How to Make Any Work More Enjoyable

You think your job is bad? These guys were laying asphalt in 35 degrees Celsius!

You think your job is bad? These guys were laying asphalt in 35 degrees Celsius!

Most of us hate our jobs. We hate dealing with irate customers, inept bosses, lazy co-workers and work that is mind-numbingly tedious. Work sucks so we fantasize about magical places where we can do whatever we want and make wheel-barrel loads of money, maybe even get our picture on the cover of a magazine somewhere. That is the life the life of the entrepreneur. Digital nomads or location independent professionals have it even better. They get to travel to exotic locations around the world while earning a great income from anywhere with an Internet connection. Ah… the good life indeed!

Is the Grass Really that Green?

The problem is that starting your own business or working from another country still involve the very thing you are trying to escape: WORK. In fact, working for yourself generally has more responsibilities and requires more hours and effort than working for others.

I have been running my own businesses and living abroad for more than a decade, so I can definitely recommend both choices to anyone. However, I feel it is healthier to approach big lifestyle changes like entrepreneurship and a nomadic lifestyle from a personal growth perspective, rather than just escaping your job routine.

If you are unable to find good in the work you are currently doing, it is unlikely that you will find it in starting your own business or trying to work from exotic locations around the world. Work is work, no matter if you are your own boss or you are doing it while traveling. If you had difficultly motivating yourself in the past, those same problems will likely continue to exist in your own ventures

I believe that people who can  justify mediocre effort to themselves in one area of their life find it easier to make excuses for all areas of their life. Musicians and athletes in particular understand the necessity of endless hours of practice so they typically put that same effort into their work and businesses. People willing to put in a minimum level of effort in their work, are also probably quick to give up learning foreign languages, practicing musical instruments or exercise. Work can be a chance to showcase your quality as an individual if you rise up to the opportunity. Here are some ways to make any job more personally rewarding.

Dealing with Boring Work

When your work is repetitive and dull, look inward to focus your thoughts. Concentrate on exactly what it is you are doing. Really feel and appreciate every breath, every moment. This is the essence of mediation. You do not need to burn incense and travel to Tibet to get in touch with your spiritual side. Buddhism is about being present in everything you do, eating, cleaning, breathing and yes, even work. Monks do endless hours of tedious chores because of the meditative value. Be thankful that someone is paying you to do that at work.

Enjoying Physical Work

I love physical work. I worked construction for a couple of summers in university and there is just such a feeling of accomplishment when you finish a task or project and your body is physically tired. You don’t get that feeling from working behind a computer. Embrace the physicality and feel it in your muscles. Be thankful that you don’t need to go to a gym to stay in shape.

Placating a Domineering Boss

Some managers can be jerks. They may be on a huge ego trip. They may be incompetent. They may hate you. Sure you could humiliate your boss. You could put in substandard work or slack off. You can denigrate your boss every opportunity you have. That just brings you down to the level of your superior. Rise above difficult situations by delivering more than is expected and giving your boss all the credit. Ignore negativity and criticism and just strive to deliver your best. Nothing is gained by fighting and creating more animosity. It is very hard for anyone to continue being a jerk when they always get kindness in return. Kindness works! Try it for a month and see for yourself.

Pursue Excellence

Work and life require effort. The more you put in, the more you get out. When people say a job is boring, it usually means they are not striving to learn new things and improve the quality of what they are doing. Study more about your company and your work. Learn new skills. Try to become great at what you do. Mastery has a way to turn most work into a personal journey of self-improvement.

Cultivate Relationships

Use your time in a company to connect with as many people as you can. Become genuinely interested in other people around you. Remember their names. Help whenever you can. Give for the sake of giving. Humanity is all about relationships. Be friendly and supportive to those around you and see what a difference it will make in your life.

Serve Customers

People often forget that the purpose of every company is to create value for customers. We all have little difficulty complaining when we get lousy service and low quality goods from a business; Flip that around and consider your own attitude towards work. When you buy from a company, do you expect courteous and conscientious service? Are you delivering that same level of service in your job or business?

Future job and business opportunities often arise from previous employment. Great effort and talent gets noticed sooner or later. What kind of personality traits and work ethic would you want if you were looking to hire, invest in or partner with someone? Start demonstrating those qualities now and your future opportunities will explode. These skills and personality traits will serve you even better if  you choose to venture out into your own business.

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My name is John Bardos. My wife and I gave up our business, house and possessions in Japan to search for more meaning and fulfillment in our lives. We've discovered that a satisfying life is about rich experiences, quality relationships and meaningful contribution, NOT consumption.

14 Responses to How to Make Any Work More Enjoyable

  1. Nick says:

    Of all your tips, the one that resonates the most is Pursue Excellence.

