25 Surefire Ways to Get More from Work

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Make work more fun

Whether you want be more successful, more productive or just happier at work, these 25 powerful suggestions will help put some sparkle into your day.  Click here to get regular ideas on career success from Less Ordinary Living.

  1. Start something new – variety is the spice of life.  Start a new project and bring one of your ideas to life
  2. Really listen to everyone you meet – it’s easy to get wrapped up in your own world at work.  Concentrate on listening properly to everyone you meet today.
  3. Take someone for coffee – build a relationship at work by taking someone out for coffee (your boss, your peer, your team member, your client, your customer).  You might even make a new friend.
  4. Take a real lunchbreak – get out of the office, take a walk, get some fresh air and re-energize yourself.   It’s called a lunch break for a reason.
  5. Delegate something – learning to delegate will make you more effective and help others to develop.  Take something off your plate and give someone else a chance.
  6. Read DilbertScott Adam’s cartoon dog puts work into perspective.  Learn to beat the pointy-haired boss.
  7. Re-evaluate your to-do list – take 15 minutes to prioritize.  Focus on what is most important rather than urgent and to those things first.
  8. Do something that will make your workplace better– think ahead about what can make your job better and more enjoyable in the longer term.  Start making that happen today.
  9. Say no – learning to say no to things that don’t fit with your goals and values can be tough – but it is invaluable.  Say no to something today.
  10. Thank an unsung hero – every workplace has it’s share of silent champions who keep everything going.  Take a minute to say thank you and recognize their contribution.
  11. Be brave – if something is not working well in your team, have the courage to raise the issue.  It will never get resolved unless someone takes the initiative.
  12. Offer to help – is someone looking out of their depth.? Get involved and help them learn to be great.  One day you might be the one needing help.
  13. Leave on time – set yourself some clear targets and if you hit them, give yourself permission to leave on time (or even early if you can) and go enjoy the rest of the day.  Because you’re worth it.
  14. Create a power hour – a great way to be super productive – click here to find out how.
  15. Cancel a pointless meeting – sometimes work cultures create an endless stream of pointless meetings that suck up time.  If you have one today, cancel it or excuse yourself.   Use the time for something constructive.
  16. Change your attitude – how are you approaching work?  If you’re seeing it as a negative, feeling disengaged and not enjoying it, you’ve lost before you even begin.  Try changing your attitude for one day and see what happens.
  17. Apologize – if you have a feud or some simmering resentment with a colleague, isn’t it time to bury the hatchet (not in their head).  Be the bigger person and find a way to apologize sincerely.
  18. Learn a new skill – what skill would you love to develop?  Put together an action plan for how to do that.  Here’s a guide for how to ask your boss for training.
  19. Start a tradition – what new ritual can you start to make your workplace better?  A tea-round?  Birthday cakes?  Happy hour on Friday?
  20. Set your visionpurpose is so important to satisfaction at work.  Take 15 minutes to think about why you are work and what you’d like to get from your career.
  21. Drink more water – most offices and workplaces are drier than the Sahara, so stay hydrated to keep sharp.
  22. Listen to your biorhythms – plan your day to take advantage of your natural daily energy cycles – click here to find out more.
  23. Give something back – find out if your company has a community involvement or volunteer program.  Get involved or if it doesn’t exist, start one.
  24. Play to your strengths – we are at our best at work when we use our natural attributes.  Take the VIA strengths test here to find yours.
  25. Write your CV – a great way to feel in control of your career and not feel stuck in a rut.  Dig out that dusty relic and give it a polish.  Writing your CV helps you to feel more confident about your experience and skills.

Over to you

  • What things do you do to enjoy work more?
  • How do you make the most of your working life?
  • Which of these ideas did you try, and what happened?

Photo credit: RubensLP (From Flickr Creative Commons)

Is Work Working for You?

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Career change, career coaching, find work you love, revitalize your career

Is work working for you?

