How to feel good about your work

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Oct 31

Is it true that most of us don’t feel good about our work? We leave at the end of the day thinking there is no end, we made no progress; there isn’t anything good happening here.

It is a dangerous feeling. We have that “not feeling good” about what we are doing and pretty soon we stop doing. That path leads to the dark side.

The key to feeling good about your work is independently knowing you are making progress towards your goals. And if your management doesn’t give you goals, you’ll need to figure out some for yourself (a different post…).

Most of us, though, have business goals to carry out. We have performance reviews and improvement plans and all those other things that tell us what we should be working on during the day. If we do, we have ways to feel good about our work. Here’s three of them.

Accomplish stuff on your list

If you don’t have a list of your entire inventory of work, you’ll always be wondering what you are forgetting to do with all those demands on your time. If you don’t have a way of listing and prioritizing your tasks, you’re lost because you’ll only do the latest and the loudest.

This point assumes you have a task list and you use it to decide what needs to be done next.

Personally, what gives me the greatest sense of accomplishment and helps me feel good about my work is crossing stuff off of my to-do list. Nothing feels better than taking that (short) list of what needs accomplishing today and checking those tasks off the list when done. You may not get all of them crossed off — but you’ll feel terrible and frustrated if you don’t get something on that must-do list done during the day.

Understand How You Are Achieving Your Goals

You’ve got goals to do, right? Those things your manager gave you at the beginning of the performance year that you are supposed to carry out to bring your department to glory. Yeah, those goals you stuck in your desk drawer. Those goals matter.

Each goal has a story of how you will do it. This story is what you need to track through your tasks. If you are supposed to write departmental reports on your new initiative, then you should have tasks on getting that done. As you carry out your plan through your tasks, you can now see how you are working to accomplish your goals.

I had some stretch goals for one of my employees and laid out how I thought the goals could be accomplished. She didn’t believe me. But, she worked the plan and pretty soon she was knocking stuff out and getting to her goals. By the end, she didn’t think the goal was a stretch, but something that she could do if she just followed the plan and did her work.

Does your goal accomplishment have a story around how you will meet that goal? If not, time to get one and then build out tasks to complete that will help make that goal.

Work Only on Your Goals

This one gets a lot of pushback. “So much other stuff comes up.” “I can’t ignore my boss.” “It became a priority and my goal is no longer the most important thing to work.”

I get that. Here’s the thing: when your performance review comes, your manager won’t care one bit about all that other stuff. The only thing that matters is if you accomplished your goals. Period.

So work on your goals. Push back and say it isn’t part of your job.

At some point, your manager will tell you some goal isn’t important anymore or another thing really is a goal. And that’s the point that you and your manager decide to change your goals based on the reality now on the ground. This is key: you and your manager must modify your goals to match up with what is the most important work to do now.

It’s not your fault the world changed. But it is your fault if you don’t push back on your priorities and let that cause you a poor performance review.

Knowing you are working on your goals — your focus — helps you feel good about your work. When your work is all this other stuff is what causes all the angst. Especially when you hit a poor performance review when you did everything else — except your goals.

How do you feel good about your work?

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.