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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

6 Ways You're Making Yourself Miserable at the Office

Feeling a little grouchy? There could be a reason that mid-level manager in marketing is irritating you to no end and the customer who just called has put you on edge. Staying productive at work is sometimes challenging enough, but your mood could be influenced by a few of these environmental, ergonomic, and health-related causes. Change these variables and you might see an uptick in your overall happiness during the day.

1. Choosing to Always Email Instead of Calling or Meeting in Person

Studies have shown that email can cause stress. It turns out some of us might even stop breathing when we read and process email. There’s also something about the flickering light from a laptop screen, the hyper-focus on digital data on your phone, and the fact that our brains need to see multiple levels of perspective and not just one during the day (if you must know, it’s called a lack of sensory dynamism).

Give yourself a break. By walking over to the desk of a co-worker or picking up the phone, you’ll avoid being locked into email.

2. Working With the Lights Dimmed

Working in a low-light situation works fine for videographers and photographers, who need to the screen to pop a bit more as they make fine edits. We’re not all Photoshop gurus. If you spend most of your day with the lights dimmed, it can make you depressed. I like this study from way back in 2008 that found our brains need a shock of light to help curb depression.

Ironically, when you pull that blind in your office to get more work done, you are probably inhibiting your productivity. Let the sun shine in! Grab one of these air and light sensors to see if you need to bump up the brightness in the room.

3. Keeping Your Desk Perfectly Straightened and Cleaned

Take a close look at your desk right now. Do you see a white or brown desk with nothing on it but a laptop and a monitor?

Oh, maybe you have a coffee cup and a notepad, but otherwise you like to keep things as clean as a plate after washing the dishes. Bad idea. Having absolutely nothing on your desk is not an organizational technique, it’s just depressing. Go ahead and add a few knick-knacks like a flower pot, a few pictures of the kids, or maybe a Stormtrooper statue.

You’ll feel more inspired.

4. Leaving at the Same Time Every Day

It’s true that, in many professions, you are required to leave promptly at 5 PM. I get that. For office workers, that’s rarely the case. If you are so rigid about your schedule that you always leave at 4:30 or 6 PM every day, you might be missing out. Leave early once in a while and go for a stroll in a nearby park. Stay late and shoot the breeze with someone from accounting. Hey, you might become fast friends.

5. Drinking Coffee When What You Really Crave is Water

I’m mentioning this one from personal experience, so I won’t get into the science. I’m a coffee fanatic, and I use the magic elixir to pump up my spirits and give me a boost to work harder. I’m not about to change my strategy.

Yet, apart from the health issues, it’s often true that what I’m really craving is water. In the end, sipping water throughout the day can re-hydrate you and give you a better boost in the long run.

6. Finishing Every Item on Your Task List

Want to get yourself into a funk and feel even more down? Make sure you always finish everything on your task list every day. Be completely rigid about it even if you have to stay late or arrive early. What happens when you finish every task is that you become hardened to the cold reality of your task list that dictates your every move rather than, ironically, getting more work done.

The truth is, not every task is worth completing. It’s better to prioritize your work and finish the important tasks.

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