you gotta do it til you’re through it

Let me start out by saying, I feel very grateful to have a job. The economy sucks, people are out of work, and it is scary out there. My job is with a government contract, and now that the contract is coming to an end, the security of it is in flux. When a new company comes in they aren’t obligated to keep the staff. This is as good for morale as you would expect! Pile onto that the fact that the job isn’t exactly the creative, exciting career field I thought I would be in by now. So even though I am thankful for a job, admittedly, it’s sometime tricky to stay motivated and not burn out.

If you find yourself feeling similarly, here are some tips I’ve found that help keep me sane on the job and feeling like I am not just growing moss! If you have some to add, leave them in the comments section!

1.  Exploit your benefits for all they are worth. Does your company offer tuition assistance? Mine does, and I’m using it to pay for my MBA in its entirety. It’s taking me a little longer than if I paid out of pocket (my company pays for what equates to about 5 classes per year) but I won’t have to pay a dime for it. There might be other things your company offers to employees, like gym memberships, warehouse club memberships, discounts on travel-related expenses even for personal travel, etc. This will totally help you keep your salary in better perspective when you realize you are getting more out of work than what’s on your paycheck.

2.  Find extracurricular projects. I am the “morale committee representative” for my location. This means I might head up a holiday party or two and have something to add to my resume. Chances are there are committees to get involved in at your place of employment. If nothing else, it ensures the big boss knows who you are (if that matters to you). Better for something good, right?

3.  Dress up. Even if your dress code is casual, putting effort into how you look will make every day a little better. If you can get away with it, inject some personality in what you wear every day. I group the outfits I want to wear for the week ahead on Sunday. When I’m feeling blah I add colorful tights or paint my nails a weird color. But I can get away with it in my office…

4.  Make use of your lunch breaks/down time. If you bring your own lunch to save money, don’t forget you don’t have to hoover it down while entering expense reports. You’re actually entitled to a lunch break whether you leave your desk or not. I keep a running list of little (personal) things I can knock out at my desk during lunch. It keeps those little things from distracting me during my actual work time and gives me more time at home. Types of things I’m talking about: pay bills online, schedule appointments, transfer money around if needed, reorder prescriptions, register for classes, order books (or other things) online, plan meals, make grocery lists, type up a blog post, plan a trip, etc.

5.  Be productive. During your downtime, tidy up your desk, Clorox everything, take out the recycling, file away paperwork, tackle the “shred” pile, etc. Sometimes things that require some physical action will make the time fly by. I do those types of things on Friday afternoon and the weekend is here before I know it! And It’s hard, but limit your slacking time. I do this by bookmarking a small selection of personal websites and limiting my surfing to those few sites. (On my list: various news sites, my University’s webpage, Apartment Therapy, Martha Stewart, Cooks Illustrated, and the Krazy Koupon Lady.  (: ) There’s nothing really special about my list, except they are websites that will never post anything offensive to get me in trouble, don’t suck me in for extended periods of time, but can still provide a needed break from the monotony.

6.   Keep a list of any accomplishments. Not just awards or recognition, but any time you revamp or invent a system, take on an additional project, help another team, develop a skill, etc. This will come in handy not only for your resume or self evaluation, but also if you decide to ask for a raise, more flexible hours, etc. You may be required to prove your worth at some point, and keeping a list like this will make it easy for your employer to see why it’s in their best interest to keep you happy!

7.  Build networks. This sounds cheesy, but it’s important. When you make contacts at conferences and meetings, keep in touch a bit. You never know when it may work out to your advantage. At my first job out of college, I would get job offers from vendors I worked with closely. I wasn’t in a position to move at the time, but it goes to show, people are often looking for people they already know, who fit their organization.

8.  Use your job to develop skills you want. My job is pretty administrative – lots of forms to create and fill out, checklists to create and follow, emails to follow up on over and over again… it gets mundane. But I also happen to be really pretty good at document design. So those checklists and user guides I put together look really nice. I taught myself how to use macros so forms are fillable. The only requirement was to create a basic checklist, but you can turn it into a project you are proud of that is more usable. Try to think of everything that way. Additionally, take advantage of cross-training opportunities in other departments you would like to work in. Next time they are hiring…

9.  Keep everything pretty and organized. I love office supplies and organizing things. One way to make work suck less is to make sure your desk is pretty and clean. Keep things tidy, Clorox weekly. Switch your desktop wallpaper frequently. Get pretty office supplies. Get a plant that’s easy to care for and display a picture or two.

10.  Make it fun. Ask your management if you can have a potluck. Email a flyer around and put a sign-up sheet in a common area so everyone can list what they want to bring. Or start a fitness challenge. Schedule a once-a-month happy hour or girl’s lunch. This might require you to do all the coordinating, but if you plan it, they will come. Everyone’s looking for an escape from the mundane and just waiting for someone else to do the work!

I want to hear about you- what do you do, and more importantly, what do you do to make it not suck!?

PS, title of the post is from lyrics to this fun classic tune.

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