I’ve just read this at HBR.
A great reminder, certainly — and definitely worth a solid look. Not unlike the author, I am all for feeling more satisfied with work.
Awareness is indeed the first place to begin.
However, if there is one thing I’ve learned, change is hard.
I will venture to say this applies to most people — regardless of level, role or age. It applies even when we know what might be better for us.
To bring meaningful change to fruition, we have to take a deeper dive into why we don’t actually make changes we identify as needed. This inevitably, leads to a discussion of motivation. (For a little food for thought concerning motivation, read about expectancy theory here.)
On a related note, I’ve written previously about better ways manage time at work. This of course, touches on the “hows” of bringing alignment to time as they relate to your identified valued activities. (See that here). We should take a leap and meld the two topics. You see loving what you do, is not only about subtraction and addition on a Venn Diagram — it’s about teaching yourself and the others around you to respect that blueprint.
Your behavior (and your work life) won’t shift for the better — until you examine why you aren’t budging.
So, let’s take that step. While you are identifying the tasks that fall into the A (things you love), B (things you are neutral about) and C (things you detest) — explore the source of the “blocks” that might stop you from shifting the time spent on them and why.
We can always wish for healthy “job re-design”, but we’ve got to deal with the backlog of issues that stop it from really happening.
Here are a few things to consider:
- It’s you. Stand up and take a bow. The reason why we don’t improve our roles, is because we are not willing to actually do it. We’ll think about it, but when push comes to shove we often start explaining things away. The first things I see is that we intellectualize, in an effort to avoid the problem. “It’s not that bad that I’ve felt I’ve not been recognized for my work.” or “I can deal with this manager until they leave.” or “This might be better to address next year.” You have to be willing to pull up the mental stakes, fight inertia and accept that the change requires action. In other words — lay claim to another work life homestead.
- Accept you’ll make a few waves. Calm is good, until it isn’t. There is always a bit of fear attached to striving for something better. In some ways, you have to help yourself deal with the approach/avoidance gradient. That activity that headlines your Category B? You have to take a stand and make it go away. However, that won’t come without a little bit of stress. Gather the resolve to either campaign for its execution — or propose a new and exciting rendition that you’d like to be a part of. Why? Because how you feel after the fact will be worth the trouble. Try to envision how that would feel.
- Pick the right battle. Not all As, Bs and Cs are alike. Consider Category C. There are huge annoyances (an office where everyone stops in for a chat) and there are deal-breakers (no time to complete “deep work”). Similarly for Category A, there are “nice to have” aspects, and those that would transform your work life. Be sure to note the difference before you make a decision to act.
- Psychological Capital. Always think of the end state if you do absolutely nothing. Issues at work drain us. When we don’t address these issues, it is damaging on a level that we don’t often recognize. Our psychological resources wither. Literally. Think of the HERO acronym: Hope — Efficacy — Resilience — and Optimism. What will suffer if you do not act?
Side note: Here (as promised) is my list of A’s, B’s & C’s. I’m sure you can offer advice on how I should proceed.
Category A. Things I love: Reading research concerning work/career. Delving into a data set for the first time (with no interruption). Writing about insights/observations. Offering an “aha” moment about work or career.
Category B. Things I’m neutral about: Running analyses. Developing presentations. Deadlines.
Category C. Things I detest: Not getting paid for my time, because curiosity got the better of me. Flying. Meetings that lead to absolutely nothing. Speaking last at an event.
What did you resolve to change career-wise in 2018?
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.