Your work has a huge impact on your quality of life and personal happiness.  Answering the 14 questions below will help you reflect your work and where you are in your career journey, and what to do next.

Please rate each statement according to your level of agreement (1 = never agree, 5 = always agree)

1. The work I do reflects my most important values.

2. I really look forward to Monday mornings.

3. I have lots of upward mobility in my current role.

4. My job is helping me to develop the skills I need for career growth.

5. I’d be delighted to be working in the same role and company in 5 years time.

6. I never complain about my work to other people.

7. I can balance work success with achieving significant personal goals.

8. My job lets me use my personal strengths.

9. My career is exciting and energizing.

10. I am recognized and rewarded for the work that I do.

11. I love the culture that I work in and it allows me to thrive.

12. I have a clear vision for career success and am actively working to achieve my goals.

13. I have the right career support (mentors, advisors, network) in place to allow me to thrive.

14. I feel like my work makes a significant difference to the world.

How is well is work working for you?

Now add up your ratings for each question.  If you scored:

0 – 35: This probably isn’t news to you, but your work just isn’t working. Don’t despair.  Now is a good time to revitalize your career journey.  A good place to start is to go back to basics and do some career planning.  It’s hard to be successful without having a clear definition of success.

If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, look for support to help get you out.  Remember, every great career journey starts with a single step.  Take a look at this article on Finding Work that Matters to get started.

35 – 55: Your work is ticking some boxes and there are other areas that need a tune-up. You may be able to address some of the challenges by shaking up your current role, or making a change in your current organization.  However, it may take a more radical career shift to address some issues.

Take a look at where you are not scoring well and create a plan of attack to revitalize these areas.  Our guide to Thriving at Work in the 21st Century is a great place to start.

55 – 70: Congratulations, your work is providing you with a lot of satisfaction and success. Take a look at the questions where you scored less well and think about how to polish the halo.  Here are some ideas for setting a clear vision and goals to keep your career journey moving forward.

Please share this with your friends and network, and if you’d like to stay up to stay up to date on the latest thinking about thriving at work, click here to join our mailing list.

Photo credit: Arenamontanus (Flickr Creative Commons)

Secrets to your Successful Career – Part 2

Reading time: 3 minutes and 33 seconds

Career coaching, career change, find work you love, fulfill your potential, find your career genius

Don't take it personally....

Less Ordinary Living is sharing 15 secrets to career success in the 21st Century - click here to subscribe and get them delivered straight to you.

    Secret 4: Don’t take it personally

I believe that one becomes stronger emotionally by taking life less personally. If your employer criticizes your report, don’t take it personally. Instead, find out what’s needed and fix it. If your girlfriend laughs at your tie, don’t take it personally. Find another tie or find another girlfriend.” -Marilyn vos Savant

The old adage says that “business is business – it’s nothing personal”.  This is a healthy lesson for the world of work.

Whether you’re an employee, temp, contractor or entrepreneur, you’ll face criticism, rejection, anger, fear and disappointment in the world of work.

  • Your brilliant project that you worked all night on will be torn up by the partner.
  • Your best customer will suddenly quit with no explanation.
  • Your boss will unload on you for no reason.
  • Everyone in your new workplace will treat you like a pariah and make you get the tea.

How does anyone survive this?

The answer is to not take these things personally.  A few thoughts that have helped me with this:

1)   Most people spend their entire lives in a self-obsessed bubble, barely noticing people around them.  If someone is ignoring your email, 90% of the time it is not because they hate you, but because they are too busy worrying about buying their new house, the fight they had with their husband, or which pair of shoes to wear today.  Don’t take it personally

2)   Knock-backs, failures and rejections are great.  They mean you are trying.  The more you fail, the more you are likely to succeed.  The rejections don’t mean you are doomed to eternal failure.  They mean you weren’t the right person at the right time, this time.  Keep knocking on doors and the right one for you will open.

