As we've mentioned, this week, in honor of the U.S. Labor Day holiday on September 3, we're talking about how to be happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative in our work lives.
Just as Valentine’s Day is a day to think about romantic relationships, and New Year’s Day is a day to think about what goals for the upcoming year, we can use Labor Day as a day to think about our own labor.
Of course, we can reflect on this question at any time—yes, Questioners, Labor Day is an arbitrary date—but it's a Secret of Adulthood that something that can be done at any time is often done at no time. We tend to address an issue in our work life only when we have a problem—if even then. It’s very tempting to just coast along and hope that things will work out or improve on their own. There’s also the often-discussed problem of the “the important vs. the urgent.” One way to elevate the important is to attach a deadline around it. And, as I write about in my book Happier at Home, for many of us, September is the other January. It feels like a fresh new start to the year, and a good time to re-evaluate. So it’s helpful to have an external prompt to ask ourselves, "What could I do to make my work life happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative? What do I want to accomplish in my year of work?"
We heard from so many listeners through email, voicemail, and #happierlaborday for a blend of Try This at Homes, Happiness Hacks, Know Yourself Betters, Listener Questions, and other insights and observations. A listener observed that #happierlaborday can be a useful question to pose to a team.
Pick a one-word theme for the year—we discussed this idea in episode 26.
Ask: "If I could magically achieve one aim in my work life over the next year, what would it be?"
Update any obsolete technology or equipment that causing you trouble.
If you're not happy in your present work, but not sure what to do next, ask yourself several hard questions.
Or learn by joining relevant Facebook groups—a great way to learn, get questioners answered, and get support. On Happier in Hollywood episode 61, they talked to the founders of "Awesome Assistants."
Watch your language—that is, use vocabulary that appeals to you. For instance, instead of adding "book processing" to my calendar, I added "book review," because that phrase has much more positive associations for me.
Figure out ways to deal with a negative co-worker. Here are some posts about "Eeyores" and "Tiggers":
- Quiz: Are you a "Tigger" or an "Eeyore?" Plus a few points to consider.
- Are you annoyed by excessively cheery people? Or extremely gloomy people?
- Are you annoyed by excessively cheery people? Or extremely gloomy people? Part II.
Buy something concrete to remind you of your aims. In Walden, Thoreau wrote, “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes,” and it's absolutely true that it's never enough just to buy stuff. At the same time, I do think it can be helpful and fun to buy something that represents the goals you’ve articulated from your “Labor Day”—you might buy a terrific fountain pen, a special pad of paper, a new headset, or something with symbolic meaning.
Gretchen's Gold Star: Gold star for the listeners and readers who are my worldwide research assistants! I so appreciate all the emails from listeners who send me anything they know will interest me, and I feel so fortunate to have this material. It adds so much to my life and makes my work more interesting. Special Note: Good-bye to our wonderful producer Odelia Rubin! GOLD STAR for her, for her terrific work on the podcast.
- If you want my one-pager about ways to improve work-related habits, “Working Better Than Before,” you can get it here.
- If you'd like to talk to me in real time, to ask questions or share your views, I do a weekly live show on Facebook called “Ask Gretchen Rubin Live.” Usually it's on Mondays at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, but you can always check the schedule.