We would all like to wake up each day fired up and ready to get out the door to work. However, even those of us fortunate enough to love our jobs have some days that are more tedious and less rewarding than others. That is unavoidable. What I’ve learned, however, is that we have more control than we think we do over both the enjoyment and reward we experience each day at the office or job site.
One way to influence both how well we do and the extent to which we enjoy what we’re doing is to organize our work such that we are engaged every day in some tasks and projects that we genuinely enjoy doing. I tend to be a “list” person, although it is possible to organize one’s work using a daily calendar or other tool. Whatever tool you use, it is worth the time early each day to review what you intend to accomplish before the day is over. You might break the tasks down by how critical they are or time sensitive they are, etc. Some things, such as standing meetings, will be “routine,” while other items will be unique to the day in question. Regardless, our decisions about how to spend our day should be dictated by two things. First, what is the cost or benefit of completing (or not completing) task “x” vs. task “y,” and, of all the things I might do today, which ones would I particularly like doing. Although there are exceptions, it is possible to build tasks into almost every day that provide a sense of reward, accomplishment, etc.
A very important related strategy that I learned fairly late in my management career is to block out times in the calendar that are not dedicated to any particular task or meeting. Whether I do it myself of have an assistant do it, I actually block 30 and 60 minutes times in my calendar simply labeled “blocked.” This ensures that not every minute of my day and week are obligated to someone else. I use these times to meditate, make phone calls, take a walk or work on something that I haven’t had enough time for. The key is that I own that time. My assistant and I both know that these blocks of time can also be “borrowed” if something urgent comes up, but we are both disciplined about keeping them protected as much as possible.
Finding a way to engage in work that we find enjoyable, as well as walling off time for ourselves, is important beyond meeting our own needs for stimulation and reward at work. It is important because the more engaged and energetic we are at the office (the more we like our jobs), the more effective we will be in managing others as well.