In her book “The Happiness Track” Emma Seppala reminds us of a saying attributed to Confucius: “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Now, she says, “The problem is that we can’t always choose to do what we love. However, we can choose how we approach our work so we can enjoy it more”. Rather than thinking of work as work, we can reframe it by thinking of what we love about it. Here are a few research-backed suggestions reported by Dr. Seppala.
Remember the Big Picture
Focus on the why, rather than the how, of a task or job. Understanding how your work connects to what you care about and to your values will restore your energy. You can think about how the device or product your company sells is helps people to fulfil their needs.
Adam Grant, Professor of Management at the Wharton School of Business studied a call centre in which employees made calls to raise money for financial aid. After Grant brought in one of the student recipients to explain what a big difference the aid had made in his life, there was a steep increase in productivity at the centre. Why? Because the centre workers were personally moved when they saw the impact their work was having.
Turn what you’re doing into something you want to be doing
What happens if you have a job that you don’t particularly like and that is not related to your happiness? In that case, think about how it is indirectly related to your passions. Remembering how your job allows you to indulge your passions will help you to appreciate the job rather than experience it as a burden.
Remember why you care about the work you’re doing. As a consequence, you’ll start to want to do what you are doing, rather than thinking you have to do it.
Research has shown that feeling grateful helps you replenish your energy in the face of fatiguing tasks. Maybe you don’t feel motivated. However, there are always things that warrant being grateful: You have a job when many others don’t. You enjoy the company of some of your colleagues. You experience positive emotions when you accomplish a goal.
Feeling grateful both increases positive emotion and helps you see the big picture.
Detach from Work When You’re Not Working
Psychological detachment from work is particularly difficult when the job’s your workload and time pressure are high, so many people take work home with them at night or do it during their time off.
Sabine Sonnentag, Professor at the University of Mannheim, has found that people who do not know how to detach from work during their off time experience increased exhaustion over the course of one year and are less resilient in the face of stressful work conditions.
Sonnentag has found that psychological distance from work is the fastest path to recovery (total absorption in a non-work-related activity) and leads, surprisingly perhaps, to increased productivity. “From our research, one can conclude that it is good to schedule time for recovery and to use this time in an optimal way.”
“Manage energy is done by cultivating calm” says Dr. Seppala. The result? Less stress, a clearer mind, and sharper focus to get your work done. “You get the same amount of work done, but you remain balanced and enjoy the process. Because you are able to think more clearly, you do a far better job. The best part, of course, is that because you are not as tired, your energy levels remain high. As a result, you are happier and more successful.”
Adapted from Emma Seppala. “The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success”. HarperCollins