The Case Against “Do What You Love”

Image: howjoyful.com

Image: howjoyful.com

If you’ve ever been in a career transition, or have been a recent grad, there was probably a moment where you weren’t quite sure what was next. Usually, well-intentioned folks like to suggest that you “do what you love” (DWYL) and somehow the rest will magically follow. In Slate, Miya Tokumitsu makes her case why that advice is bad for the individual and for society: 

No one is arguing that enjoyable work should be less so. But emotionally satisfying work is still work, and acknowledging it as such doesn’t undermine it in any way. Refusing to acknowledge it, on the other hand, opens the door to exploitation and harms all workers.

Ironically, DWYL reinforces exploitation even within the so-called lovable professions, where off-the-clock, underpaid, or unpaid labor is the new norm: reporters required to do the work of their laid-off photographers, publicists expected to pin and tweet on weekends, the 46 percent of the workforce expected to check their work email on sick days. Nothing makes exploitation go down easier than convincing workers that they are doing what they love.

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The Right Way to Disagree With Your Boss

By Suck UK

By Suck UK

Disagreeing with your boss is awkward, but expressing that divergent viewpoint is important in your professional growth as well as the forward progress of your company. Social scientist Joseph Grenny shares with Harvard Business Review how to express disagreement with your superior without coming across as a jackass:

Discuss intent before content. When the boss gets defensive, it’s… because she believes your dissent is a threat to her goals. Defenses are far less often provoked by actual content than they are by perceived intent. You can be far more candid about your view if you frame it in the context of a mutual purpose that the boss already cares about. If you fail to do this, the boss may believe your disagreement signals a lack of commitment to her interests.

Show respect before dissent. Most of us assume that if you want to be respectful, you have to dilute your disagreement, and if you want to be honest, you’re going to have to hurt some feelings. But this is a false dichotomy. You must find a way to assure your boss that you respect her and her position. When that sense of respect is secure, you can venture into expressing your views openly and honestly.

Basically, the trick is to frame your disparate view in the context of your team or company’s larger goals, while also conveying respect for your higher-up through the language you use and the attitude with which you use it. Disagreement can even be productive in the workplace, if and when it is communicated properly.

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Assign People to the Tasks They Love (Not Just the Ones They’re Good At)

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By Morgan Gaynin Inc.

Professor of Business Psychology Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic knows that creativity can be further developed by pairing it with an activity that the individual is truly passionate about. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Chamorro-Premuzic explains:

One of the most effective methods for enhancing creative performance is to increase individuals’ motivation, particularly intrinsic motivation (their task-related enjoyment, interest, and involvement). Ever since Teresa Amabile first emphasized this idea, meta-analytic studies have confirmed the intuitive idea that assigning people to projects they love unleashes their creative potential. In contrast, extrinsic rewards, such as financial incentives, tend to inhibit people’s creativity.

The next time you work on a collaborative project, be sure to find collaborators that are genuinely engaged in the venture as their creative contributions will be more elevated. If you can’t choose who you work with, than at least delegate people to tasks they truly enjoy. Not only will this prevent complaining, but you will receive more original work. As psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung said, “The creative mind plays with the object it loves.”

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Forget Goal Setting, Focus On Systems

By Aaron von Freter

By Aaron von Freter

You might be familiar with research that suggests setting goals and then laser-focusing on them can actually be detrimental to motivation and perseverance. The more fixated you are on your goal, the less you enjoy the actual experience of working towards that goal, thereby increasing your chance of failure.

James Clear suggests a new approach to goal-setting. Namely, don’t set them. When it comes to making progress in areas that are important to you, craft a system that will help you get there in lieu of setting a goal:

What’s the difference between goals and systems?

If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.

If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.

If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.

If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.

The problem with most goals is that they place huge burdens on you, and in so doing can imply that you’re not quite good enough yet. They also don’t set you up for long-term positive change, being geared towards one major milestone after which you could cease your productive routine entirely and still have achieved what you set out to.

Clear doesn’t advocate doing away with goals entirely, but rather using them as a guide for building a system that’s much more rewarding, habit-building, and geared towards measurable progress:

[K]eep things simple and reduce stress by focusing on the daily process and sticking to your schedule, rather than worrying about the big, life-changing goals.

