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How to give yourself a refresh at work.

Words: Dr Alice Boyes

If you’re feeling a bit bored and blah in your work life, you might find yourself dreaming of a career change or starting a side hustle. However, not everyone wants to do that or it’s not currently possible. Another route to feeling rejuvenated is to enhance your experience at your current job. The advantage of this approach is that you can start immediately without massively overhauling your life. Here are four practical tips.

Focus on a higher purpose.
People feel good when their work feels meaningful. Instead of thinking about your work day as grinding 
out your to-dos, change your focus to whatever contribution you could make in your current environment that would feel deeply fulfilling. It could be mentoring the next generation of professionals or creating lasting changes to systems, processes or ways of thinking in your field. Find ways to connect the specific actions you do in your work day with a higher purpose. This could be conceptual e.g., you seek to infuse all your interactions with creativity, compassion, inclusiveness, a sustainability ethos or whatever your driving force at work is.

Bring in your other skills 
We all have diverse knowledge and skills. However, from inside our own mind those often seem ordinary and not special. Individuals don’t tend to think about the fact that other people don’t have the same inner resources they do. Bring some of your non-core skills into your work. If you’re a gardener, maybe you plant a herb garden at the back of your office building for your colleagues to add fresh herbs to their lunches. If you’ve got design skills, maybe you bring those into work and refresh your office environment or redesign your client newsletters. If you’ve got research or coding capabilities, or even spreadsheet expertise, perhaps you could bring that in. 

Make a game out of improving your own systems 
Our repetitive tasks can greatly weigh us down at work. However, there are many ways to automate and streamline these so they’re less mentally draining. For instance, if you write reports and find yourself saying one of three things over and over, perhaps you create a custom keyboard shortcut or a cheatsheet for different ways you could say that thing. Scripts, canned responses, macros, templates, checklists, decision trees and outsourcing are all ways to reduce the mental drain of repetitive tasks. Learning basic coding can be very fruitful for automating repetitive tasks for all sorts of knowledge workers, but even without this, there are services you can use, especially to reduce repetitive checking e.g., the distill.io Chrome extension allows you to monitor web pages for changes without manually checking. If reducing mental drain isn’t an issue or meaningful motivation for you, you could instead 
focus on increasing your performance through improving your processes.

Work with new collaborators
Working with the same colleagues over and over has efficiency benefits, but it can also get a bit stale. If you want to feel refreshed, work with some new people, and see what those new brains and perspectives bring to the table and how they influence your own thinking. For instance, approach someone you’d love to work with but who you’ve never had the confidence to reach out to (or you’ve never seriously considered it). Cross disciplinary collaborations can be particularly fruitful for yielding new insights and uncovering blindspots in your assumptions and ways of working. Working with new people, especially from outside your field, can be challenging or even stressful, but it can also be invigorating. 

Dr Alice Boyes is author of the books The Healthy Mind Toolkit (2018) and The Anxiety Toolkit (2015).

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