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3 Tips to Be Happier in Work and in Life

“It isn’t our position but our disposition that makes us happy” ~Unknown

I am just winding down from a business trip that has been both trying and inspiring at the same time. I’ve recently been put into a role to manage a department in a functionality I know nothing about, working with people I’ve barely met, and changing a formerly toxic environment.

To say the least, I have a challenge ahead of me. Now six months into the position, I took my direct reports to breakfast and told them the sole purpose was for them to give feedback on how things have been going since the reorganization.

During coffee, the responses were a flat “Everything’s fine”; by the last bite of my pancake, I had learned that both employees were frustrated—one feeling underutilized and the other having trouble balancing the “working manager” role.

I had a lot of feedback to absorb, and it was very clear that there were items that needed to be addressed right away in order to ease frustration and point them in the right direction. At the same time, some of the comments and feedback needed to be dealt with some very honest directives.

I spent the rest of the day and three hours in the middle of the night dwelling on what and how to address the main points that needed resolution.

During those three mid-night hours, I finally worked through what to address and how to address it.  Then I had an epiphany.

Having struggled to be truly happy most of my life, specifically with the pressure and expectations of my new professional role, I realized that the three items I would be preaching to my employees could be directly applied to my own personal life for the same purpose of easing frustration and moving in the right direction—being happy.

How could I set these expectations for my own employees and hold them accountable and not do the same for myself? I knew the three points I would emphasize with them should also be emphasized in my own life. If I was going to hold them accountable, I was going to hold myself accountable too.

1. Identify the things that can make an immediate impact and focus on them; the rest will have to (and can) wait.

There are several items that could be immediately addressed to alleviate stress and frustration, but others simply had to take a back seat until we had the time and resources to make changes—and the worst-case scenario would be remaining at “status quo.”

I can do a lot of little things right away to find more happiness in my life—spend more time enjoying my daughter, get back into my sewing, take some time for just for myself without feeling guilty. Once those are mastered, I can tackle the deeper issues that are the root cause of my unhappiness.

2. Don’t burn the candle at both ends; delegate the simpler duties and focus on where you are needed most.

The administrative managerial tasks added to his main job function were causing my employee to feel overworked, overwhelmed, and at risk of failing in his role. I told him he had an entire team to support him—and he needed to use them.

Thinking of myself, I have a husband who can (and does) help with the day to day tasks (cleaning, laundry) so that I can spend more time focusing on being a happy mother and wife—and I need to take advantage of that.

3. There is no such thing as “I don’t have time.”

During our breakfast conversation, a gripe that came up again and again was that they “didn’t have time” to do certain things I had requested of them. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that was simply an unacceptable answer.

If you don’t have time to do the important things required to be successful, then you need to make the time for them, even if it means sacrificing something else.

For myself, I had been using the same excuse that “I don’t have time” to go to yoga practice, finish that sewing project, cuddle with my daughter as we watch television together— to do the things that could make me happy.

All I needed to do was let some less important things go in order to make the time for myself and be a happier, healthier wife and mother as a result.

In my follow up conversation with them, I realized my employees would struggle with actually executing on these three things, but with my guidance and persistence could learn to work through them and be better managers for it.

I know I will struggle to hold myself accountable for the same three things in my personal life. But I know that every time I push my employees to embrace these changes, it will be a reminder that I, myself, need to do the same.

What things can have an immediate impact on your happiness, and are you making time for them?

Photo by gtall1

Avatar of Lauren Ashley

About Lauren Ashley

Lauren is a working mother of an almost-two-year-old daughter. While she has not established a formal blog or social media site to share her writings, she uses them as a creative outlet and to work on herself to live a healthier, happier life.

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  • http://halinagoldstein.com/blog halinagold

    Hi Lauren,

    Thank you so much for sharing with so much transparency. I find that courageous. And yes, once again, you and I and everyone in this world who is teaching, mentoring, coaching or giving advice in any form is being faced with the fact that we are teaching, coaching and giving advice to ourselves just as much. That’s just how this magical life works! :-)

    I’m pondering your 3 tips from the perspective of the people I work with – mature women who have suffered the loss of a loved one. And they still make sense!

    Perhaps the most challenging tip is the one related to “not having the time”. It reminds me of a woman I know who lost her husband at 40 and was left with young children. She had to take care of the family alone and believed that she didn’t have the time to grieve. That choice (not grieving and not listening to herself), affected her entire life negatively – and still does now, some 20 years later.

