I was browsing the local newspaper yesterday morning when I came across one of those self-help articles so beloved of copy writers and readers everywhere. The title read: 5 Ways to Enjoy Your Work. Read any book or article on how to write attention-grabbing copy and you will find that titles with numbers in them; lists; and advice on how to improve one’s lot are right up there at the top of attention-grabbing topics for blogs, lifestyle pieces and the like.
“Well, I don’t need to read that,” I thought, “I’m very happy with my work.” But my heart wasn’t listening to my head and I found myself scanning the text anyway, checking to see whether I was as happy as I could be – or whether there was anything else I could do to make my days even better. So here’s my take on being happy at work.
Focus on the Good Bits
A writer’s job isn’t just about sitting down with a notebook, or in front of a screen turning out the next bestseller or the next lead article; it’s a varied mix of planning, research, drafting, editing, submitting, pitching, promotion, marketing, sales, administration. Some parts of the job we will love more than others; some we will find easy while others will be nigh-on impossible for us to get our heads around. In the self-help article, it suggested talking to the boss to see if there was an opportunity to do more of the good bits. Well, as a writer, I am the boss of me; I can decide what I do and when. The article also suggested getting the difficult bits out of the way first thing in the morning so they don’t impact on the rest of the day. Well, that’s one option; the other is to delegate or sub-contract them to someone else!
Use Time Wisely
The article said that better time management helps one regain control of the day. Anyone who knows me, or has read my blog before, will probably know I am obsessed with time management and my life is ruled by To Do lists, spreadsheets and project plans. No wonder I’m happy! But it also counselled against skipping lunch break, no matter how packed the day’s schedule is. That’s something I never do. I stop work for at least 30 minutes every day for lunch and try to find a non-work related place to eat it. Although when the weather’s good (and that will happen again soon), my garden room/work room – with the doors wide open and the easy chair moved into that patch of sunlight – is one of the most relaxing places to be.
Many people find pressure at work to be motivating; let’s face it, there’s nothing like a looming deadline and an impatient editor to focus the mind. But if it gets too stressful, it is counter-productive. The article suggested a number of ways in which stress can be eased, including relaxation (I refer you to my previous point about lunch); physical exercise (my New year’s resolution to eat healthily and exercise more is still going strong in month 2, which is a record for me!); and a good support network of colleagues (see below for more on this). It also suggested being positive about life and picking three things at the end of each day which went well. I used to do that; in fact I had a ‘happy book’ I started writing in January 2013, when our house was flooded and it was very hard to feel positive about anything. I gave it up in March, just around the time the house was declared dry; but there are plenty of pages left and I can always resurrect it if life gets too stressful once more.
Co-workers as Friends
I knew there was a legitimate reason for all that time spent on FaceBook! One of the disadvantages of being a writer is said to be the solitude – at least when we are actually writing. But these days, this can be alleviated to a certain extent by the huge online community; I’ve met some great folks that way. Plus there are the two writing groups I attend regularly; very different, but both equally satisfying. And one of the best things to come out of my MA in Creative Writing is the handful of former classmates who now meet regularly for lunch – sorry, I mean to critique work and discuss writerly things.
The article quoted from a book on positivity and making the most of one’s life. It made me think instantly of a little laminated card I picked up at the end of one of the Unwind Your Mind sessions run by the wonderful Zana Lamont at the end of each packed day of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. On one side it reads: Be Present; Just Notice. And the other: Yesterday’s history, Tomorrow’s a mystery, But today’s a gift, Which is why we call it…the present. (And let’s face it, the older we get, the truer that becomes).
So all in all; it’s no wonder I love my work. How about you?
[My new ebook The Business of Writing Part Three: Improving Effectiveness is out now. Packed with tools and techniques for project planning, time management and problem solving, you can find it by clicking here.]
Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.
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