Are you having a lousy day at work because your boss is berating you for forgetting to include a cover sheet with your TPS report? TPS reports aren't real, but busywork unfortunately exists. In reality, managers are reasonable people who do not want you to waste time on busywork. If you are not enjoying your job, then you need to make a change. The first step is to talk with your manager. But where do you start if you have little control of what you do with your time working for someone else? Here are some things you need to do that could have a profoundly positive effect on enjoyment of your work life.
Do not work on low value tasks. If you have a good case as to why certain parts of your duties have low value and should not be done at all (really by anyone), you could save the company money by working on higher value activities. Make squashing unnecessary and trivial tasks part of your work regimen and your manager (and soon after, their manager) will come to know you as an agent of positive change. Keep it going. People may not notice if you stop doing low value things. Or they may not care. Plus, with the extra level of trust with your supervisors gained, you can take the next two steps to improve your work life...
Reduce the meetings you attend. Unfortunately, meetings are often a waste of time. Make an assertion to only attend meetings with an clear agenda that includes a specific problem that will be solved at the meeting and reason each member needs to be present. Refuse to go to status meetings (unless they are 10 minute scrums). Status is a good use for emails. Your absence from disorganized and fruitless meetings will give you the freedom to work on high value activities and finish the work day on time.
Focus on 1 or 2 things. Do not try to swim in the same direction as everyone else. Save yourself for the most important tasks. At the beginning of each week, resolve to only work on the top priorities that week and scrupulously focus on these. Don't do things because it's always the way things were done. You don't want to strive for mediocrity, do you? If you can't work for yourself, then behave like you do.
If you don't like your job, I encourage you to give a concerted effort to try these three things. You really have nothing to lose. In fact, you'll be better off as you will hone persuasion skills that will be very useful should you decide to find other work - which is exactly what you MUST do if your work sucks. Think about what you enjoy, even in your leisure time. You can often change a hobby into a career. It should be easier to change an enthusiasm into a career, than to become enthusiastic about your career.
Focus on what you are best at and what makes you unique. For help with aligning your special talents with the job best suited for you, the Straightsfinder 2.0 from Gallup is a useful resource. I have always been exceptional at organizing. This is why I chose program management as my profession in the corporate world. However, there is a lot more to that career than being organized and although I was very good at it, I needed to focus on organizing exclusively to really be happy. Since work is such a large part of our life, we must do all we can to ensure we enjoy work, or at least 80% of it. With doing what I really enjoy and being able to help others organize their lives, my path became clear and Weir Organized was born...and just in time, apparently, to help you on your path as well!
If you are ready to make a career change, then it all boils down to this: Take the time now, to sit down and write a list of the things you enjoy doing. Choose the one you know the most about and/or want to learn everything about. Then, take steps to make it your job.
I understand if the one thing holding you back is fear that you won't have enough money. But Americans often fall into the trap of thinking they need to have more stuff to be happy. We really don't need all those things! The Story of the Mexican Fisherman and the Banker holds a good reminder to those who think money and happiness are the same thing.
For more guidelines on how to make your leap into a far more enjoyable work life, read The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less, by Richard Koch. Richard's 10 golden rules for career success, top 10 lowest value uses of time and top 10 highest value uses of time are essential tips for you to find the vital few in the trivial many.
Speaking of Mexico, it's getting close to summer vacation time. A vacation is the perfect time to read a book and think about how you will change your work life so you really enjoy it. My family travels a lot. Our trips are well planned - we maximize our entertainment and relaxation experiences without spending a lot for money, while still allowing a large degree of flexibility for spontaneous fun of course. I will soon plan our family's summer trip to Mexico; in my next blog I'll show you how you too can plan a vacation with 80% more fun at 20% the cost!