3)   You always have a choice.  If things are getting out of hand and consistently unbearable, you have a duty to yourself to find another way to make a living.  There are always better choices.

    Secret 5: Ask for help (and give it back)

I’m just no good at asking others to help – I feel like I have to do it myself”.

If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard this phrase, I’d be writing this post on the beach in Waikiki, rather than on a train in Wakefield.

If you’re an expert in everything, skip this step.  If you’re a normal human being then you’ll have strengths and things you’re not so good at.

Whatever you are hoping to get out of work – enjoyment, learning, growth, meaning – there will be times when you need to ask for help.

It’s amazing the lengths that people will go to in helping out.  Since I started my business, I’ve had friends and acquaintances help me with my marketing strategy, my PR approach, my web presence.  I’ve had a huge amount of feedback and help from people I really respect.

In my office based days, I got help on any number of things – how to use Excel, how to deal with a difficult team member, what to do when the boss melted down 24 hours before the end of a long project.  Without this support, I’m not sure I’d have made it through and I certainly wouldn’t have learned much.

The bottom line is learning to ask for help can make you better at your job, help you learn and grow, help you enjoy your work more and build solid relationships that can transcend jobs and even go beyond work.  Learn to ask for help.

In return,  help others generously if you can. Do your best to genuinely and graciously give back when you are the expert.  If you believe in karma, its good karma – if not it’s just the right thing to do.

And, no this lesson doesn’t clash with Secret Number 1 (You get out what you put in).  You will only get help if you know exactly what to ask for and who to ask. You have to actively seek the right help at the right time.

    Secret 6 Know why you are at work

If you haven’t seen the movie Office Space, it is one of the best films ever made about the world of work.  In this scene, the hero Peter tells the management consultants about his typical day at work.

Peter is the ultimate demotivated employee – “The truth is I probably only do about 15 minutes of real actual work” Peter’s attitude is “It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just that I don’t care”.  He has no motivation to be at work.

The average human works for somewhere in the region of 75,000 hours during their career. There is no right answer for anyone to be at work, but without a good reason to be there it can become soul destroying.

Some of the most important reasons to be at work include:

  • Doing something meaningful – making a difference to the world around you
  • Learning something new – developing new skills that you can use profitably
  • Doing something you enjoy – work can provide energy and fun
  • Enjoying and being surrounded by great people – finding a great work culture
  • Making a good living – this is a good reason to work, but on its own sometimes this isn’t enough

Knowing why you are at work provides the motivation to get out of bed every day, and to get through the inevitable tough times.  If you’ve been spacing out for an hour a day and living on Facebook in the office, it may be time to take a long hard look at yourself and figure out a better way to get through those 75,000 hours.

To check out part 1 of career success secrets, click here.

If you want to get started figuring out why you are working, click here to find out more about career coaching.

Photo credit: Taylorkydd (Flickr Creative Commons)

15 Secrets to Thriving in the 21st Century Workplace –Part 1

Reading Time: 3 minutes 12 seconds

career coaching, career consulting, find work you love, careershifters

21st Century Office?

The world of work has changed beyond all recognition in the 21st Century – learn how to survive and thrive in the new world of workclick here to subscribe and get  every instalment delivered to your inbox.

1. You get out of work what you put in to work

I have a friend, let’s call him Stan.  Stan had been at the same employer for 12 years, in the marketing team.  Whenever I met Stan, this is what I’d hear:

Those b@st@rds don’t appreciate me, they work me so hard and I sweat blood for them.  Every year, they give me a terrible performance review, no bonus and a rubbish payrise.  They pass me over for promotion.  It makes me sick, I just don’t care any more.

Stan was notorious in his office for his legendary procrastination skills.  He spent all day complaining to anyone who didn’t manage to avoid him.

His nickname was Levi, because he was always out the door at 5.01.

Stan had told me many times that he didn’t care and wasn’t prepared to work his fingers to the bone for no gratitude in return.  He had given up.

When the financial crisis of 2008 hit, Stan’s employer let him go.

Stan was mystified, angry, indignant and talked about suing.  Of course he didn’t.

No-one else at his office was surprised.  They saw it coming a mile off.

Stan walked straight into Secret Number 1 – you get out of work what you put in to work.

He was barely in the office and when he was he did nothing productive.  He distracted other team members with his negative attitude. In return, Stan got poor performance reviews.  In fact he’d been on three performance plans over his career.

He was passed over for promotion because he gave out the signals that he couldn’t care less.

However you make a living, your career will have ups and downs. There will be times when you are flat out and giving everything and calmer fallow periods.  Learning to make this choice consciously and being aware that you will get back what you put is key to managing this flow.

Please, don’t be a Stan.

2. You have to take ownership of your career

career coaching, career counselling, new career, work you love

Suited and booted

Picture me as a tender 21 year-old dressed in my three-piece pinstripe suit with natty pink shirt back in the mid-1990s.

I’m striding into my shiny corporate office for the first day of world domination.

I’d arrived – from now on my benevolent employers would shower me with money, support, training and appreciation.

All I had to do was show up and collect the daily kudos.

I deluded myself that it was in my firm’s interest to take care of me, promote me and sky-rocket my career for me.  I barely put in any effort for the first year.

When it came to review time, I showed up expecting a pat on the head, a bone for being a good boy and a dazzling review.

My bubble popped.  It seemed that I was somewhere below half-way down my peer group and my managers were questioning my attitude.

It slowly dawned on me that I and only I really cared at all about what happened in my career.  It was my responsibility to set the direction, ask for the good projects, demand the training I needed, find the right mentor, look for ways to use my strengths and skills.

If I didn’t do it, these things simply wouldn’t happen.

You have to take ownership of your career – no-one is going to hand success and career satisfaction to you on a plate.

3. Everyone should learn how to make money independently

This lesson hit home to me the day I got my first cheque from a client after starting Less Ordinary Living.

Ten years of sucking at the corporate teat had brainwashed me into believing that the only way I could possibly make money was through steady employment.

Without a job I felt as vulnerable as a baby seal wandering through an Eskimo village.  When I quit my job, I really did see myself “living in a van by the river” as Pam Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation eloquently puts it.

It took a week or two to start finding clients and in that period, I was close to running back to the corporate edifice and begging forgiveness.  The prodigal son, on a rapid return visit.

Yet when the work started to come and I took that first cheque to the bank, something amazing happened.  I felt liberated.

I actually managed to make some cash, under my own steam, without anyone else’s benevolence.

This feeling is not to be underestimated.   It symbolises that you have the ability to fend for yourself.  I almost felt primal – like a prehistoric man bringing back the first woolly mammoth to the cave.

I’d recommend that everyone tries making some money independently.  Figure out something you are good and passionate about and find a way to make a little bit of money from it.

Sell a service (doing someone’s garden, being a handy man, helping someone write their CV, wallpapering, painting, anything really) or something you’ve made (at a local fair, on ebay, through a website you made).

Once you’ve done this, you’ll realise that having a job is not the only way – even if you never choose to freelance or be an entrepreneur, you’ll know more about how to make ends meet in the worse case scenario.

You’ll take away some of the doomsday fear of redundancy and see that you have more choices than you might appreciate for making a living in the 21st Century.

A great way to do this would be the start a small business for $100 in 28 days program from Chris Guillebeau

Please leave a comment and share your thoughts on these secrets and what you’ve learned about the 21st Century workplace.

Photo credit: jhderojas , Laverrue

The Five Secrets to Finding Work that Matters

Reading Time: 2 minutes and 47 seconds

career coaching, find work that matters, find work you love, enjoy work, escape from corporate hell

Do what matters

If you’re ready to find work that matters, click here to subscribe and get much more about how to do it

Bored? Frustrated? Stuck in a rut? Work feel meaningless?

