How to have a great day at work: a practical guide

Suzanne Hazelton

Let's face it, Mondays are tough. But they don't have to be. Find out how you can make the most of your time at work.

There are many pressures on our time, and so if having a great day at work is not on your 'to-do' list, it’s not surprising. But there are two good reasons that having a great day at work should be at the top of your priority list (and your boss should encourage this!). Firstly, the happier we are at work, the more likely we are to be successful – this is supported by research. Secondly, perhaps you’ve noticed that emotions in one area of our life ‘spill over’ into other areas. Even if your approach to work is to ‘work for the weekend’ – to have even better weekends, we need to have great weeks. Here are some practical tips for increasing the likelihood of having great days at work:



1. Believe that you can make your days at work better
The first step in having great days at work is to believe that you can. As Henry Ford suggests 'whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right'.

2. What does a great day at work means to you?
We all know when we’ve had a bad day at work, but take a moment to consider what a great day at work is for you. With this knowledge you can take action to create more great days. Focus on the work – and also on your breaks.

3. Find ‘flow’ - activities that give you can lose yourself in
You probably have a couple of work activities where you find that long stretches of time pass in what seems like moments. Find more of these activities. If an area of your job has become too easy – it may not be giving you 'flow' and you may need to increase its complexity – perhaps by setting yourself new challenges, could you complete it a shorter amount of time?

4. Have small goals – and achieve them consistently
I’m a strong advocate of having a big vision – but I combine this advice with having small goals. Consistently achieving your goals creates a positive re-enforcement loop, which means you’ll get more done, feel better – and be working towards that big vision.

5. Find ways to have 'micro-rests'
Technically there’s very little difference between tennis players at the top of their game. However studies have shown a big difference in how players recover between points (micro-rests). In your day find moments where you can have a micro-rests. Perhaps you could do some calming breathing walking between meetings, or take a moment to savour an enjoyable memory. Or even consider who you will meet for coffee or lunch – and focus on having some fun.

6. Design your work day to include more positive emotions
To thrive you need at least three positive emotions for each negative. Sometimes the negative is unavoidable – but we can focus on increasing our positive emotions. List what gives you positive emotions. Find ways to incorporate more of them into your life. Gratitude, acts of kindness, and savouring are all free and boost your positive emotions.

7. Give energy to the positive
What we talk about and think about solidifies. Often situations are a mix of good and bad – use the three to one ratio (above) as a guide to focus more on talking about the positive (without being Pollyanna).

8. Don’t look back in anger
Not everything always goes to plan in business. In the heat of the moment, it can be too easy to pass the blame. Next time you feel the urge to allocate blame, take a moment to consider if there is a way to keep the conversation future focused; focused on finding a solution.

9. Emotional Contagion
Emotions are contagious. That goes for negative emotions as well as positive. Workplaces with positive emotions are more productive. Most of us get satisfaction from being productive. Be part of creating an environment where the emotions that are 'caught' from you are positive. For example, look for things that have been done well by a colleague, or even your boss – and pay a genuine compliment. You might feel better as a result – emotions are contagious, and positive emotions contribute to success.

10. Learn to be more assertive
None of us likes to feel that our ideas have been walked over – so assertiveness is a key skill in having great days at work. Assertiveness can start with something simple like better posture.

11. Keep things in perspective
When something irks you, ask yourself if ‘it’ will matter 10 years from now?

Suzanne Hazelton is a leadership coach and positive psychologist. Suzanne shares a chapter on working with others from her new book Great Days at Work.

Looking for more career inspo? It's not too late to book tickets for Marie Claire's @ Work Live, in association with Cointreau and Next. A one-day event on 23 April 2016, featuring advice, tips and inspiration from incredible speakers.

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