Category Archives: Work Free

Nine Simple Actions To Make Your Work Day Great

1.Wake up 30 minutes earlier

Giving yourself time to start your morning slowly, unstressed and unrushed will set the tone and carry with you the rest of the day. Don’t immediately check email, the news, or social media. Take fifteen minutes to read something enriching, to meditate, or to take a walk.  As Monk David Steindl-Rast, writes, beginning the workday with conscious clarity and high intention is vital to the quality of our lives.

2.Take a different route to work

Breaking up routine fosters creativity and helps pull us out of ruts.  If possible, take back roads and avoid rush hour traffic.  Again, the decreased stress will increase your ability to handle problems with grace later.

3.Make a plan of action

Even if it is a simple as writing down 3-5 things on a sticky note, know what your goals are for the day and the order in which you are going to accomplish them.  This gives you purpose, promotes focus, and will lead to a better sense of satisfaction as you mark them your tasks as you complete them.

4.Stand Up

There is a saying in the medical community that “sitting is the new smoking.” Heart disease is more than double for people who sit all day at work compared to those whose jobs require them to be on their feet.  When we are hunched over our computers, we don’t engage the diaphragm and we breath shallowly, which makes us fatigued, cranky and irritable.  If you can install a standup desk, do so.  If not, then stand up when you talk on the phone and take breaks often to get up and move around.

5.Perform a small act of kindness

Studies have proven that even mundane acts such as opening the door for someone, providing an honest compliment or a sympathetic ear increases self-worth and positive feelings.  Both for you and then person you have helped.

6.Remind yourself why you are doing your work

It’s easy to get swamped in the minutiae and the drudgery that often plagues any work.  When this happens, pause to reflect on the big picture, whether that’s solving client’s problems, making the world slightly better or providing for your family.  You have a good reasons for what you do, or you wouldn’t do it.  Remember those reasons.

7.Write down the top three things you accomplished that day

At the end of the day, reflect back on what you have done.  Relieved Mrs. Johnson’s concerns about her child’s health. Helped Megan finish her report.   Protected a stream from pollution.  Took a walk with a coworker and got to know her better.  Even in a whirlwind day that held nothing but stress, if you focus on the positive, incremental achievements, you will leave with a heightened since of accomplishment.

8.Organize and clear your work area before leaving for the day

If you walk in to your workspace the next morning and it is in disarray, you mind will begin in disarray.  An organized space is an organized mind.  An organized mind can handle stress better and is more focused.  Put files away.  Clear your desk. Put your equipment away.

9. Give Yourself a Break

We rarely finish everything we set out to do in a given day.  Accept that and know that you can tackle it again tomorrow. The world will keep spinning even when items are left undone.  What we do is important, but have perspective.


Have a great day, everyone.

Seeing Like a Writer, an Artist, or an Entrepreneur. And Then Doing.

     Novelist Silas House recently wrote in the New York Times* that when he is asked how often he writes his answer is, “every waking minute.”  He explained that during his day he focused on staying still in his mind, always observing, writing in his head and becoming his characters, even while engaging in mundane activities.  He had learned to notice details (the quirky smile of a woman at the grocery) while at the same time blocking out unhelpful diversions.  This is presence with a purpose and is how we must engage the world: observing like an animal, taking in the details, the beauty, the opportunities and gifts that a distracted and anxious mind denies us.

     After years away from the visual arts, I took a painting class.  Our instructor would place a random object in the center of the room and we would recreate it as best we could on canvas using varying styles and techniques.  Easier said than done, of course: therein lies the art.  Tremendous focus on subtle details was required, a difficult and learned skill.

     But this way of seeing deeply stuck with me. The sky was no longer “blue” or “grey,” but contained multiple variations of color, with shades of ultramarine, ochre and magenta.  I now noticed the reflection of dew on a blade of grass and the metallic curve of a dragonfly’s eye.  My once vague observation of the world had become acute.

     Back when the first Spiderman move hit the screens a friend took his preteen to see it.  Standing in the long line of parents and kids waiting to get tickets, a line much bigger than those of competing films, he wondered: what was special about this movie? What was its draw?  It seemed that everyone loved superheroes.  When he got home he researched how many other characters were in the Marvel Comics family and found out there were more than five thousand.  That’s a lot of hit movies.  He bought a bought a big chunk of Marvel Entertainment stock and waited.  When several years later (after a series of blockbuster comic book hero successes) Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion dollars, he cashed out.  He had made enough on the single investment to pay for both his kids’ college tuition.  All because one day at the movies he was present, he observed, and then most importantly: he acted.

     The taking action is the most important step of all.

     Back to Silas House: the point of his NY Times article was that too many aspiring writers spend far too much time talking about writing and not enough time actually writing.  We have to act.  As Benedictine Monk David Steindl-Rast advises, we must follow the same advice we give our children when crossing the street: stop, look, go.  We must pause, observe what is happening around us, and then be decisive.  We must do.  Start that business, write that play, scale that mountain.  Passive observation and blind action take us to the same place: nowhere.

     Open your eyes, Bohemians, there is much we miss everyday.  Make it a goal, as Silas’s mentor advised, to discover something new every day. And then—by all means—use it.

 *The Art of Being Still by Silas House:



Calculate Your True Compensation

The truly rich man lies in the sun and sleeps.

Ralph  Waldo Emerson


The job interview went great.  You aren’t surprised when the nice lady from HR calls you to offer you the job and as she talks, you hold your breath for the only thing that really matters:  how much does it pay?

We’ve all been in that situation.  Sure, the pay matters, to a degree, but should it trump everything else? Money is necessary; money is our mode of exchange.  It has its place.  But it is unfortunate that we so often stress its importance so far above other compensations that are necessary to our happiness.  To understand the actual benefits we receive in exchange for our labors, we must consider the factors below.

Money.  Yes, it matters.  Not for the purpose of status or self-worth, but because it provides freedom to meet our basic needs and to focus on bigger things.  We can’t give money to charity if we don’t have it to give.  Money buys food, clothes, shelter, paintbrushes, guitar strings and hammocks.

Purpose.  Does your job have meaning to you?  Are you serving the world, yourself, your community?  Are you making a difference in the lives of your customers, clients, co-workers?  Despite the stress, labor, and setbacks you experience, do you still wake up looking forward to what you do?  Do you care about your work and believe you do good things?

Passion.  Passion overlaps purpose, but whereas purpose is an intellectual understanding (knowing that what you do is a worthy thing) passion is a heart-based experience.  Passion is the rush, the intensity, the exuberance experienced that is similar to what you felt as a child when you hit a home run, won the art contest or earned praise for your science project.  It’s taking joy in the process and being in the flow.  How often do you experience this in your work?

Autonomy.  Do you have freedom to work at your own rhythm and at the hours you are most productive?  Are you given leeway to follow your intuition?   Are you trusted not to have to punch a clock and not to have every action approved ahead of time?  That’s having autonomy.  All humans crave it and are happier when they have it.

Time away.  Work requires commitment, and commitment means time.  But no one can remain happy and fulfilled when any one endeavor saps all the time and energy from other needs and passions of life.  Does your job allow you enough time away that you get enough sleep, spend time with your loved ones, can exercise, eat a languid meal, travel, be idle and have an inner life?

Achieving a balance among the elements listed above is necessary to have truly satisfying work.  If you enjoy your work and have a friend that makes double your salary but works sixty hours a week at a job he hates, he is not compensated better than you. 

Calculate your true compensation and find your balance.  On your deathbed, you will have the joy of looking back on your work life without regret.