Job dissatisfaction? Here is one way to find out if its real.

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So you think you are in the wrong job. You awake each morning with a feeling of dread. You would rather stay in bed, and your get up and go has got up and went. The thought of going to the dentist fills you with more joy than heading off to the office.

Well, these might be good indicators that it is time for a change of job. However, it also might be indicating something else e.g. depression or simply a lack of meaning. So if you are pretty sure that you are not suffering from depression or some other life-altering situation, here is one way to find out if it is perhaps that job after all.

Our moods fluctuate on a daily basis. Some people even hourly or at different times of the day. So the first step in deciding if there is an issue with your current occupation or job is to get a baseline reading of your daily happiness index.

A happiness index is a score that you give to yourself on the level of happiness that you are feeling at that point in time. It is on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being not happy at all and 10 being extremely happy. A 5 would indicate a feeling of indifference.

So what you need to do is, twice a day at roughly the same time take a self assessment of your level of happiness. I would recommend that you do this at around 10am and 3pm so it is not influenced by just arriving at work or getting ready to leave. Do this for a period of two weeks and include the weekends for comparison. At the end of the two-week period graph the daily results using a program like Excel. Take an average score of the weekdays. To do this, add up all your morning scores and divide by 10, and do the same for the afternoon scores.

Your graph might look something like this:

happiness graph

The first bit of information you will be able to glean from this is: are you a morning or afternoon person? If your morning scores are lower give some thought to the following:

• Are your morning activities different from your afternoon activities?

• If there is a differential between the two scores that is greater than 3, why is this. Are you perhaps doing admin work in the morning, but in interactive meetings in the afternoon or visa versa. If this is the case you can identify the activities you dislike and move them to a more suitable time. i.e. Monday morning might not be the best time to do tasks you do not like (unless you have a strong desire to get them out of the way).

• If your scores differ between afternoon and morning it could also be an indication that it is more of a task issue than the actual job itself.

Now add your morning and afternoon averages together and divide by 2 to see what your average job happiness is. If your score is way below 5 (indifference), then it’s time to start doing some thinking. Here are 5 points to ponder if you have a below 5 score.

• What is it about your current job that you do not like?

• Can you associate the feeling with any particular event or person at work? • If you could change anything in your daily job, what would it be?

• If you made this change, would you role be more fulfilling and increase your level of happiness?

• When last did you take a holiday? Could you be suffering from burnout?

For interest compare your weekend scores with your weekday averages. If there is a large difference here, you are wasting a lot of your waking hours being in an unhappy position.

The aim of the happiness index is to get you thinking about what is making you happy or unhappy at work. The goal is to move you from a subconscious feeling of discontentment to a conscious awareness of when and why you are not satisfied or unhappy with your job. In doing so you will empower yourself with the ability to make a choice and change the elements that are causing unhappiness. Take back control of your situation. Create your life.

The Dangers of Multitasking

My name is Kevin and I’m a multitasker. I need help. It starting to happen more and more often. I’m sitting eating a bowl of soup and I’m thinking, “I should be checking my email while eating, I’m wasting time.”. I’m on the phone having a conversatimultitasking3on, I open Facebook, then LinkedIn, “yes of course I’m listening to you”, whats happening on Twitter, I should go through the last proposal, got to maximise my time, wonder if I can listen to the latest talk on TED while talking, “yes, I know, that’s terrible, what it’s not? um sorry can you repeat the story.”. If I am not multitasking, I am left with a feeling of panic that I am wasting time, when in reality the opposite is true.

A great example of the ever busy, doing, multi-sensory society we live in is restaurants. Pioneering this fad in the early ninety’s , Sports Cafe’s were the start of this downward trend in human relationships. Come to a restaurant with friends, each table has its own screen, and if you find the conversation boring, well you can zone out and stare at the screen while appearing to be in conversation. Today, you would be hard pressed to find a restaurant without a TV screen. The next time you are in a restaurant, have a look at the amount of people sitting at a table together but either engaged with text messages on their cellphone or staring at a TV screen, while the people in their immediate vicinity are ignored and clearly disengaged from any personal interaction.

In business, the problem is compounded further by the many modes of communication we have available. Phones, cell phones, text messages, numerous email accounts, instant messaging, skype etc. are just a few of these. We have made ourselves so contactable that we don’t have any time to spend with the people who are lucky enough to get hold of us. I have been in management meetings where every single person in the room (except the one speaking) is answering email. I have been the boss who listened with one ear to a team member while continuing an online conversation in order to satisfy both parties. The unfortunate result is neither is satisfied. People know when we do not give them our full attention. In the end our relationships with our colleagues and staff suffer, leading to  further problems for the company down the line. In order to grow people we need to give them our attention. Half the attention will yield half the results.

