Our 9-to-5 office jobs are not hives of evil ghouls and sneaky monsters plotting to tear you to pieces; they're not havens full of promising dreams and sunshine beams either. We all have days when the job sucks the life out of you and makes you wish there were more hours in the day.
Whether you have the job of your dreams or you work for the bills, here are ten simple steps that you can take to help keep your sanity intact in the workplace.
Stop Making Excuses
We all have that one colleague who always comes up with the best excuses for his/her unfortunate life.
If you are that person and have found yourself in the habit of complaining to your co-workers about how you didn't get enough sleep at night, how noisy your neighbours are or just basically about how miserable your life is, you need to stop.
According to the New York Times, psychologists Steven Berglas and Edward E. Jones use the term 'self-handicapping' to describe the habit, suggesting that it's reflex to protect self-image.
Next time you have a flat tire or your alarm doesn't ring in the morning, make an effort to avoid citing a 'handicap'; as understanding as your boss or colleagues might be, with every self-handicapping excuse you give, you not only put your competency at risk, but people will start questioning whether you're telling the truth or not.
Handle One Task at a Time
Be it the relentless emails, the insufferable deadlines or the tasks thrown at you 10 minutes before end of working hours, freaking out at work –as inevitable as it is-will not get you anywhere. Focus on one task before you get to the next one. If checking your email first thing in the morning makes you wish you were dead because nothing gets done, consider doing some other task before you get to your inbox. You can start with the easiest task and end with the most challenging one. In his book, Eat the Frog, author and business expert, Brian Tracy, however, suggests the opposite. Tracy recommends starting with the most challenging task –what he calls 'the great, big, ugly frog'. According to Tracy, once we finish the most challenging task, the body releases a feel-good hormone called serotonin, which makes us feel happier and more accomplished. Use whichever method that works for you; just remember to take one thing at a time.
Steer Clear of Negative People
We all complain – it's a universal habit. There are two types of people you need to avoid in your workplace; classic complainers who basically point out problems without ever offering solutions and natural-born energy vampires – those whose toxic energy seeps into your life and affects your attitude towards everything.
Avoid complainers and negative people at all cost in your workplace and deal with them only when you absolutely must. The reason is simple; you may risk welcoming their toxicity into your life and adopting their behavior.
Having a job that requires massive mental energy also requires a build-up of positive professionals and friends. Do your best to walk away from unnecessary stories, pointless arguments and try to ignore any negative comments that may come your way.
Make Eating at Work More Fun
If your working hours exceed 7 hours, chances are, your breakfast, brunch, lunch and even your dinner will be Al Desco.
Some workplaces have one recreational hour of break, where you can eat and socialise, but other companies don't exercise that kind of luxury.
Overcome the agony of eating at your desk at work by ordering your favourite takeout, encouraging your colleagues to try ordering from new places with you, or simply treating yourself to something different from time to time.
If you're that one unlucky person whose food gets stolen by the friendly colleagues, fight the urge of putting laxatives in your food to get back at them. Who knows, your food may end up in the wrong hands – the big boss' hands.
Make Yourself More Comfortable
Sometimes it only takes some minor things to keep you pumped and motivated at your workplace. If you spend 16 hours awake, it's likely that you spend half of them glued to a desk, so you might as well treat yourself to some quirky items to brighten up your desk and make you feel more comfortable. It's as simple as a plant, a lamp, some scented candles or whatever else you think you may need to keep your energy up during long working hours.
You can also get more creative and bring in your favourite quotes, your favourite life-at-the-office jokes or your favourite coffee mug and surround yourself with light humour wherever you feel it's needed. The point here is to make it a habit to joke about your misfortunes rather than sulking in them. Who knows? Maybe your sense of humour will come in handy in whatever crisis that may come along.
Make Sure You're Equipped
Preparation is the key to success. Surviving your office life doesn't simply end at getting the job done and calling it a day; it's also about your attitude towards the job and how prepared you are for upcoming tasks.
If your company doesn't already provide you with the necessary tools you may need, take a quick shopping trip to your nearest stationary and buy everything you need from notebooks, sticky notes to annual planners and staplers. While you're at it, don't forget to buy some extra pens; you can't thrive on that one communal office pen forever.
Keep Yourself Motivated
We've all been there; the days when the burden of workload feels as though there is a 10 year old sitting on your chest – a chunky one at that. Your day unravels as a series of deadlines, busy task-lists, dozens of emails and nothing gets done on time. While stress or bad days at work are sometimes inevitable, there are things you can do to keep yourself motivated when they get the better of you. Motivate yourself at work by scheduling daily after-work activities, signing up at the gym, hanging out with friends or even planning that winter break abroad you've been longing for. The idea is to give yourself any type of incentives to stay active and keep you going especially in days when all hell breaks loose.
You're not in the office to make friends, but having a support system or even some friends you may talk to over coffee is always a good thing. According to Alexander Kjerulf, author and a leading expert on happiness at work, employees who have good workplace relationships are more productive, more creative and happier in the workplace.
"If you're not able to relate to your co-workers as human beings and build positive relationships, your career will suffer. Socialising and getting to know them as people will help you to communicate better, trust each other more and work better together," Kjerulf says.
Don't shy away from spending some quality time with your colleagues at work or participate in office birthday celebrations. After all, they may end up being the ones covering your back.
Don't Wait for Validation
Many of us become demotivated by not receiving feedback or being praised. While some leaders like to salute your efforts from time to time, many continue to stay silent about your quality of performance. Don't worry about earning a stamp of excellence at work. As much as your superiors may decide to withhold your appraisal, your performance at work – whether good or awful – is well noted. Keep giving the job your all and don't wait for validation; truth be told, in the workplace, there is no curtain call at the end of every brilliant idea you pitch in.
Never Burn Bridges
There invariably comes a time when we all want to begin a new chapter in our careers, but you should always leave your job having maintained a good relationship with your colleagues and superiors. Keep your bridges intact by telling your managers that you're investing in yourself, you're seeking growth opportunities in the new job and that you're leaving behind the workplace but not your relationships.
After all, it's always great to hear "Best of luck in your future endeavours." rather than "May you rot in seven hells."
Best of luck in your future endeavours.