Many years ago, when I studied abroad in Spain, my fellow students and I noticed that people generally seemed more relaxed and social, more joyful. Our Spanish friends and teachers explained that unlike Americans they worked to live, not lived to work.
Being fully invested at work is wonderful, but often in order to give our all at work, we deprioritize the other things that contribute to our happiness and sense of well-being. This can end up sapping our energy and leaving us resentful. Often the secret to enjoying work again, is to start enjoying our lives again.
Here are 3 ways to focus on yourself so you can feel happier during your 9 to 5:
1. Prioritize PTO. Your vacation time is not just a benefit, it’s part of your compensation. I read a sad statistic that the average American only took about half of their available time off.
When I worked for a Swedish company, I had more vacation time than I felt I could afford to take, and since I travelled for work, I didn’t always want to get away again. I started booking a week off at home with no plans with anyone but myself and a list of projects like photo albums or home renovations.
Be creative. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy your time off. Plan a staycation or several special days of self-care.
2. Take time out. Vacations are great, but banking on a couple weeks a year to be your only source of recharging is unrealistic. You need to recharge daily.
This includes stepping away during the workday. Leave for lunch. Get some fresh air. Move around. Stretch. Meditate. Take five frequently!
Make the most of your commute to do one thing that helps you at home (make your hair appointment, call the vet or your mother) and one thing that feeds your brain (listen to a podcast or an audiobook, read an article).
3. Invest in yourself. I am all for self-improvement and investing in your own professional development, but I’m talking about something you used to love or always wanted to do.
Take a cooking class. Learn to paint. Start a book club. Write a book. Ride horses again or train for a marathon. You need to invest in those interests that make you YOU. You will feel younger, more alive. And, yes, working to live a richer, fuller, happier life.
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