Are You a Depreciating Asset?

Depreciation, a term commonly used in 42-15529695business when referring to fixed assets, is defined as “a drop in value”. When we own something like a vehicle or a piece of machinery, as it gets older so the value of the asset goes down. I would like to suggest that each one of us has the same ability to become a depreciating asset. Not only to the company or organizations we work for, but also to ourselves. The good news is, we have a choice and the control to ensure that we don’t “depreciate” in our value but actually “appreciate”. Like a fine wine we can get better and better with age.

So what are the aspects to look after to ensure that we take care of our most precious possession, that being, ourselves?  There are three main areas of our lives that were we are in danger of depreciating. These are:

  • Intellectual
  • Physical
  • Spiritual/Emotional

Intellectual

This aspect relates to the work that we do. Ask yourself the question. What is the value that you bring to your workplace? When last did you do something to improve your knowledge in the work that you do? If we are not constantly increasing our knowledge around our work, not only will we will not maintain the status quo but rather our knowledge will decline as the world around us moves on. Before you know it you will find yourself being replaced by someone who has better knowledge and continues to learn. It is therefore in our own interest to ensure that we set targets for learning and increasing our intellectual capacity.  I would suggest that a goal is set for each quarter of the year.  Certain areas of the brain have the ability to improve as we get older, so take advantage of this and continue to learn. This learning need not be limited to our jobs but can also include things like, learning a new language or skill.

Physical

We all lead busy lives. Unfortunately, when the going gets tough the first thing we tend to neglect is our physical form, our bodies. Stress, fast food diets, lack of exercise, these factors all take their toll, and we risk falling prey to the lifestyle diseases e.g. diabetes, heart disease etc.

It is critical that part of our “appreciation plan”, is to look after our bodies. Make exercise a regular part of your week. The recommended guidelines are 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. This can even be broken down into 3 x 10min sessions if you do not have the time to do 30min in one go.

The benefits are too many to list but include stress resilience, reduction in disease risk factors, natural anti-depressant effect, and even brain improvement and growth. Exercise should be top of your list for your “me” maintenance plan.

Spiritual/Emotional

The spiritual aspect of our lives is an extremely personal component. It is here that we find, not only the strength to persevere through tough times, but also our compassion and ability to support others.  To be in touch with the spiritual and emotional side of our lives can provide many gifts. Some people find this aspect through religious observance, other through meditation or even music. What ever your choice is, it is important to find that activity or inactivity (in the case of meditation) that provides you with the energy of regeneration and balance.

Many of us give more attention and care to our motor vehicles than ourselves. We would not think of letting our vehicle go 1000km past the service date. We do this to ensure that the value of the asset is maintained. We should do the same with ourselves, and I suggest this “service plan” is conducted using the 3 checks mentioned above: Intellectual, Physical, and Spiritual/Emotional. By doing this and putting a plan in place we will ensure that our most precious asset not only is maintained, but actually appreciates and grows in value to ourselves and those around us. So be proactive and Create Your life!

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.

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.

Meaning or Money?

If I offered you R2 500 a day to write articles for me, and when you handed them in I just deleted them without even reading them and said thanks, would you take the job? At first glance you might think, “sure, easy money, no stress, where do I sign”. Now, what if I tell you that that is all you are going to do for the next 5, 10 or even 20 years. Does it change your answer? I’m prepared to bet that the majority of people when faced with this question willlifetree not even do the job for more than a month.

I would like to put in a proviso in the above statement that reflects on Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you are low down on this pyramid you will probably do anything to ensure that your basic needs are met, and would not give a damn if your work is used or not. So, bear in mind that I am talking about people who have jobs, homes, and their basic needs met.

Dan Ariely in his book “The upside of Irrationality”, poses the question of are we merely rats in a maze, wanting to get to the food with the least amount of effort, or is the meaning of the maze more important to us?

In the modern connected work environment, employees are wanting to understand the meaning in their work more and more. They share their experiences on Facebook and Twitter. They tweet about their existence at every opportunity. The resultant effect is a mirror is being held up to their lives that shouts who they are. Self awareness stops being an after hours thought and meaning becomes more important. Hence we are seeing higher levels of dissatisfaction in the workplace than ever before.

The modern manager therefore has a responsibility. This responsibility is to ensure that every member of his/her team understands their position and the role they have to play. He/she needs to manage not only the work output component but also the work perception component. Work perception revolves around all the components about what people think and feel in their jobs. These include but are not limited to: Is my work valued? Am I a member of a winning team? Do people recognise me for who I am in the team? Am I seen as a dispensable component? Today’s manager needs to be able to take all these components into account in order to maximise the value of the team.

The old way of looking at employee productivity stated:

Employee Productivity = High Work Output(WO)

My suggestion is that we re look at this in a holistic view:

Employee Productivity = High Work Output (WO) + High Work Value Perception (WVP)

I would even suggest that a greater focus on Work Value Perception will lead to high work output and that managers should reconsider where they spend most of their time. Spend less time on sales forecasts and more on life forecasts.

Help your team. Create your life!

Satisfied with your job?


Love-my-job-smWould you like to be doing something else during your waking hours? Are you happy in your job? The unfortunate reality is, for the majority of us, we dwell on this question for a while but then go back to the daily grind, avoiding the thoughts that just momentarily entered our minds. Most people however, would want to be doing something different.

Yes, the sad truth of the matter, is that the majority of people are dissatisfied with their jobs (studies show a satisfaction rating ranging between 21% to 41%). Hence, the majority of people would rather be doing something different with their time. But if this statistic of dissatisfaction is so high, why do they not change jobs and even careers? Possibly, because the question itself is wrong. Perhaps, the question should rather be, “Do you believe you would be better off and happier, doing something else with your time?”.

As work takes up approximately 80% of our waking hours, is it possible that we have over 50% of the population disgruntled with their lives? I would like to stick my neck out here and say no. The reason I believe this (and its difficult for me to use this word believe, I prefer scientific fact :-)), is that we are hard wired to think there is always something better out there. We think there is something wrong with us if we are happy with the status-quo. In our caveman days, we were always looking for that bigger cave. A better piece of real estate closer to richer hunting grounds and perhaps a more plentiful source of crystal clear water. Well, the sad news is nothings changed much. The hunting ground has just been replaced by an office, and the source of water, a pay cheque that attempts to quench the thirsty bank overdraft at the end of each month.

It’s no wonder that when asked the question are you satisfied or happy with your job, the answer is no. It is normal to show dissatisfaction in your job. It is normal to strive for something better.

The solution to this problem can be taken up by both the individual and companies. For companies to increase the level of satisfaction of their employees with their current job, they need to show them a growth path within the company. Show them that the way to fertile soil and better hunting lies within the company. The prospect of progress leads to current satisfaction. Stagnation leads to mosquitoes of doubt and dissatisfaction breeding in the still waters of the mind.

If you are feeling these feelings of dissatisfaction in your job, take control of the situation. Spend some of your valuable time thinking about your ambitions for growth within the company. What’s your growth path? Where are you going? What exactly in your current job are you dissatisfied about? The answer to these questions might be enough for you to realise, actually it’s not so bad. Alternatively, it might turn those feelings into action, and that’s a good thing regardless of your decision to stay or leave.

The bottom line is, no one is responsible for your life other than you. Sure, companies can help by the conditions they create, but you are responsible for your reality. So make sure that negativity is not creeping into those waking hours, decide to choose your path. Create your life.