Over the course of your career, it’s easy to lose sight of what you’re trying to accomplish and what sort of professional you hope to become. But what if there was a way you could have a road map of sorts to follow throughout your professional life to make things easier?
One thing to try: Create your own list of work commandments.
The idea comes from Gretchen Rubin, author of the bestselling book The Happiness Project, in which she details her yearlong journey to be happier in life. One of the cornerstones of Rubin’s book is her “happiness commandments”—which can be turned into really awesome work commandments.
As Rubin explains, creating “commandments” isn’t about giving yourself specific tasks to complete, but rather creating “overarching principles” (as she calls them) to guide you through life when making big and small decisions. Having your own principles can make choices easier, especially when obstacles and distractions appear. These can be as small as “Do I really want to answer this email?” to as big as “Do I really want to take that job opening?”
Rubin’s commandments are pretty simple (“Be Gretchen” and “Let it go” are just two of her 12 examples), but you may be wondering: How could these be turned into work-centric commandments, and which ones could you use? Based on Gretchen’s own principles, here are three examples you can use as inspiration when creating your own work commandments.
1. Chill Out
Like a lot of people, I have a tendency to get incredibly high strung and stressed when it comes to my work, so the constant reminder to take a chill pill is something I need.
How could you put this work commandment into practice? Have a plan for what to do when you feel your blood pressure rising and your head hurting from stress. For example, take deep breaths, do some yoga, or play that mindless app on your phone that allows you to forget everything.
Whatever you choose, it should be something that reduces your stress levels.
2. Finish it Now
Whether it’s that super long email you have to send to your boss or that expense report that’s been sitting on your desk for the entire work week, we all have things we put off constantly, hoping they’ll just disappear into thin air.
Instead of procrastinating, make an intense effort to finish everything (or almost everything) as it arrives instead of putting it off to a later date.
In my case, something I’ve talked about before is that I have a horrible tendency to leave easy-to-answer emails sitting on my inbox, rationalizing that I can just answer them later. Obviously, if I just got them done right then and there, that’d be some stress off my back right away.
The bottom line? Make a point of finishing things right away, or have an exact deadline for when you’ll get those pesky tasks out of the way. Don’t deal with the ambiguous “later.”
3. Get Out There
Another tendency many careerists have is to get so comfortable that they never get out of their work bubble to expand their opportunities. When was the last time you went to a networking event or an industry conference? Can you actually remember the last coffee meeting you had?
If you’re finding that the answers to these questions are murky, it’s time to step up your social game and put yourself out there. It never hurts to know more people, have more connections, and create more opportunities.
Of course, one important note about work commandments is that they should be unique to you—and should take a good deal of time to craft. A great way to begin thinking of commandments is to talk to other people about what they think your core beliefs and values are, as well as areas in which you can improve. From there, start reflecting on which character traits warrant your attention; these will be your commandments.
And remember: You need to have a system for sticking to them every day. Whether that means putting up Post-it notes at home and at your desk or getting your co-workers involved, find some way or another to stick to your commandments.