How to find more meaning in mundane work

If you feel like every shift is trudging through temple-rubbing drudgery, turn your mind to more substantive things. Here’s how to make the most of every workday.

Not many people are fortunate enough to have a job that offers a profound sense of fulfillment.

Most reading this site spend their days and decades staring at screens, pounding away at keyboards to earn their pay—which might not satisfy that primal longing for belonging.

Instead of moping about this state of affairs—and daydreaming about how you should have stuck with anthropology or become a paramedic—try these four tips to find more meaning in your current vocation:

1. Focus on people and relationships. Just one relationship at work can alter your job experience and outlook.

If you’re struggling to create connections at work, seek out a mentor. Be a mentor. Start a lunchtime walking club or a discussion group. Go get wings on Thursdays.

Make the most of your time there by investing in people. Be a friend—and a connector. Use your platform to create connections and common ground among your colleagues (and even your customers).

If you’re working solely to collect a paycheck, you’re bound to be disappointed. Shifting your focus to others will propel you toward a more meaningful and fulfilling workday. (It’s no wonder that nine out of 10 people would take less money to do more meaningful work.)

2. Focus on professional and personal development. If you’re bored at work, that’s on you. Consider this advice from HBR:

Purpose is built not found. Working with a sense of purpose day-in and day-out is an act of will that takes thoughtfulness and practice.

What can you do today that will make you a more well-rounded person? Are there any classes or certifications that catch your eye? Which webinars can you slide into?

Commit 10 minutes of each day to learning Spanish, HTML, Python, Photoshop or whatever else you fancy. Give priority to honing skills that look impressive on a CV.

Use your breaks to stretch, walk or pray to whichever cosmic force you prefer. Try to carve out a more specific niche that better suits your preferences.

As Psychology Today writes:

Are there moments of fulfillment, meaning, or joy in your work? Can those moments be expanded through doing them more often in your current job, or by seeking a new job that would provide more of those experiences? Can you craft a better job within your current job?

Be intentional about altering your workday and workplace environment to accommodate your skills, attitude and passions. Focus on developing as a person and professional.

3. Focus on trying new, possibly risky, things. Take a chance, will ya?

Who says messaging about open enrollment must be boring? Why not try to overhaul your workflow?

Give a presentation you really don’t want to give. Initiate a charitable effort. If you see festering problems in your workplace, say something. Call out bias or discrimination, and have the courage to tell execs what’s really going on in the trenches. Most leaders are oblivious and think everything is peachy, and you might win a newfound respect for telling your boss the unvarnished truth.

You’re just a straight shooter with upper management written all over you, aren’t you?

4. Focus on ignoring office politics, negativity and corporate BS. This is a tough one. However, there are plenty of ways to mitigate the negative effects of working in a chaotic, toxic environment. Cling to those uplifting colleagues, avoid gossip, counter aggression with small acts of kindness, and try to find the funny in each day. Slap those headphones on, and worry only about what you can control.

If all else fails, go ahead and tighten up that résumé. Life’s way too short to be in a place that makes you utterly miserable. Hopefully, however, you can find ways savor those small, everyday joys, even if you work in a den of snakes.

Above all: Don’t let corporate vanity steal your sanity—or your humanity.

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