The majority of Americans feel unsatisfied at work, but you don’t have to. There is a certain thrill you get when achieving a goal. Sometimes, you work for months or years for one purpose -- to buy a house, finish a project or write a book. All the while you have that one goal in mind as you get closer and closer to the finish line. However, if you enjoy and value the process of getting there, you’ll get there faster.
Michael G. Pratt, Ph.D., a professor of management and organization at Boston College, told the old tale of three bricklayers at work. When asked what they're doing, the first bricklayer responds, "I'm putting one brick on top of another." The second replies, "I'm making six pence an hour." And the third says, "I'm building a cathedral -- a house of God."
This is not a story about finding a meaning for your work -- all the bricklayers have that -- but taking pride in your work by building meaningful habits and staying engaged in your work.
A lot of articles tell leaders and managers what to do in order to increase their employee engagement, but the most productive employees are the ones who are self-motivated. After all, it doesn’t matter how many times my boss tells me how wonderful my work is, I have to come to the conclusion on my own. In this article, you’ll find some ways to stay engaged and satisfied at work.
Building a habit of working
Working on your long-term goals is a good way to build meaningful habits and routines. Picking up a habit is not easy and takes work, but its long term effects are well known. Studies show that it takes more than 40 days to build habits. When you’re working on a quarterly or a yearly goal, that is not such a long time.
One of the best habits you can have is reviewing your work weekly. In my recent book, “Step by Step Guide to OKRs” I talk about objectives and key results and the methodology for setting goals. One of the key aspects of that approach is updating your key results (tasks you need to get done) every week. To take it even further, take five minutes to see what you’ve accomplished every day. Make it into a habit, and enjoy daily fulfillment as this is what makes you love your work the most.
Take nothing for granted
Even on the days your work seems to suck and everything is terrible, you can’t take your job for granted. Remember how many things have had to happen for the project, position or startup to exist in the first place. And you are the one who gets to work on that. This also brings up another important point: you are in your position because you are valuable enough to have it. There is a concept of taking ownership of one’s own work, which means standing up and saying “I’ll do that.” When you own your work, it can never own you.
Most of the things that annoy us in our work are trivial mundane tasks that waste our time. The Pareto Principle states that we get 80 percent of our work done by doing 20 percent of the important tasks. To cut out the fake work, you need to decide each week what the most important tasks are for you. Ask yourself, which task moves me toward my long-term goal? You have to understand how the things you do align with your company's goals.
Being able to do this throughout the work week is not only important for the production of your office. It’s vital for time management throughout the entire business. This is why sitting down at the beginning of the week and determining what has the greatest effect on your work is so essential.
Take a break
If all else fails, take a break. Regular breaks at work are vital to stay satisfied and enjoy your work. As Buffer writes, “the human brain just wasn’t built for the extended focus we ask of it these days. Our brains are vigilant all the time because they evolved to detect tons of different changes to ensure our very survival. So focusing so hard on one thing for a long time isn’t something we’re ever going to be great at.” Our work culture demands us to work 80 hours a week, and this is not productive. Regular breaks make sure you don’t get bored and stay focused.
In the end, finding value on your journey toward your goals is all up to you. Arthur Brooks said, “There is no income level at which people are not desperate for meaning.” You get the meaning by searching for it, by looking for it and by creating it.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.