How to Build a Better Workday

Want to be happier at work? The secret might be achieving a state of flow, the feeling you get when you're so absorbed in activities that give you a sense of purpose, that you lose track of time. (As opposed to, for example, the parched-eyeball feeling of losing an hour to your favorite game app on your phone.) So how can we get to flow?

flow 

(Photo Credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery/Flickr)

Laura Garnett at Inc has a few ideas. First and foremost, she suggests, we need to change our conceptions about work.

"We have been conditioned to believe that work is not work unless there is an element of self-sacrifice. That is mostly because that is what everyone else is doing -- sacrificing joy for the sake of work," writes Garnett. "Instead, ask yourself regularly: What are the conditions and the environment that is the stimulus for your best thinking? What would you do on your ideal workday? How would you structure it? What would the benefits be? Present this to your team as a test. Track the results. How much more productive are you? How much work do you get done, and how motivated do you feel?"

To answer these questions, you'll need to focus on your work in a whole new way. Start by making notes. Write down when you're most productive, least productive, happiest, and most focused. Note what's going on at each point. It's possible, for example, that no activity will ever inspire flow for you before 10 a.m. Don't judge yourself -- just write it down. Track these results over time.

Remember that achieving flow is about focusing on process, not goals.

Kendra Cherry at About.com's Psychology site says, "While having a goal is important, flow requires enjoying the journey and not just fixating on the end product." Cherry notes other positive effects from achieving flow, including higher self-esteem, great self-confidence, and more happiness in general, both in and out of work.

Eventually, you'll have a better idea of what your perfect day looks like, and can go about trying to incorporate your knowledge into the time that's yours to plan.

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