6 ways to find joy in your work again

Whether we are in the middle of a pandemic or not, everyone goes through periods where work feels more like a chore than anything else. Even those of us who are lucky to love their profession can sometimes feel disenchanted with the grind. But before you decide to give a two-week notice or start slacking to the point your boss notices, there are some measures you can take to reignite your career zest. From doing some important soul-searching to set clear boundaries between work and life, take these tips from experts on how to rediscover joy in your work:

Determine your unique magic

Sure, you may be a marketer. A data analyst. Or a financial advisor. And yes, there are plenty of other people who do what you do. But, no one does it exactly as you do. What is your special sauce? Or as intuitive business coach Ashley Bradley, PCC, CPCC calls it, your ‘unique magic.’ Defined as your strengths, purpose, innate talents, weirdness, personality and ‘wow’ factor, these are what make you stand out. All too often, we lose ourselves in the rush to meet deadlines, excel, get promoted and so on. Pausing can make a difference in your attitude and approach. “Take the time to reflect on what you bring to the table in each of these areas. Then, make a specific commitment to how you will bring more of it into your work,” Bradley shares. “You’ll notice it starts to feel less like ‘work’, and more like getting paid to show up and be you.”

Figure out what you value

On the surface, this seems like simple-enough advice. But in practice, it’s likely not as easy as you imagine. In fact, while many professionals are tasked with outlining company values, they rarely define their own. To get started psychotherapist and author, Jenny Maenpaa, LCSW, EDM suggests spending some time looking at what you prioritize, how you pass the days and where you spend your money. “This will tell you what matters to you, and may even reveal some truths you hadn’t considered before or are uncomfortable with acknowledging,” she shares. “Rather than reject these as values because you don’t like what they say about you, can you embrace them and pivot how they show up for you?” As an example, Maenpaa says, you might call yourself lazy if you order delivery every night. However, you can reposition the description by concluding your value time with others, rather than using those minutes to cook.

Pinpoint what strikes your curiosity

When you aren’t feeling jazzed about dialing in for the day, attending a virtual meeting or filing away your latest deadline, it could be because your attention span is suffering. One helpful way to think about it is imagining a television, according to Bradley. If you don’t like what you’re watching, what do you do? You change the channel. The same is true with your work: finding what strikes your curiosity will help you stay focused. This could be a new project, a different way of working, or perhaps, a job switch. “It invites you to be curious about the conversations you have, and the people you work with. The joy returns when you become more present in each experience,” she explains. To remind yourself to always look for an interesting nugget, Bradley suggests writing a note on your desk, hanging a photo or even changing the background of your phone.

Examine what doesn’t feel right

Often when we feel less than stellar with any part of our life, we can feel it in our gut. And while we might not know exactly what’s wrong or missing, we can start to ask ourselves questions to address the underlying issues. Maenpaa suggests thinking critically about how you spend your time and money and look for areas that don’t align with your values. Maybe you want to call your friends more often, but you are so bombarded with responsibilities, you can’t. Or, you want to schedule in a workout—but you never feel like you can be ‘offline’ with your current workload. “Can you shift something internally in your role, how you work, or what team you’re on? Can you join a committee or affinity group to feel more connected to like-minded others? Can you create a shifted schedule in order to prioritize something else you value, like a morning fitness class or dropping the kids off at school?”,” she suggests asking to get you started.

Reconnect with your purpose

There are many ways to define the purpose, but Bradley says it’s the impact you make on the world around you. When we lose sight of this or we can’t see how we are making a difference, it’s natural to feel anxious sending off another email, scheduling another meeting or dialing into another conference call. “We’re wired for connection, meaningful experiences and self-expression. But you actually have to look for these things,” she continues. “Start each day focusing on how your individual contributions create something bigger than you. Focus on one person that will benefit from your actions, and actually visualize how your part in this has the potential to really make a difference for that one person.”

Set boundaries

Even when you’re spending the majority of your time at home, boundaries still matter. And some argue they matter more since the separation of work and life aren’t as defined. Maenpaa suggests doing what you can to create space for yourself, your loved ones and your hobbies that fulfill your spirit. One way to do this is via calendar blocks that guide our day. “When we don’t set timers on tasks, they can stretch out interminably and we can find ourselves making minor repeated adjustments because it never feels done, which in turn doesn’t make us feel accomplished,” she shares. “Chunking out our work tasks tells our brain that we are truly done with something when we move on, not that we just ran out of energy and may have to come back to it.”