Making positive changes in your work life is challenging. In some cases, we become so accustomed to our individual routines that breaking out of them requires diligence and consistency over a period of days or weeks. In fact, the amount of effort necessary for such changes is so intimidating that we often choose to keep things exactly as they are. In other cases, we don’t understand the root of our frustrations, and therefore can’t work to reduce them.
That’s why it’s important to make small, meaningful efforts to change your work life for the better. Sometimes, a single action is more than enough to make a positive change–whether that’s a temporary boost in your mood or the first step to a positive change in your office environment.
Try one or more of these:
1. Smile more. A little bit of positivity goes a long way, and it’s contagious! Not only will smiling more often around the office help trick your brain into feeling happier, it will also make you seem like a more positive person and will encourage others to do the same. Spread a little happiness–it doesn’t take much.
2. Clean your desk. Unless you have a gigantic desk buried under mounds of old materials, cleaning your desk shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes, which almost any worker can spare. Take the time to get your desk in order, right now. It will help clear your mind of stress and make your work life feel less cluttered.
3. Take a blackout period. Even if it’s only for 15 or 20 minutes, take a communication blackout period at some point in the course of your workday. That means shutting off your phone, disconnecting from the internet, and avoiding all other forms of communication. You can then use that time to work on a project or relax–either way, you’ll be more productive and less stressed.
4. Go for a walk outside. Get some fresh air. It will help your mind decompress from the stress of the office, and the exercise will deliver more oxygen to your brain. You’ll feel better and work better afterward.
5. Doodle. Put a pen to paper and doodle something. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. This act will help you think more creatively and will introduce some fun to your day.
6. Talk to a stranger in the office. Even if you’ve already met every person who works in your office, there’s probably at least one person you don’t talk to often. Go talk to that person, about anything. It will help you feel like you’re a greater part of the team, and the human connection will make your job seem better all around.
7. Make a list of accomplishments. Jot down a quick list of the greatest things you’ve accomplished in your career. Thinking about and seeing your successes will make you feel more positive and confident about your work.
8. Make a list of goals. Similarly, you can make a list of your short-term and long-term goals. This will help bring some focus and perspective to your day, and might motivate you to power through if you’re facing an especially tough one.
9. Figure out why you’re procrastinating. Chances are, there’s at least one item on your desk that you don’t want to do. The solution to this is to force yourself to get it done, but that’s not always easy, and you can’t always do it in one day. Instead, try to pin down why you keep procrastinating over it. Are you intimidated? Are you bored with the work? Identifying the root cause will help you overcome it.
10. Express a concern that’s on your mind. No matter where you work or how satisfied you are overall, you’re going to have problems and concerns with the way things operate. To improve your work life today, take a moment to voice one of those concerns to someone who can do something about it. You’ll either get the problem fixed or have yourself on record as bringing the issue to someone’s attention. Either way, you’ll be making positive strides.
11. Do something more efficiently than you did it yesterday.This one will take a bit of forethought and brainstorming, but it’s a great way to improve your long-term productivity. Think of a task you did yesterday that you’re doing again today. It can be something big, like a research effort, or something small, like checking your email. Consider your approach from all angles and find one new way to do it more efficiently. It will make you feel more accomplished in the short term, and will help you complete the task with greater efficiency each day from here on out.
12. Help someone. Help comes in many forms; you could work together with someone to tackle a project or just hold the door for someone. Lending that extra helping hand will make that person’s day better and will expose you to the workloads and habits of your co-workers. It will also make you seem like more of a team player, and will help you build more meaningful relationships with your colleagues.
The next time you feel frustrated, apathetic, or burnt out at work, try one of these strategies to break you out of the cycle. You may find it has more impact than it seems.