    In my experience, the “I don’t have time” attitude often comes hand in hand with not being aligned with who we really are or what we really want, at a very deep level. In that sense it’s work in progress for most people. It surely has been for me. :-)

    At this point I never experience that I really don’t have the time. But I still find myself not taking the time sometimes, out of habit . Did I mention it’s work in progress? :-)

    I think your employees are lucky to have you!

    Warm greetings -

    Halina

  • Megan

    What a terrific post, and very nicely thought out. I must disagree with point number 3, however. Outside of work, and in regards to pursuing personal goals, we must absolutely carve time. In regards to work tasks, however, the truth is that often we do not have time. As businesses downgrade, leaving more work for less people, we are often forced with the decision to let certain things slide or work overtime (sometimes without compensation). I think it’s a fair argument, and one I face at my own job all of the time.

  • Sandie

    I am one of those people convinced that I never have time to do the things I want to. Maybe it was the mention of yoga and sewing (things I want to do) that made this article, more than others I have read on the same subject, actually make me realise where I am wasting my time, when I could be doing some relaxing yoga or spend time being creative and starting tomorrow I will start to put this right. Thank you.

  • Lauren Ashley

    Thank you Megan! I believe that number three may not have come across as I intended. In a word, prioritize. So true that work in this day and age is very demanding, but at some point you realize that even if you worked 24/7, you wouldn’t get EVERYTHING done. So you spend your time on the important things and some things have to go – or be delegated out. In your personal life, this also rings true (e.g. does the house REALLY need to be that clean, or can you forego a vacuuming to get out and do something that makes you happy). And if you absolutely cannot stand the idea of that vacuuming not getting done – well, ask your significant other or child to pitch in and help, or hire a maid service. ;)
    Thanks for your comments and feedback!

  • Lauren Ashley

    Thank you Sandie! I am so flattered to have had this post inspire you in the way so many on this site have for me. GO SANDIE!

  • Lauren Ashley

    Thank you so much for the kind words! We are all a work in progress, and it does just get better and better.

  • csmforhealth

    I tend to agree with Megan. I work 10 hr. days ‘every’ day and Mon-Fri. there is very little time for anything except the absolute necessities…cooking, eating, showering, housework… I wish I had a 9-5 job like ‘way back when’…days were much more balanced. But I work in manufacturing and the hours I work are pretty much universal. Someday when I retire, I’ll get to change my priorities.

  • Chrissy

    Fantastic post! Yes, if I don’t make the time for the necessary components (including things that make me happy and therefore more productive everywhere else), then that is simply NOT acceptable!

  • Bethany

    Interesting insights and applicable to my present employment situation.

  • Lynn Geddings

    Great post !!

  • IamDiane

    You made some good points. Happiness is a choice we make each day.

  • Trista

    Definitely need to employ this in my life.

  • Tess

    Megan,
    I agree with you comment as well. I can really identify with points 1 and 2 in Lauren Ashely’s post, but iactually feel a little offended by point 3.
    I am a FT working professional and mother of 2 middle school aged kids. My husband travels quite a bit, so that sometimes puts an extra burden onto me. I am in a demanding career, but in my current job, the functional group I work in is severely understaffed.
    It’s not uncommon for me to work 12-hr days only to break long enough to drive home, eat, and go back online and continue working remotely until 11:00 pm or later.
    My kids aren’t involved in any extracurricular activities because it’s impossible to consistently take them. (especially when my husband travels.)
    I don’t exercise and barely have time for myself or with my family on weekends.
    My kids’ teachers have stopped emailing me for any questions/concerns and just go directly to my husband who can provide them the response they need.

    This isn’t as a result of me trying to drive myself to climb the corporate ladder – this is all due to extraordinary pressure I receive from my manager and director to complete projects and deliver to dates that are unrealistic.
    My manager will often say that “I don’t have time” is not an acceptable answer.
    When I read the sentence “If you don’t have time to do the important things required to be successful, then you need to make the time for them, even if it means sacrificing something else.” I can’t help but laugh and wonder, what more could I possibly sacrifice that I haven’t already?

  • kavin paker

    Have faith in yourself. I think you will be surprised by how much you will do, all in good time!
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