Another day at work or a perfect work day?

What is your perfect work day that keeps you gainfully employed? I say “gainfully employed” because we have to exclude going to the beach, being on holidays, being informed we have received a pay rise or anything similar that doesn’t add real value towards achieving your targeted outcomes at work.

For some this is a simple question but for others it’s much deeper because it’s really asking how much value are you providing or is there anything that’s impeding you. Senior people usually tell me the day has a mixture of strategy and execution. I also often hear people give variable responses of being left alone to work at their desk, meeting with customers or stakeholders or exceeding a target, meeting a deadline, closing a sale etc.

What’s common though is the feeling of satisfaction and control when the perfect work day happens. Here’s the thing though, perfect work days rarely just happen by accident. They occur when your plan to make an impact is executed perfectly. But how many perfect work days do you have in a week, a month or even a year? And what’s the biggest factor in determining how successful your day is? Is it you (how you feel or work), colleagues, customers or just the environment you work in?   

Two interesting statistics I saw said that only 10% of workers do their best thinking at work and 45% of workers are less likely to solve a problem or suggest a new idea on days of extreme pressure.

Now let’s think about a typical family dinner during the working week. Someone will usually ask “how was your day” and the most frequent answer is “it was busy”. So the next question is “what did you do” and the usual response is a vague “I don’t really know, I was just busy”.

Does this sound familiar?

But what’s different on the days when the response is “great” to the “how was your day” question? A specific achievement will be communicated with the difference typically being that we were more proactive and less reactive on days fitting into the perfect work day criteria.

Is there anything we can do differently to increase the likelihood of having a perfect work day? I suggest considering:

Plan – have a realistic plan focussed on the outcomes that need to be achieved for the day

Prioritise – undoubtedly something will crop up that could mean the plan has to change. Therefore, try to prioritise on the activities that will provide the biggest impact

Be organised – it’s hard to plan and prioritise well if when not organised as last minute things tend to keep popping up and get in the way

Don’t get distracted – what distracts attention and effort from completing the task at hand? Identify the distractions and either turn them off (such as incoming email alerts) or address them

Discuss with your manager – intuitively we know what works or doesn’t work for us. If it’s the environment, then talk to your manager about possible ways to improve the situation

The reality is we don’t live in a perfect world or have a perfect work day on every day of the year. Even though we might really like our job there are also some factors we cannot control.

However, maybe there’s some things we could be doing to increase either the number of perfect work days or even the proportion of a day where real progress is made. Not only will we feel good about it but the positive impact on our careers and the organisation can be powerful and rewarding.