making things better instead of working

I’ve been thinking about “work”. The word itself has a lot of meaning. For some there is importance, fulfillment, challenge. For others it carries less positive attributes such as obligation, tedium, dread.

I myself am fairly ambivalent and depending on the day I can have positve or negative feelings associated with work.

Overall I don’t spend much time thinking about work.

Then I read How to make someone’s day (and why you should) by katemats and that had me pondering work. What really got me thinking was the section on “Do your best all the time”.

I realized that I don’t normally think about work. Instead I tend to go into most work days with the ideal of “making things better”.

It doesn’t seem like big thing, but to me it changes my thinking. I don’t dive into my day with the expectation of just toiling away and doing stuff. I try to make something better. To me that generally means improving something of a technical nature rather than Kate’s suggestion. That said, if my technical efforts don’t make someone’s day better I’m not really bringing much value. It doesn’t matter if it’s some training or documentation for one of my colleagues or some code that benefits a customer. The goal is always to improve things and ending my day with a net gain towards the positive.

That changes the focus of the day just a little, but makes a significant difference. Suddenly the target isn’t just putting in a full day. Now it becomes about putting something positive into the day. I believe that it’s related to Shawn Achor’s The Happy Secret to better work. There is an appreciation for the day by striving for a positive change. The day suddenly becomes a true opportunity.

With work there is a clear expectation which encourages setting goals. The key is make them goals that leave things better when the work day is done.

Life isn’t just about work. I believe the same applies to personal time.

It’s easy to finish the work day (or should I call it “getting-paid-to-make-things-better-time”) and drift through the evening tired. The expectations are normally just much more liberal and once everyone gets back home tired driving a lot of demands as work does just raises the tension. So then it becomes easy to avoid things and quietly drudge on until bed time. I realize it doesn’t make me sound awesome, but there are times when I just sit around in front of the TV or playing video games without expectations. Sometimes it’s nice to set yourself a very low bar.

What if the personal time wasn’t just chores and obligations though? Perhaps there is an opportunity to look at this time (and perhaps even the chores) as just a little more time to make things better.

Making dinner can be a chore, but if you get it right it does make the evening a little brighter and better. There are a lot of other little ways that might benefit oneself and those around by aiming at “making things better”.

Just like work, it won’t always end up better. Still, aiming for better just has much more potential and feels a lot more positive than drudging along.

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