We are living in a society that encourages multitasking. We are bombarded by messages all around us that tell us we have to do more. Use the tools, maximise your time, communicate and connect, do more with less. The sad fact of the matter is the more we do, the less we experience. Our minds are only capable of a certain bandwidth of experience. So while we might be able to be physically present in a conversation and type a text message at the same time, the reality is we are missing out on being mentally present with the person we are having a conversation with. When it comes down to it, our lives are an accumulation of our experiences. There is nothing more. Even the possessions we collect along the way mean nothing if we cant experience them. By multitasking we are cheating ourselves out of fully experiencing the very things we engage with. Human or inanimate, multitasking removes us from being directly engaged and the full experience.

My suggestion is that we keep a time and place for multitasking. I think a few ground rules would serve us well in this regard and here are my top five suggestions:

  • Try not to multitask when interacting with others. Apart from being rude, it robs you of the experience of the interaction.
  • Remind yourself that the value of time is in your experience during that time, not how much you can get done.
  • In business, focus on the task at hand. Set aside time for email, and messages. Don’t be ruled by interruptions of a digital nature.
  • Set aside a technology free day, once a month or once a week if you can manage. It brings about a sense of reality to the connection chaos.
  • Learn to switch off, and take back control on when to be contactable. This way you will be very present in your interactions without distractions.

I have to check my mail now and answer the phone so good luck with the suggestions. Seriously though, once the panic settles and you decide when to multitask, you will be more effective and engaged than ever before. So take back control. Create your life.

Meaning or Money Part II

meaningworkA previous article of mine  “Meaning or Money” drew some interesting and rather fierce criticism. This is great, because I do not write articles with the view that I have the only correct understanding. I write them with an opinion and hope to be challenged if that opinion is not correct or if there are views to add to it. The comments were from the point of view of the individual in the job, and one needs to keep in mind that the article was written as management advice for leading a team. However, these points deserve consideration and comment.

Two of the comments were:

  1. I don’t need to find meaning in my day job. I find meaning in my life after work.
  2. Most people feel a lack of meaning in their lives not from something missing within them but rather from the nature of the  “system” in which they function.

So I have given some thought to these two points and wish to offer some additional comments up for debate.

To point number 1. I would be hard pressed to agree that human beings would prefer to stay in a role that offered no meaning, rather than gravitate towards a position that offered them some meaning and appreciation. Yes, one can derive meaning to their life outside of the workplace. However, keep in mind that we spend almost 70% of our waking hours in this “job”.  To derive meaning only in the remaining 30% seems like a waste. The role you are in at work might not be stimulating, or solving a major world problem, however there are many ways one can improve on the meaning in your daily environment. We need to take control of our own environment and what it means to us, instead of waiting for our managers to create the meaning for us. Examples of this are:

  • Become a mentor for people starting out in the company
  • Look for ways to share your knowledge
  • Gain a better understanding of the role you play and how it fits into the companies big picture
  • Form an interest group at work for furthering the area of expertise you are in
  • Investigate ways to do things better in your role and make suggestions
  • Chat to your manager and ask to be more involved in the business.

Regarding point number 2. which blames the system for a lack of meaning. I feel that we need to acknowledge that business systems do not exist without the individuals that drive them. Therefore, the only way to affect change within these systems, is to change the individuals themselves. My aim in offering these thoughts is to do exactly that. To get people, especially managers, thinking about how they manage their teams. For them to give consideration to the way they treat their staff, and to realise that putting in the extra effort is a win-win scenario. Your staff will be happier, and as a result, more motivated, which will lead to better company profits. Definitely a win-win scenario. So rather than accepting the system for what it is, give thought as to how you can do your bit to change the way it works.

A research project by Dan Airely examined the difference in work output between three groups of people. All groups had to complete some work on a form and hand it in and then complete additional forms in return for payment. Group 1 wrote their name on the form, and were thanked for the work. Group 2 handed in anonymous forms, and group 3 had their forms shredded in front of them as they handed them in. The results showed that group 2 and 3 displayed significantly less motivation for the work and suffered from decreased work output.

This research emphasizes my points above and  highlights three key aspects to meaning.

  1. Acknowledgment
  2. Ownership
  3. A feeling of contribution

These points fall within the control of the manager. However, if you are working for an organization where these are not being addressed then you have the ability to ask for these aspects to change, or change your situation.

The key point is that no one has to accept the status quo in a situation. Whether you are a manager or an employee, we all can do more for others and for ourselves. Don’t wait for others to do it for you. Create your life.