Monday, August 29, 2016

How I Started Liking My Job Again


A funny thing happened this month. I started back to work at my day job (high school teacher) and found myself actually ready for it. Enthused about it. Feeling organized, and tackling my lesson planning, room set-up, and teacher meetings with energy and calm.

Hmm, I thought. What made this year different? Because whatever it was, I definitely want to keep it going as well as replicate it next year. So I sat down and figured out what I had done to make this job-happiness come about, and made a list. This is how I started liking my job:

1. I got my energy back.

I quit caffeine two years ago, and boy was that a lifestyle change. It took months and months before I felt like "myself" again, only "myself" was, at that time, defined as My Caffeinated Self. My real self is who I am now, without caffeine. A person who gets energy from things like rest, healthy food, and exercise. You can't feel your natural energy unless you get off caffeine.

"But if I quit caffeine, how will I get energy in the morning?" I know; I went through that thought process too. Believe it or not, you'll get energy in the morning (eventually) from a good night's sleep, a big glass of water, a good healthy breakfast, a couple of B-12 capsules, and some yoga. That's how I do it, anyway. I feel better than I have in years energy-wise, and I know that is having a huge impact on my capacity to enjoy my job.

2. I made connections with my colleagues.

In the past, I was cordial to my colleagues, helpful, and encouraging when I could be. But I didn't really connect with them much beyond work-related tasks and conversations. This year I'm practicing being more in the moment when we meet for lunch bunch between classes, and before and after school. I'm gossiping more, joking more, listening to them better, investing more emotionally. Not just focusing on "gotta get my work done and get out of here ASAP."

Whatever your job is, guaranteed you have a few annoying people, a few strange people, and a few "cool" people with whom you share at least some things in common. Connect with those cool people. They need you at work (and outside of work) as much as you need them--to commiserate, share stories, triumphs, and defeats. Get each other's back. It really does make the job more tolerable, no matter what your job is.

3. I made the choice to go all-in.

I'm a high school Spanish teacher. I'm nurturing my inner Spanish-o-phile this year, getting all geeky about the language, the culture, the people, the music, the TV shows and movies.

I'm also getting more into my school and its culture. I'm wearing the school t-shirts, showing more "spirit," feeling more proud to be a part of the club that is an American high school.

And lastly, I'm showing up more. My job requires several mandatory evening commitments throughout the year, as well as umpteen jillion optional ones (sporting events, plays, concerts, ceremonies, etc.) This year I'm going to attend more of the optional things (with colleagues--see #2 above) and I've decided I'm going to have a blast doing it.

4. I got smart about how to accomplish annoying/tedious tasks more easily.

Simplify, simplify, simplify. After so much time doing a particular job, you learn the shortcuts, what's really important, which things you can't cut corners on if you don't want to suffer later. I made the decision this year to let some things go that don't really matter as much, and to pay more attention to the things that do matter and make a difference in how well I teach and how smoothly my day goes.

Take some time to notice what the time-wasters are at your job. What things you spend way too much time obsessing about, and what things you tend to gloss over that really need to be attended to more carefully so that your overall job performance and satisfaction will improve.

5. I started taking a real day off.

I made a rule in July that one day a week (Sunday for me) there is no work of any kind. (See my blog post on How I Really Took A Day Off.) That is unbelievably difficult for me to stick to, because I have all kinds of side projects (blogging, novel writing, social media, etc.) that I normally spend almost every waking hour on weekends working on.

It also means that I have to get really organized on Saturday, get my chores and laundry done, errands run, and extra food prepared, but the payoff is a real day of rest, with nothing to do but relax, journal, pamper myself, and nap. Monday feels so different this school year now that I have a true day of rest on Sunday. It feels a lot less like a Monday. I highly recommend it.

So that's it. End result = actual job happiness. I won't say all-out bliss, but happiness, contentment, easing of stress and harsh feelings concerning the 40+ hours I dedicate to my day job every week.

It's rather nice.


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