How to feel better about your work

Would you like to feel better about your work?

Perhaps your work doesn’t inspire you, doesn’t satisfy you, and doesn’t make you happy.

You’d like to do better work. Work that you’re good at, that creates value for others, and that you enjoy—but that kind of work is difficult to find.

What if you could feel better about the work you’re already doing?

You can, but don’t try to feel happier while you’re working. Happiness is one of those slippery things—like sleep, creativity, and good conversations—that will elude you if you try too hard.

Instead, shoot for pride:

Ensure that the document you created is free of mistakes. Anticipate your boss’s questions about the data you analyzed, so you can answer them immediately. Offer a refund to the customer who isn’t satisfied with your product.

Do things like these and you’ll feel proud of your work and, by extension, of yourself.

When it comes to your work, pride is a much better goal to shoot for than happiness.

Yours,

— Peter

Stuck? Let go

It’s rarely a good idea to bang your head against a wall.

You’re not likely to solve many problems with a headache or a concussion.

But what else can you do when you face a difficult problem and you can’t seem to think your way out?

Paradoxically, the answer is often to let go.

When you stop trying, your wandering mind might find a solution for you. If you give yourself a good night’s rest, your brain might have an answer tomorrow morning.

It can be so hard to let go, but it works.

Yours,

— Peter

It might help to change what people think of you

Have you changed in the past year?

Maybe you became a parent. Maybe you started a business. Or maybe you used to be a couch potato, but you are now pretty fit.

A year is enough time to dramatically change your interests, your strengths and weaknesses, and even your values.

Why do I mention this?

People who know you have a mental model of you. In their head, you look like this, you speak like that, you love x and you can’t stand y.

So when these things change and you run into someone you haven’t seen in a while, their mental model of you is outdated.

You will have fully internalized the changes in your life. But these people still think of you as the “old you”. And this can hold you back.

Let’s say you’re a programmer. You’ve always been good at your craft, but you used to be terrible at speaking with clients.

In the past year, though, you’ve taken some communication courses and you’ve practiced a lot. Now you feel confident speaking with clients and you communicate effectively. You’ve gained a valuable skill.

Then, someone in your network considers referring a client to you. But they hesitate because they think you don’t have the required communication skills to manage this particular client.

This person in your network has an outdated mental model of you and in this case you might lose out on a project because of it.

You experience the “new you” every day, but others don’t.

So help them update their mental model of you if necessary.

Yours,

— Peter

Attention to detail

If you look closely, you’ll find that most people aren’t good at paying attention to detail.

Your coworker might prepare a spreadsheet with basic math errors. Your health insurer might misspell your middle name in a confirmation letter.

Or, more simply, someone might tell you that they will do something, but then they don’t.

And you know what? Not everything has to be top-notch. Sometimes “good enough” is good enough.

But other times, there is a lot of value in getting the details right. If you are good at the details, then you command a valuable skill.

So, are you rewarded for that skill?

Yours,

— Peter

How to have fewer conflicts

Ever been on a trip with someone who wanted to do different things than you?

You wanted to go hiking; they wanted to see a quaint old town.

You wanted to have a picnic in the park; they wanted to visit a museum.

In a situation like that, you might be better off doing things separately.

Yes, it would be at the expense of doing things together. So what? You’d probably be happier doing what you want by yourself (or with strangers) than doing something you don’t want with your trip partner.

Then again, if it happens often that you want to do different things, should you be spending that much time with this person?

This applies broadly, including to your work. If you’re often having arguments with your boss, perhaps you should work somewhere else? Or maybe you should even be your own boss. 😉

Ditto for conflicts with clients, by the way.

You can solve many conflicts, even huge ones, simply by changing the people you spend time with. It’s a matter of paying the price of letting go of people who aren’t a great fit for you anymore.

Instead, spend more time with people who align with your values and your preferences. It just makes your life easier.

You probably won’t find friends, a significant other, or a boss with whom you’ll never have any disagreements. But if you often have conflicts, that’s a hint and a half that you might want to spend time with different people.

There are a ton of people on the planet with whom you’ll get along easily. Figure out which qualities those people have and then look for them.

Which recurring conflicts could you remove from your life simply by spending your time with different people?

Yours,

— Peter

Master Inbox

Do you use your inbox as a to-do list?

When a new email comes in that requires you to act, do you star it, pin it, or snooze it?

Or—tell me it isn’t true—do you mark emails as unread even after you’ve already read them? 😱

Flagging emails that you intend to follow up on is better than forgetting to follow up at all. But you can do better.

When you use your inbox to manage your tasks, you’re only reacting to what other people ask of you. An email comes in, you slot it into your queue of tasks, and then you work down the list.

For a long time, this was my modus operandi, and I got stuff done. But the problem with this way of working is that you’ll spend every day only completing tasks that others assign to you. It’s hard to take initiative.

What if you used a dedicated task management system instead?

In the morning, ask yourself what your priorities should be today. They might include tasks that others happened to email you about recently. Or your priority tasks might be ones that nobody has recently emailed you about at all.

It’s this latter category that’s easy to forget (and never get to) if you’re only responding to emails all the time.

When you set up a task management tool, you take charge of your work. You’re proactive.

So don’t be a slave to your inbox. Decide for yourself what to work on today.

Yours,

— Peter

P.S. Not sure which task management tool to use? Try Asana, which is very easy to get started with. Stick with it for a few weeks before you decide whether you like it enough to continue using it.