I’ve just read this at HBR.
A great reminder — and definitely worth a solid look. Not unlike this author, I am all for feeling more satisfied with our work.
Yes, 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 of us — regardless of level, role or age.
It applies even when we know that something different 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 how to better manage time at work. This of course, touches bringing alignment to time as it relates to valued activities. (See that here). We should meld the two topics. You see loving what you do, is not only about subtraction and addition of tasks on a Venn Diagram — it’s about teaching yourself 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 categories A (things you love), B (things you are neutral about) and C (things you detest) — explore the source of the “blocks” that stop you from shifting time spent and why.
We can always wish for healthy “job re-design”.
However, we must deal with the backlog of issues that stop it from 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 invest and do it. We’ll obsess, however, when push comes to shove we explain things away. We intellectualize, in an effort to avoid the problem. “It’s not that bad, that I’ve not been recognized for my work.” or “I can deal with my manager until they leave.” or “This might be better to address next year.” You have to be willing to pull up 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 waves. Calm is good — until it isn’t. There is always some fear attached to striving for something better. 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. 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 look.
- Pick the right battle. Not all As, Bs and Cs are alike. Consider Category C. There are huge annoyances (an office location where people tend to stop in to chat) and there are deal-breakers (no time to engage in “deep work”). Similarly for Category A, there are “nice to have” elements, and those that would transform your work life. Be sure to note the difference, before you make a decision to act.
- Psychological Capital. Always consider the end state if you decide to do nothing. Issues at work drain us. When we don’t address these issues, it can be damaging on a level that we do not recognize. Our psychological resources begin to wither. Think of the HERO acronym: Hope — Efficacy — Resilience — and Optimism. What might 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? Are you making progress?
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.