What Changes to Your Routine Might Make Your Work Life Happier?

eyeglasses with black frames

This year, in the United States, Labor Day falls on September 4, and for many of us, that holiday signals the post-summer return to the regular routine of work and school. Even though autumn doesn’t really start until September 23, Labor Day marks the shift from “end of summer” to “beginning of fall.”

The holiday offers an opportunity to reflect on our relationship to our own “labor”—whether paid or unpaid. We can re-examine our routines and focus on our aims.

What does a happier Labor Day look like for you? If you’re looking for ways to make your work life happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative, consider these suggestions:

Deepen your work relationships. Could you turn a work acquaintance into a friend? Could you repair any strained relationships? Could you re-connect a work friend whom you haven’t seen in a while?

Improve your tools. Work is easier when we have good tools. Do you need a new laptop, updated software, better headphones? Even something as simple as a better pen can make a difference. I love my extra monitors; they save me so much time and effort.

Tailor your surroundings to suit yourself. Figure out if you need more light, a better chair, less noise, etc. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by clutter, my book Outer Order, Inner Calm has dozens of suggestions for easy ways to create order.

Create a list of healthy treats to give you a boost of energy or cheer when you need it. Listening to new music, playing Wordle, taking a quick walk outside…what works for you?

Cultivate an atmosphere of growth. We’re happier when we’re growing, so learn a new skill, challenge yourself to do something intimidating (such as public speaking), or start a side hustle.

Acknowledge your preferences. Are you a finisher or opener? Marathoner or sprinter? Morning person or night person? Abundance-lover or simplicity-lover? Abstainer or moderator? Try to adjust your schedule and surroundings to suit yourself, as much as possible. Because I know I’m a morning person, I schedule all my most difficult tasks first thing in the day.

Use tracking tools. We manage what we monitor, so to make progress, consider tools that will help you maintain momentum. You might try the Happier™ app, a physical journal like the Don’t Break the Chain Habit Tracker, or a worksheet.

Tackle digital clutter and distractions. Unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters, write any emails you can draft in less than a minute, delete unneeded messages, delete unused apps.

Schedule a weekend Power Hour to stay on top of personal chores and errands. Little by little, we can get a lot accomplished.

In the tumult of everyday life, it can be hard to step back to ask, “What changes might make my work life easier? How might my habits or routines improve?”

By using Labor Day as a catalyst for reflection, we can spot opportunities to change our work lives for the better.



Like what you see? Explore more about this topic.

Interested in happiness, habits, and human nature?

Sign up for our weekly newsletter “5 things making me happy”.

Subscribe to Gretchen’s newsletter.

Every Friday, Gretchen Rubin shares 5 things that are making her happier, asks readers and listeners questions, and includes exclusive updates and behind-the-scenes material.