13 Ways to be a Happier Professional
1.Learn quickly that you can’t divorce who you are at home from who you are at work. Inconveniences, disappointments, and life’s little troubles follow you, no matter where you are. Make peace with the fact that you’re always going to have many objectives or problems competing for your attention. Make the decision to focus on your work and proceed accordingly, but never for a second think it’s possible to truly “leave it at the door.” “It” comes with you and you have to make peace with yourself knowing that you’re doing what is most important at that moment in time. (Hint: If you prioritize and find that working on the most important thing within your career is actually not important to you, it may be time for a change.)
2.Know how to apologize. This is huge. Your coworkers, leaders, and team will appreciate that you can admit when you’re wrong. (And you will be wrong!) Taking ownership and saying that you are sorry demonstrates strength of character. You will be infinitely more happy without carrying the regret and weakness of not apologizing. The one caveat to this: Don’t ever apologize when you’re not in the wrong simply to move past a potentially awkward conversation.
3. Eat the frog.* Unpleasant conversation need tackling? Research need done? Do it first thing. And with coffee. Know you have a deadline or an important meeting looming? Schedule it for the morning. Again, with coffee. Taking care of the important stuff creates positive momentum and you will have a happier and more productive day knowing that you knocked out an important priority. Also, decision fatigue is real, and simply put: you likely won’t be on your A-Game at 5 pm. (Sometimes you can’t control the timing of important things, of course, so be flexible and rally when you need to.. But if it’s your choice, schedule the “hard stuff” as early as possible in your day.)
4. One more thing on “Eating the frog:” Just deal with it. Whatever is happening that needs to be dealt with, you have been placed in a position to handle it. So, handle it. Do not avoid confrontation. If it needs to be handled, HANDLE IT. One of my best mentors always advises “firm, fair, and decisive” as the way to lead. I have taken her advice to heart and I’m a happier leader for it. (Added bonus: Your team will respect you for taking care of issues as they arise. Everyone wants structure and you are providing it by setting expectations and holding your team accountable to them.)
5. Define your work wardrobe. Again, decision fatigue is real. Because of that, I wear the same outfit to work every day. Not the exact same, but the same formula. Black pants, black heels or boots, and a crew neck sweater or top. Usually with a statement necklace. It’s easy, it’s professional, and I don’t waste any of my decision making power on deciding what to wear. (Sometimes I’ll wear a dress or a button up instead of a crew neck, but that isn’t often and I always make sure to plan my outfit the night before if I’m going to switch it up.) Streamline your work wardrobe, wear what you are comfortable in, and abide by the dress code. (Added bonus: If you travel for work, you never have to puzzle over what to pack!)
6. Pack your lunch! If you’re like me, you appreciate convenience above all when navigating your busy day. That means that I will resort to fast food every day if I don’t pack my lunch, simply because when I’m hungry, I have to eat immediately and I have approximately five minutes to do it. (That’s a self-imposed timeframe.. I like to work through my lunch.) I eat healthier and still maintain the level of convenience I need by bringing my lunch. I just pack it every night and grab it on my way out the door in the morning. Easy!
7. Take your responsibility seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Your team will appreciate being able to relate to you. Don’t be afraid to show them who you “really” are. You don’t need to be best friends. In fact, I would discourage that, but always try your best to connect in a real and still professional way. My entire team knows that I rescue dogs, love Harry Potter, and that I am always hot. (“Can we turn the temp down in here?”) I can laugh at myself and it is so liberating to not have to be “perfect.” Don’t take yourself too seriously and you’ll find happiness in being yourself while simultaneously giving your responsibility the respect and attention it deserves.
8. Also: Don’t take everything personally. You are going to find people in every industry, institution, and department that you don’t naturally get along with. Avoid perceiving everything they say or do as a personal attack. Taking things personally will only wrap you around the axle and make you perform less efficiently as you worry about someone else’s opinion. Nope, don’t do it. You’ll be much happier working on what you need to get done and not giving the negativity another thought. (If someone is actually mean or threatening, speak with your supervisor and go from there. No one should feel a real threat at work.)
9. Find a mentor. Your mentor doesn’t need to work with you or even in your industry, but find someone who you respect and admire as a leader. Remember that any mentor worth having is going to have honest feedback for you. And that means conversations where you are held accountable and encouraged to do your best. Don’t be too sensitive to benefit from this. A great mentorship is based on trust and respect and you will feel happier for simply having this person in your life and corner!
10. Be a mentor! There has been nothing more satisfying within my career than knowing that I have helped others succeed. Be prepared to provide that same feedback I mentioned above: Honest and without sugar-coating. You will be happier for having helped guide someone in unlocking their potential!
11. Take your vitamins. Drink enough water. Do yoga. Meditate. Whatever form your self-care takes, make sure you’re doing it for yourself on a routine basis. “Self-care” isn’t a surefire path to happiness, but not taking care of yourself will definitely result in unhappiness.
12. Every evening, review your calendar for the following day, week, and month. Preparing mentally in this small way will set you up for success as you plan what needs to be done. Plus, it will eliminate any unwanted surprises. I love surprises, but not in my work calendar. You’ll be happier as you find you’re more equipped to take on your future!
13. Express your gratitude. This one is simple enough, but if you don’t take my advice on any other point, listen to my advice here. Letting people know that you appreciate their efforts is absolute career magic. The key is to always be sincere and express your gratitude in a meaningful and personal way. After you let someone know what their efforts mean to you, the magic here is that you will feel just as happy as they do!
*From the book: Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy