How to Feel Better Doing Your Work
My experience of living and working with chronic pain due to a spinal injury and hip dysplasia has taught me the importance of establishing methods to feel better doing the things I love in my personal and professional life. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: I believe that work should be enjoyable, meaningful, and sustainable; if we’re not feeling good doing our work, then what’s the point of doing it at all? I know what it’s like to feel as if our tasks and to-do lists aren’t aligning with how we want to feel in our work. The endless minutia and the mundane work routine can leave us feeling uninspired, overwhelmed, and lacking motivation. We get so caught up in the daily tasks that we lose sight of the big picture. Long-term goal setting, creative brainstorming, and business planning get put on the back burner. We start to just tread water but we don’t get anywhere. Instead of connecting to what we love about our work, we feel disconnected from it as if we’re living someone else’s story. It doesn’t have to feel this way.
Inspired by contemplative inquiry and mindful work, as well as my personal experience living and working with chronic pain, I’ve developed a few practices that can be incorporated into your work week so that you start to feel better doing the work you do.
Determine How You Want to Feel
Where’s the disconnect between how you want to feel and how you’re actually feeling in your work? Oftentimes, we have an idea of who, what and where we want to be but we can feel like it’s too far-reaching to achieve. When we place most of our focus and attention on reaching the end result, we can get discouraged, doubtful, and scared. We can talk ourselves out of taking small steps to reach the end result or to even move towards it because we sense that the gap between the place we are at today and the future self we hope to become is just too vast. Instead of focusing on the end result, I encourage you to look at the place you want to be as a living collaborator. What I mean is consider the place you want to be as a multidimensional idea, sensation, and feeling that evolves, grows, stumbles, and learns. What kind of steps can you take to start moving in that direction so that end result starts to become clearer and possible?
2. Give Yourself Room to Step Away
On average, self-employed entrepreneurs work well over 40 hours a week, and 80% of self-employed individuals believe they work too much. A UK study reports that entrepreneurs work 63% more than other workers, some working over 72 hours a week. In our fast-paced society, where "the hustle" is equivalent to "making it", we often forget how powerful a pause can be. Healthcare professionals recommend taking at least a two-minute break every 20-30 minutes. I like to think of a pause as a shift in gears. It's like driving up a hill, it takes work, it takes effort, it takes a short pause and a shift in pace and gear to steadily get up that hill. The momentum is dependent on that shift in gears. I encourage you to take a walk outside in the fresh air and shift your sight away from the screen to trees, gardens, and birds. You can also consider taking a stretch break, calling a friend, or enjoying a short nap. I always suggest that my clients take time away from their desk during lunchtime. Enjoy your meal away from your email, and you’ll notice a remarkable change in your stress levels.
3. Develop a Workspace that Works for You
Our bodies aren’t built for constant work posture; find a work setup and schedule that works for your body and mind, not just for your space. For the next few days, observe how you feel when you’re in your workspace. Are you able to concentrate? Is there something about the space that you wish were different? Maybe it would be better if it were quieter? Brighter? Warmer? Take note of what kinds of things you notice, and then consider what you can change. Sometimes, it’s simple things like adding a space heater or a small fan to make the temperature more comfortable for you. If you have a scent that brings up positive memories for you, maybe you try adding a candle or aromatherapy diffuser to your workspace. For me, I love the beach so I have a coconut candle on my desk. Do you have a type of sound that you find calming, energizing, or uplifting? Try streaming ocean waves, songbirds, or white noise, or even the ambient sounds of a coffee shop, if that’s your thing. Consider changing up your posture with a standing desk or invest in a laptop or tablet to allow you to work from a seated position like a reclining chair. I love my Poang chair from Ikea; you can usually find these chairs on Craigslist for resale at low prices. There is no formula here; do whatever you need to feel more comfortable doing your work.
4. Change Your Environment
Sometimes, a change of perspective or environment can do wonders for increasing productivity, enhancing mood, and increasing our general enthusiasm for our work.
When we feel emotionally, mentally, and creatively stuck, it’s often an indicator that we are also physically stuck. Routines like working in the same coffee shop or at the same desk in our house or office can make us feel confined and creatively constipated. A quick and easy solution is to simply temporarily move locations of where you work and to incorporate more change of scenery into your personal time, too. It can be as simple as taking a walk in a part of your town or county or going on a mini vacation for the weekend. Consider working from a new cafe, public library, or co-working space. You could rent an Airbnb and work from a new town, state, or even country. Change of environment can even be related to a change of time and light; try working at night if you’re typically a morning worker or vice versa.
5. Own Your Story
We each have a story of how, why, and where we got started on our journey. Doing your work and managing and marketing your brand doesn’t have to feel sales-y, uncomfortable, or inauthentic. Story is powerful; it can help us connect with the world around us. Story makes us unique and sets us apart from others in our industry. When we incorporate our story into the language we use to describe our products, our services, and our business, we open up an opportunity for connection with our customers. We create richer, textured, and deeper experiences for our customers when we break the mold, refuse the formula, and think outside of the box. By tapping into our past experiences, whether it be our pitfalls of successes, we are able to recognize where we’ve stumbled before and how we’ve thrived in spite of challenges.
6. Confront Frustation and Stress
When we’re working on a project or a task and we feel frustrated or stressed, the root cause is very often that we are overloaded with things to do. To practice mindful problem-solving to combat frustration, instead of thinking why or how you can get something done on your to-do list, try thinking what you realistically have the capacity to do. Don’t feel like you can write a blog post once a week? Well, what can you do? Maybe you can manage time to write and publish monthly? Mindfully confronting stress and frustration includes reevaluating your situation and creatively problem-solving around the obstacle within the within your own capacity so that you don’t overwhelm yourself or burn out. By making this about what you can do versus what you feel like you must do, you release some pressure and you end up producing higher quality work.
7. Show Yourself and Others Compassion
When we act with compassion, we are poised to engage with our customers, collaborators, and colleagues on a deeper, more meaningful level. We can start appreciating ourselves, respecting our work, and supporting our efforts by offering kindness to ourselves as we move down this path. One of my favorite practices for showing myself compassion is to make an accomplishment list. I encourage you to approach your work from a place of success. During your work day, spend a few seconds every couple of hours to jot down what you've accomplished. There’s no need to spend more than a few seconds doing this; make the note and then move on. At the end of the workday, look through your accomplishment list and send up some feelings of gratitude and grace for yourself and for the work you are doing. Give yourself a high five! The ability to cultivate awareness in your work is contingent on your commitment to acknowledging the value of what matters to you and aligning those values with what you want to accomplish. Celebrate those mini-yays and continue to move forward with your best work.
8. Build Your Community and Cultivate Connections
When you have the support of others around you, you’ll go even further than you imagined or expected. Build a welcoming network of like-valued peers and cohorts. How many times have you seen or heard the phrase, find your tribe? A lot, right? Well, it’s popular and often overused because it’s true; the entrepreneur's journey can be a lonely one. Aside from offering a place to rant about challenges, building a professional community establishes connections that lead to potential customers and collaborations, new team members, or investors, and a strong community can become an endless fountain of resources, support, accountability, and fresh inspiration to help you expand your business, hone your skills, and build your brand. Consider adding a local networking event to your calendar, or join an online forum or mindset group of peers and professionals. However you feel comfortable, get connected and put yourself out there; you’ll be glad you did.
Are you ready to start feeling better doing what you love? Download your free listening guide, Ease, to start feeling better doing what you love.