You probably spend at least 40% of your waking hours at work.

What would it be like if you really enjoyed that time, if it felt like you were doing something important and meaningful, something that mattered?

I spent a decade working as a forensic accountant.  I hate details and I’m not a big fan of numbers.

I didn’t see the point of what I was supposed to be doing – it felt pointless. I struggled to find any joy in my working day.

Suffice to say that 40% of my life was not ideal.

I put work in a painful box, and kept it away from the rest of my happy life.  I felt drained of my life force every day.

I felt trapped by my job – after all, I was objectively successful, relatively well paid and had the “security” of working for a big global company.  What right did I have to ask for more?

It was only when I talked to a good friend about her career that I started to think differently. She had a clear vision for her work – to improve society using smart, analytical business ideas.  She was completely passionate about her career, dripping with enthusiasm.

My friend did work that she believed made a difference in the world around her – it impacted the lives of others, and the community she lived in.  Whilst I could hardly get out of bed every day, she couldn’t wait to get to work.

I realised that it was possible to enjoy making a living. To find work that felt meaningful.  To make a difference in the world.

This spark inspired me to start my own journey to doing work that matters.  It has been a long road and not always smooth sailing.

Now I help others who wish to find work that matters and I love my work every day.

In talking with hundreds of people who have felt stuck in a career rut and made radical changes in their work lives, I’ve found some five striking reasons to find work that matters:

1 IdentityYou are what you do.”

Work is a key component of our identity. Our work helps to define our place in the world.

When you meet someone new, one of the first questions you’ll inevitably be asked is “what do you do for a living?”

Answering that question helps to tell your personal story, the way that others perceive you.

Work helps you to express your individuality and express yourself.

If you love your work, it aligns with your values and who you are a person.

2. Quality of Life. “Work takes up 40% or (much) more of your life”

Given this, work has a huge impact on your happiness and quality of life.

Work can be hugely energizing and bring us a great deal of challenge and joy.  It can also suck the life force from us and leave us devoid of the energy to do more than lift the remote control.

Finding work that works for you can change your whole life.

3. Personal Development. “Work pushes you to grow”

The work we do is one of the main ways that we interact with the world around us.

You can take on new challenges, learn new ideas or skills and develop your ability to interact with others.

You can work with different people who can teach, inspire and challenge you to be the best you can.

The right work stretches you, dares you to be better.

Work allows us you to develop as a person and find out more about the world that we live in.

4. Purpose.What were you put on earth to do?”

The work that we do can help us to answer some of those bigger questions in life.

I often hear someone saying that they want to  “do something meaningful”, “something that makes a difference to people” or “makes a difference in the world”.

When we find work that we love, it is sometimes called finding our vocation, or “doing what we were put on earth for”.

Finding work we love helps us to make sense of our existence and find meaning in life.

5. Making a Living.If you have to work, why not do something that matters?”

Like it or not, most of us need to work to make a living.

We need to make money in order to create the life we’d like to live.  Receiving financial reward for what we do enables this to happen.

As we need to work, why not try to do something that we enjoy and that motivates us?

I’ve met too many people who put life on hold for that well paying job they hate, yet the idea of sticking that out for another 20 years is killing them.

These powerful reasons tell me that doing work that matters is vital to living life to the full.  I’ve learned my lesson here, now its..

Over to you

Please share your thoughts on work:

  • Why do you go to work?
  • How important is to do work that matters for you?
  • How have you found work that you enjoy?
  • What is stopping you from finding work that you love?

Answers on a postcard – or better still, leave a comment.

If you’d like to explore finding work that matters, take a look at my career coaching services. If you’d like to find out more drop me an email to phil@lessordinaryliving.com and we can find a time to chat.

Photo Credit: Tinyfroglet (Flickr Creative Commons)