When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.

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Don’t Waste the Tiny Gaps in Your Schedule

Mind-the-Gap
Take a look at your calendar. How many 30-minute gaps can you spot between events? You can thank the automated scheduling platforms of the 1990′s and 2000′s for that. And while these gaps might seem harmless, rest assured they can add up. Take a long-term view of your month, quarter, or year, and you’ll see that these 30-minute gaps are undermining your productivity.

Productivity expert Jordan Cohen suggests using these gaps wisely:

  • Take a few minutes at the start of each day to identify the gaps in your schedule.
  • Schedule what you want to accomplish in each gap right on your calendar. This can be anything from lower value work that needs to get done (such as expense reports) to larger, finite tasks you’ve been dreading (such as outlining your next presentation).
  • Hold yourself accountable. At the end of the day, look back on your 30-minute tasks and note which ones you’ve accomplished.

So stop looking at those 30-minute gaps in your day as empty space. They may be the key to turbocharging your productivity.

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How To Find What Makes You Happy

By Marcus Williamson

By Marcus Williamson

Part of the reason happiness often feels so elusive is that we don’t spend time really focusing on what we need in order to cultivate that happiness. When we’re bogged down at work or flustered with unsuccessful attempts, more often than not we mostly just wallow in those feelings of frustration and hopelessness, rather than taking a moment to question what needs to change.

Change that. Take the time to explore what you really need to make yourself happy. Beyond facilitating a lighter experience traveling through life, happiness leads to increased productivity, more engagement with work, and richer creativity.

Over on Thought Catalog, Ko Im offers a series of prompts to help you discover patterns that point to how to do more of what makes you feel happy. A few favorites:

What is the best thing that happened to me? This not only brings back fond memories but also shows implicit gratitude. It also shows your scope – is it a specific event or an overall “I’m grateful to be alive!”

What are five things I like about me? Yup, shower yourself with compliments.

How are three ways others would describe me? These adjectives could be good or bad. Perception vs. reality, the point is to be self-aware and therefore confident.

Finish this sentence: My dream is… Don’t be afraid to write it down, say it out loud, shout it from a rooftop! What would you do if no one else was reading, watching or listening?

By considering open-ended questions related to what makes you feel upbeat, fulfilled, and inspired, the wheat will start to separate from the chaff.

But what does happiness really even mean? Is it contentment, fulfillment, passion, joy, or some combination therein? The truth is, it’s whatever it means to you, and as such, the way to get there is to discern what things and actions generate those feelings and state of being for you. The best place to start is by carving out time for reflection, using cues like the above.

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Dear Workaholics, This Is an Intervention

By Tanner Christensen

Workaholism stems from a deep psychological belief that if we’re not working, we should be. Any time spent not attending back-to-back meetings, or swimming through an endless barrage of emails, or repeatedly re-prioritizing a to-do list, feels like wasted time. If we don’t work constantly, we mentally beat ourselves up. 

We’ve been led to believe that procrastination is a sign of laziness, but it’s not. In reality: part of procrastination is a way of coping with self-criticism and fear. It’s important for us to come to terms with the fact that procrastination isn’t a problem, it’s a symptom. The problem is our unhealthy perspective of how valuable taking an occasional break (and making time to play) can be.

In his book, The Now Habit, Neil Fiore provides a useful brain trick for establishing much needed breaks through-out the day to help overcome procrastination. Fiore calls it “Unscheduling,” and over at LifeClever, Chanpory Rith explains how to create an Unschedule:

The Unschedule looks like a normal schedule, but with a twist. Instead of scheduling work you have to do, you fill in everything you want to do. …This includes: Free time, recreation, leisure reading, socializing, lunches, health activities…Fill in your Unschedule with work projects only after you’ve completed at least one half hour of uninterrupted work….Think of the Unschedule as a time clock that you punch in as you start work and punch out when you take credit for your progress.

Fiore and Rith make the case for only filling the blank areas of your Unschedule with actual work—meaning only things where you produce results, no organizing emails or scheduling meetings.

By creating an Unschedule, where you block off time of your day based on breaks rather than work, you flip the procrastination and over-work problem on its head to establish a healthy foundation from which to work.

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