How can you improve your current job? Well, we have already made a few suggestions in the previous blog articles. But I will summarize three lifestyle changes that will help improve how you view your current job. If you believe your current job is beyond repair, the suggestions will help in any situation – even retirement.
Develop a positive attitude.
First, try to recall some of the good times on the job. Most people quickly remember what’s wrong with a job and ignore the many right things. This is natural. Remember hearing about the “Halo Effect” in a performance appraisal? Suppose a person does exceptionally well in one area. In that case, we tend to rate them a little higher than merited in others, especially in areas that are hard to evaluate, such as the ability to get along with others or the level of motivation.
Something similar happens when an employee evaluates a company or a supervisor. If one negative quality stands out and has impacted them personally in the past, they tend to downplay other virtues or deeds demonstrated by those same supervisors. We are only human.
Negativity is contagious, just as laughter, yawning, anger, and so on have been proven to be contagious. So, if you’re feeling a little negative now, recall the good experiences you have had in the past and would like to see repeated. It helps to write down any happy happenings at work, even minor things such as a co-worker who smiled at you or a “Good job” comment from your boss.
It’s always better to focus on what’s right than what’s wrong, and what you would like to happen rather than what you would not like to happen. We tend to get what we focus on, whether it’s bad or good.
When you are in a more positive mood, think about how to make that good thing happen again. For instance, if certain managers or coworkers ignore you when you pass one another and you feel slighted, try taking the initiative by offering a cheery greeting. Those individuals may need to be more mindful of what’s happening because their thoughts are focused elsewhere. Perhaps they have a problem they’re trying to solve or just suffered a bad experience. They could be completely unaware of your presence at the time.
Do them a favor and acknowledge them and see what happens. It could encourage a positive response in turn. It could change their attitude completely. When I was a teacher at Humber College in Toronto, I heard, by way of the Grapevine, that some students thought I was self-centered, rude, and stuck up, because I would walk past them in hallways without so much as a glance their way, let alone a “Hi.” It changed my behavior immediately, and I apologized to a couple of the students who were affected. I had been so focused on how I would start the lecture or what case study I would use that I wasn’t even aware of others while I hurried to my next class. They did me a favor by bringing it to my attention. Wherever I was from then on, I ensured my mind was there as well.
If you are unappreciated, stressed, or in a bad mood, try performing small acts of kindness. Get into the habit of helping others. One study in the American Journal of Public Health showed that if they performed kind deeds within the same year, those experiencing a stressful event, such as a job loss, were likelier to live longer. The authors of the studies believed that compassionate behaviors buffered stress and enhanced resiliency. And it has long been known that volunteering improves mood, health, and longevity.
You may be looking for another job, but in the meantime, don’t look on yourself as a victim but as a catalyst for change. Your happiness does not depend on the actions of others. Your emotions are yours to choose. You can decide to be happy and help others to be happy.
Find meaning in your work, continue to grow in knowledge and skill, and treat others as you would like to be treated, not necessarily like you are being treated. Be positive. Be yourself. And be an example that others can follow.
Humor is no laughing matter.
Well, at least not when it comes to enjoying your job. Humor not only helps relieve any stress at the time but also helps develop resiliency in the future. Laughter is a natural mood elevator, according to a Cornell University study. It also makes others want to work with you, creates team spirit, and makes the job more enjoyable.
He who laughs lasts. Even unpleasant jobs can be stress-free if you inject humor into the workplace. Laughter has healing power and has been known to reduce blood pressure, decrease heart rate and increase respiration. When you laugh, the body releases endorphins and depression declines. When you relax again afterward, that good feeling lasts for a day or two.
A Robert Half International survey found that 91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement, and 84% feel that people with a good sense of humor do a better job. Humor is important at all levels in an organization. A Bell Leadership Institute study found that leaders’ two most desirable traits were a strong work ethic and a good sense of humor.
There is evidence that humor helps produce an environment that encourages innovation because people are more creative when relaxed. Let’s face it, we all work better when in a good mood. And if you have decided to use your current, unpleasant job as a stepping stone to a better job elsewhere, you might as well make it as pleasant as possible while you’re still there. You might enjoy it so much that you will want to stay where you are. It’s incredible the difference a little humor makes in any environment.
Laughter, and even just smiling, is contagious – like anger, stress, and yawning. We catch more than just colds from one another. We can catch people’s moods, pain, grief, and compassion. And body language aside, the reason appears to be those mirror neurons that have been capturing the interests of neurologists and others in the last ten years or more. These mirror neurons are cells scattered throughout our body that reflect their surroundings, including the actions and feelings of others. Our mirror neurons fire regardless of whether we or someone else performs a specific action. So, if you cringe at the sight of someone else getting hurt, empathize with your grieving friends, and feel uncomfortable when a co-worker is upset and anxious, blame it on those specialized brain cells. When your mother told you, as she gave you a slap to the side of your head, “This hurts me more than it hurts you,” she could have been telling the truth.
