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For many of us, work is a huge part of our lives and it may be also be source of negativity, stress and hopelessness. Maybe your job isn't quite that bad, but a little improvement never hurts. Here are our top 10 tips and tricks to make your work life better.Photo remixed from an original by Bart Everson
10. Learn to Eat Safely at Your Computer
Technology and eating don't exactly go well together, which you're very familiar with if you've ever had an unfortunate spill. Nonetheless, most of us continue eating at our computers regardless of the potential consequences. When you've got a lot of work to do, it often can't be avoided. If that's a situation you're in, you should learn the right strategies and pick the best foods for computer-centric snacking. It may not prevent every spill, but at least you can minimise your risk.
Photo by Kevin Marsh
9. Use Your Holiday Time Effectively
Well, yes, this is obvious, but with such busy work schedules we often leave holiday time on the table. In order to take a vacation, it requires a bit of planning and we tend to put it off by thinking we'll use it eventually. While that may sometimes be true, you can have a much more effective and relaxing vacation by planning your time off.
Photo by Pak Dock
8. Curb Your Negativity
Perhaps you hate your job, and so does everyone else in the office. That doesn't mean you should necessarily be negative. The more your concentrate how negative it is, the worse it's going to feel. Not only that, you can easily create a hive mind mentality that breeds more negativity. Simply focusing on the positives can make a big difference. While, ultimately, you may want to quit, staying positive will make those final months easier to bear. The negative side may be inevitable, but if you give it extra (and possibly undue) attention it's only going to make things worse.
Photo by E.L.A.
7. Switch to a Standing Desk
Our founding editor Gina Trapani explains why she switched to a standing desk, but it basically comes down to a higher calorie burn and better posture. If you want to switch but don't care for the higher cost of standing desks, you can always build a cheap one with IKEA parts.
6. Prioritise Communication by Type and Speed
We have tons of devices and methods of communication, but they're all pretty useless if we don't play to their strengths. Using email for everything is a terrible idea because it encourages lengthier messages and frequent CC'ing, which is rarely good. You want to use speed-appropriate channels to communicate more effectively, like Twitter (or something like it) for quick messages and updates that don't require the length of an email. Your tablet computer and smartphone also make for a great place to offload distractions. The tools you already have are really all you need to communicate, but only if you're using them effectively.
5. Ask For a Raise at the Right Time
LinkedIn found out that, statistically the most raises are given in January, June, and July. While other perks might be better than a raise, if you're looking for higher pay you should think about asking for it during those months.
Photo by Cuba Gallery
4. Learn to Negotiate
Having a good work life is a responsibility that rests mostly on your shoulders, and if you can't negotiate or even ask for the things that matter to you it will be a hard thing to achieve. Good negotiation skills are also very important when dealing with coworkers, especially if you're fighting for one of your ideas in a meeting or anything else that matters to you. Conflict isn't a bad thing if it's handled well, so if you don't know how to negotiate effectively you should make an effort to learn. We've looked at how to negotiate your way to getting paid what you're worth and negotiating your salary more effectively, which are good places to start.
3. Find Ways to Bring Things You Love to the Job You Already Have
You may have dreams of becoming a deep sea explorer but can only get a job selling fish tacos, or you're stuck at a desk when you really want to be doing something more creative and artistic. Whatever your situation may be, you don't have to keep your dreams out of your current career just because they seem different. Think about what you like to do and how you can integrate that into your work. A while back I worked in customer support but I loved making videos/short films. One weekend I built myself a green screen and made a video for the company that explained how the support process worked, with a little humor, and demonstrated how they could most effectively submit customer queries/complaints/etc. to our team. After going around the office for a few days, marketing asked me if I'd like to create videos regularly for our customers and I made a new episode once a month. For the holidays, we even did a musical. (Here's proof.) Many years ago I had a job addressing envelopes and I would draw pictures on them as well. Eventually people started calling in because they liked the drawings and I was asked to try my hand at some design work. Every time I've ever brought anything I like to a job that didn't necessarily ask for it, it started to become part of my job. Don't leave your creativity and passion at home just because your job doesn't call for it. If you've got something you love that you can bring to the table, find a way to integrate it and it may become part of your daily routine.
Picture by Ben Heine
2. Eat a Healthy Breakfast
I'd like to call this common sense, but I'm willing to bet that if you survey people who work a 40+ hour work week you'll find that they do not eat a sufficiently healthy and balanced breakfast. Despite being commonly known as the most important meal of the day, it's also frequently ignored. So many people are in a rush in the morning that they grab and energy bar or a coffee and consider that sufficient. Get up 20 minutes earlier and make yourself something healthy. For example, egg whites, black beans, and mixed vegetables are a great way to start. If you've dumped your caffeine addiction and you're still finding yourself tired every afternoon, it's likely because you're not eating a good breakfast. If you're neglecting your morning meal (or eating a crappy one), try it for a week and you should find that your energy will last you through the majority of the work day.
1. Set Boundaries and Find Balance Between Work and Life
Recently we looked at Nigel Marsh's suggestions for finding a work-life balance, mainly consisting of making smaller changes to achieve that balance rather than large, sweeping ones. While we might prefer to have short work weeks and rarely take our work home with us, your job may make that unrealistic. Making time for little things that make you happy and have meaning in your life, even if they don't amount for the majority of your time, may have a profound effect on how you feel about the balance in your life. That's not to say you should scale back if you feel the need. Setting boundaries can be the most important thing when it comes to balancing your work and your life. Personally, I have a policy of doing no work on Saturdays, ever. If I have any work I have to do on the weekend, it happens on Sunday after 12:00PM. I make everyone very aware of this, perhaps to the point of annoyance. I also find that I'm happiest when I'm spending my free time with other people, so I make sure I leave room in my schedule to see friends several times a week. I also set specific meeting times and do not let work dictate when that time starts. My job is pretty flexible now, but that wasn't always the case. It's very important to decide what matters for you and make time for it. These are just two examples, and they may or may not apply to you. You need to figure out what matters and act on it. If you do not establish boundaries you're pretty much at the will of your employer and that's never going to be healthy.