27 September 2023

Happy days: How to recharge working days that have lost their appeal

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David Clarke has advice for workers who find their jobs have lost the challenge and appeal they used to have.

Feeling a little blasé about work these days?

Wish you could get back the drive that got you to where you are today?

After years of pushing yourself and helping your bosses and employers succeed, it’s normal to feel a little less excited about coming into the office every day.

It’s a problem I face, too.

I love my job, but it’s hard to get the creative juices flowing when you’re stuck in meetings, taking conference calls and sending out email after email.

I showed a colleague my calendar recently and she asked me if I had to schedule time to go to the bathroom.

As if there’d be any free time to do that between the double-bookings, flights to catch and must-attends (that maybe aren’t really musts).

According to one study, people attend an average of 62 meeting a month and half are considered wasted time.

Fortunately, getting your creative drive and ambition back is possible.

So is clawing back some of your time — for more than just a bathroom break.

It requires a little aggressive protectionism on your part to take control of your situation.

You might not be able to get down to Richard Branson’s view of success: A three-day-work week that’s packed with meaning and creative time, but you can take some of your time back.

Start with the bane of workplace existence: Meetings.

Cancel meetings:

The Harvard Business Review reports that senior leaders spend up to 23 hours a week in meetings.

There is one way to cut down on this time theft: Cancel them.

Cut the ones that don’t help reach tangible goals.

Alternately, ask yourself: Do I really need to be at this meeting? If not, decline.

Where possible, instead of meetings, keep better track of your team’s progress.

If I can see that people are accomplishing things then we don’t need to talk about what we need to accomplish.

Replace some longer meetings with quick weekly check-ins with individuals instead.

When you do have meetings, tell attendees at the start that there’s a hard stop.

If calls tend to run over regardless, set a penalty of some kind — with accountability.

Say the organiser has to buy coffee or cookies for everyone every time a meeting goes over.

Make it fun, but make it real.

Respect your time – and your employees’ time:

When it comes to phone calls, keep them short.

There’s no reason why a conference call must be 30 minutes or an hour.

Set it for 15 minutes and stick to it.

You’ll find you become more efficient in getting to the important items.

Don’t make a habit of just dropping by people’s desks to chat or sending instant messages that could just as easily be emails someone can answer when they have time.

You might be disrupting their creative moment and it’ll take them double the time to get it back.

Same goes for you — when someone drops by, stand firm if you can’t give them the time.

Offer an alternative and don’t apologise.

Get over your FOMO (Fear of Missing Out):

As a senior leader, you may feel as if you always need to know what’s happening.

You don’t.

If you have capable, trustworthy and competent staff — and of course you do, because you hired them — don’t make them check in about everything or cc you on every email.

It might take a little while to get over that fear of missing out, but you really don’t need to know every detail.

Instead, stay on top of the big picture — ensure targets are being met and goals are being achieved.

Voila, more time for creative and motivating work.

Study after study has found that micromanaging is bad for business.

Embrace experimentation:

You need to be able to do the kind of exciting work you did before meetings dominated your day.

Another Harvard Business Review piece explored a great suggestion for rekindling passion at work: Experiment.

Organisations that offer a ‘safe zone’ where people can be innovative without worrying about failure affecting their performance reviews can do wonders for motivation.

Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, Dan Cable says this:

“The research is clear that framing change and innovation as a chance to experiment and learn is better than framing it as a performance situation, which makes people anxious, risk-averse, and less willing to persist through difficulty.”

Have — and embrace — purpose:

When people have a good reason to show up to work, they arrive with enthusiasm.

We’re not talking about compensation here.

Purpose, to me, is about doing something that affects change.

That could be helping your organisation launch a new project, pushing your employees to achieve their own career goals, and more.

Purpose isn’t some flighty idea — research shows that those who don’t have it are less motivated than those who do.

If we don’t have purpose we get bored, anxious and even depressed.

There is a fine line between ‘real’ work and day filler.

When the latter eats up most of your day, it’s time take action.

I’ve taken many of these tips to heart.

I’m also trying to innovate where I can.

I keep working on idea-phase projects I think have potential to build our business.

When things do get a little blah, I remind myself why I’m here and what I want to achieve.

*David Clarke is Chief Experience Officer for PricewaterhouseCoopers. He connects the experiences of associates and customers to help businesses deliver on a vision. He can be followed on Twitter at @dlclarke.

This article first appeared at LinkedIn.

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