So, lighten up. Practice laughing at yourself when you make a mistake. Smile at people. You might even join the boss in laughing at those corny jokes he makes most mornings.
One way of reducing the stress of a tedious, dead-end job is to do the job well. Be the best at whatever you are doing. You get stress-relieving satisfaction from doing a job well. And you may get compliments from the boss and open some opportunities for more challenging work, or at least a better reference for your next job. You can’t lose. If you are temporarily locked in a job that you do not like, make the most of it. It is not a life sentence. At worst, it is simply a stepping stone on your road to success. Make it a personal challenge to get something valuable out of the experience while you are there. You may be surprised at the results.
Get adequate sleep.
Sleep deprivation could negatively impact your reasoning ability and how you view your current job. It could also affect the way you perform your job. So, make sure you are getting your recommended quota of sleep, which could vary between 7 and 9 hours a night, depending upon the nature of the work, your health, your energy level, and so on. We spend about a third of our lives sleeping for many reasons – many of which are yet to be discovered. Sleep allows us more easily learn new things and to transfer important information into our long-term memory. Sleep prepares and replaces damaged neurons, calms disease-triggering inflammation, and keeps us mentally sharp, creative, and productive. A study by the National Academy of Sciences reports that even an hour or two less sleep a night can negatively impact more than 700 genes required for repairing cell tissue. According to Dr. Michael J. Twery, “Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies.”
Sleep controls the aging process, helps maintain our weight, lowers our blood pressure, and impacts our overall health. When people become sleep deprived, their ability to utilize the food they consume drops by about one-third. If people continue to be sleep deprived, it accelerates the aging process. In one study, when healthy 30-year-olds only got about four hours of sleep per night for six days, parts of their body chemistry soon reverted to that of a 60-year-old – and it took about a week to recover.
Another important benefit of sleep was reported in the February 2014 issue of Scientific American Mind. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that sufficient sleep restores cognitive functioning and may fortify the brain over the long term. During sleep, activity is increased in genes involved in producing brain cells responsible for coating neurons with myelin, the brain`s insulating material. As mentioned, this allows electrical impulses to travel quickly and efficiently to other neurons. Myelin deficiency is at the root of multiple sclerosis and can contribute to symptoms such as fatigue, vision and hearing impairment, and a loss of coordination. Chiara Cirelli, a neuroscientist and author of the paper describing the above research, suggests that sleep helps cells regenerate and repair themselves by helping the body produce new myelin after it has deteriorated.
After fewer than six hours of sleep, on the other hand, you could experience sleepiness, a tired feeling, trouble concentrating, headache, and even nausea. Warning signs of sleep deprivation could also include changes in your mood, such as apathy, fatigue, anxiety, nervousness, irritability, and depression. You could be more forgetful than usual, make more mistakes, drive more erratically, and anger more easily. These differ from what you want when attempting to appreciate your current job. Nor would you like to experience mediocre performance and reduced productivity in your current job or the one you are working toward.
In his book, The Organized Mind, Daniel Levitin says that one out of three Americans gets less than six hours of sleep per night. He records many devastating results of sleep deprivation and those involving our health. In my book, Sleep: A Time Management Strategy, published by Bookboon, I argue that increasing sleep time for most people can be viewed as a time management strategy. This is true since sufficient sleep keeps the brain sharp and alert, makes it more easily able to pay attention to tasks at hand, and allows the self-discipline needed to resist procrastination and potential interruptions.
Levitin gives the example of basketball players who got 10 hours of sleep a night and improved their performance dramatically. Free throws and three-point shooting each improved by 9%.
But, as important as sleep is in managing your time and personal performance, it is also the key to improved memory and learning. Sleep plays a vital role in processing the knowledge and events of the day into long-term memory. Memory consolidation takes place while we sleep. So, only part of the brain slumbers while another part does the essential work. As Levitin mentions in his book, students who were stymied by a calculus problem during the day can solve it more quickly after a night’s sleep – more so than if they had been awake for that equivalent amount of time. A night of sleep doubles the likelihood that you will solve a problem requiring insight.
In her book, The Sweet Spot, Christine Carter says that most people don’t realize that high achievers sleep significantly more than the average American. She says Americans get 6.5 hours of sleep per night even though studies show that 97.5% of the population needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. Elite performers tend to get 8.6 hours of sleep a night. So, if you want to use your current job to learn, gain experience, become a top performer, and prepare yourself for your ideal job, be sure to get sufficient sleep.
We also know from experience that sleeplessness impacts our mood. We are edgier, easily distracted, irritable, and frequently irrational. This could taint your view of your current job and make a positive attitude more difficult. Changing your sleep routine could change your life.
Other lifestyle areas will also help you, such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, relationships, and vacations. But the top three are a positive attitude, humor, and adequate sleep.
As I continue to write, I find there are more things you can do to change how you view your current job. So, I will write a full-length book on it, and switch back to brief articles on other areas of management to give you a break.