    I spent years thinking that when people (including me) are happy they do good work. Then I realised it’s the other way around; people who do good work, are happy. Or, pursuing excellence makes you happy.

    Actually, I realised this (and everything I’d been struggling with as a manager for years) made sense, about 10 seconds after reading it in Herzberg’s 1959 classic The Motivation to Work. As Dan Pink recently said at TED, “what science knows, business ignores.”
    .-= Nick´s last blog ..Why don’t customers buy your product? =-.

    • John says:

      Nicely said Nick.

      “I spent years thinking that when people (including me) are happy they do good work. Then I realised it’s the other way around; people who do good work, are happy. Or, pursuing excellence makes you happy.”

  2. Gordie Rogers says:

    Very cool post.

    I used to be a gardener/groundsman in a rest home. I loved working outdoors and being physical. It was exactly like you said, physically tiring but a really cool feeling.

    • John says:

      Hi Gordie,

      Give me a hole to dig, or wood to chop! I think it is essential to have a physical break from our lethargic work lives. It is inhumane to sit behind a desk for 8 hours a day.

  3. Nate says:

    I can really appreciate what you said about dealing with boring work. I’m about to get into a few hours of insanely boring database work, and I’ll be thinking about what you wrote. I’ll try to picture myself as a Buddhist monk 🙂

    Great post, John.

  4. Carmen says:

    You make a good point that our reaction to situations is usually more an indicator of something within ourselves than of the situation itself. If you feel bored in your job you could probably take a look inward and realize you’ve been bored in many situations in the past. Some people say that boredom is actually one way to psychologically defend against strong feelings of discomfort.
    .-= Carmen´s last blog ..Nomading Families Discuss Life and Education – Round Table Part III – The Vogel Family =-.

    • John says:

      Thanks for the comment Carmen.

      It is easy to blame people or circumstances for our unhappiness, however by every measure life is great. We have a quality of life and variety of choices that previous generations couldn’t have imagined. These are amazing times!

  5. Frugal Expat says:

    great post! I am into this limbo for the past months now. Work is really boring and routinary.

    However, while whining sometimes about my current work situation, I feel guilty. Others have been fired and retrenched and here I am, having a stable job, and still complaining.

    But you are definitely right! Whatever option we choose, it still requires work and effort.

    .-= Frugal Expat ´s last blog ..Surviving the Tough Economy: Extra Source of Income =-.

  6. Walter says:

    To tell you the truth, it is not easy to be enjoyable working for someone. The tips you have elaborated above makes a lot of sense, but it’s not easy to achieve. In my work, I try my best to apply some of the practices above, but many times I slip. Still, its worth it. 🙂

    • John says:

      I agree that it is not easy. We all get stressed, bored, tired and angry from different things at different times. I believe that the reason we hate work so much is that we do so much of it. We would get sick of anything we had to do for 40 hours a week, no matter how pleasurable it initially was.

      Finding internal ways to deal with problems or boredom is more effective than external ways like running way or shopping.

  7. I love your insights! And yes, so true — work is work no matter what. Some work may be more enjoyable than others, but even if you have a job you like, sometimes you will encounter tasks that are flat-out boring or tedious. It’s hard to find a job that is perfect.

    Great tips on how to deal with a boring job. I totally feel you on the physical thing — I sit at a desk in front of the computer all day and it makes me nuts. I get ancy and it makes me feel so sedentary and unhealthy. While I don’t think I would do well at manual labor, sometimes I wish I had a job that required me to shuffle around a bit rather than camp out in front of a laptop all day long!
    .-= Emily @ Maiden Voyage´s last blog ..Guest Post: What I Learned in Iceland =-.

  8. Monica O'Brien says:

    Starting a business is by far the most exhausting job I’ve ever had. Sometimes I do wonder if I’m happier than before. I certainly spend a lot of my time working, compared to before – so in that respect, maybe not.

    At the end of the day, work is work still! You will do things you love and hate in life – you can’t accomplish anything without sucking it up sometimes. Not everyone is meant to start a business, and my guess is most people think it sounds fun but really would hate it if they actually did it.
    .-= Monica O’Brien´s last blog ..Free content sells. We get it. What’s next? =-.

  9. Akila says:

    Pursuing excellence is critical no matter what you do. I quit my job because I hated it and left to travel around the world but, even though I knew I hated it, I kept working as well as I could. It kept me sane to know that I was putting in 100% and left a good taste in my boss’s mouth so that they asked me to go back to them after I return. Will I do it? Probably not, but at least I have the option. For a year before I left the U.S., I switched jobs to a more writing-focused option and realized that writing is what I would like to do full-time when I return. But, if I don’t have that chance, then, at least I have a backup.

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