence to move my career forward, staying motivated and maintaining a positive attitude. To accomplish all of this I have put together a series of ‘mental hacks’ that get me through my work week. I thought I would share some of them here and encourage readers to share their own tips and tricks in the comments.
– My wife and I realized recently that our Sunday nights, which are already ripe with end-of-weekend sadness, were made even sadder by our choice of television shows. We always watched some kind of drama which inevitably has something terrible happen at some point (Mad Men will make you want to hang yourself). Now what we do is save one or two cheesy sitcoms for the end of our weekend. They brighten our mood just a bit and help us get through the Sunday blahs. If you don’t watch TV, find other ‘happy’ activities for the end of the weekend.
– I read a great book recently by Jon Acuff which talks about getting yourself ready to pursue your dream job. Some good advice he gave is that instead of taking your focus off your day job while you pursue your dream job, double-down on doing your day job well. It makes you feel better about yourself and you get a chance to develop important skills you will need for the next job. It also makes you feel less guilty about secretly applying for other positions.
– Enjoy those vacation days. I try to take at least one per month and I circle them on my work calendar with a red marker. I also circle weekend days. When you look at those little red oasis, it makes the work week seem much more bearable.
– Appreciate your employer. While I am may not be thrilled with my current situation, my employer has always done right by me on the big things. They pay me a fair salary, the benefits are great and I have developed a lot of skills while there. Every time I am tempted to complain I look at my kids’ straight teeth or my house or my car and I feel grateful.
– See the glass as half full. This week is a great example. We were extra bummed on Monday night to be ending a three-day weekend but this is immediately followed by a 4-day work week. Score! Tomorrow is already Wednesday. That…is…AWESOME.
– If you’re not crazy about your job, think of it as charity work. I do this on bad days. I think of myself as already hired by my dream employer and I’m just filling in for a couple of weeks until I drive off into the sunset. Admittedly this is hard and I would consider it a sort of advanced mental acrobatics, but if you have a good imagination, you can pull it off.
– Travel light. At one of my old jobs I used to have lots of personal effects at work. Photos, posters and a cool Incredible Hulk toy on my desk. When that job began to go sour I started purging to the point where my cubicle was completely generic. Somehow knowing I could walk out of the place in 30 seconds made me feel a lot better. When I finally quit for a better position elsewhere my departure was fast and painless. I still work this way. My desk today is completely impersonal and it gives me a bit of peace. I keep some family photos on my flash drive and if I ever need a quick personal boost during the day I can look at those easily.
– Keep an ‘escape list’. I have a 3 x 5 index card in my desk drawer with a checklist of things I need to do when I land a better position. If it is with my company this is mostly about transferring files and office supplies to the new office. If I find a job elsewhere the list tells me to purge my PC, grab the comfy cushion off my chair and run! Having that escape list also gives me peace. It lets me know that I am in control of my life.
– Do something for yourself every single day. I work 10-11 hours most days. It can be exhausting. When I come home I am often tempted to sit on the couch and rest. Instead I find something that needs to be done around the house and I do it for me. It might be something as simple as replacing a few light bulbs or cutting the grass, but it lets me know that part of every day belongs to me.
– Enjoy your commute. I have a 45-minute drive and part of my new-job-wish-list involves reducing this time in the car. One good thing about it though is that it allows me to mentally prepare for each day and to decompress when the days are over. Most days I call my wife, we vent about our work days and then when I get home we try not to let work intrude on our time together. Other days I listen to a comedy podcast and my troubles often melt away.
And that is my program. What works for you?