happy at work

The Secret to Being a Happy Project Manager

January 8, 2020

It’s the time of the year for New Year’s resolutions. 

One of the ultimate ones we all strive for is happiness. I doubt there is a reliable census out there that accurately tells us what percentage of people love their job. But really, does it matter what the statistics are about how the rest of the world feels in their job? Aren’t we meant to change the world starting with our own backyard? With 2020 just out of the starting blocks, how do we find joy in our day-to-day job? I guess, many of us would like the answer to that question. 

So here’s a consideration to start with: 

It’s rare for a whole team of Project Managers to be unhappy in their jobs.  Which implies that it’s usually not the job, or the company or the manager that is the problem (or at least not the entire problem). Research seems to suggest that it’s not the amount you get paid or the job perks that are the determining factor either.  

So, if a good part of how we feel about our job lies in our own hands, what’s the key to happiness at work?

1.     Happiness is a habit. 

You often read that happiness is a choice. I’m not sure about that one, but it definitely is a habit. 

Turns out we can rewire our brains, even as adults. The good news about this is that we can also change the way we think. 

Researchers discovered during brain scans that if they asked a person to think a happy thought, they noticed significantly increased activity in the brain’s part responsible for happiness and wellbeing. There is a lot more to the story, but the short version is that, many neuroscientists now believe that when you consciously think happy thoughts, you can build new connections in that crucial part of the brain. It’s like exercising your muscles at the gym. The more you work them, the better you become at it.  

So who would have thought there is actually some science to support the use of a gratefulness jar? And that there is truth in how you start the morning will dictate the mood for the rest of your day? 

2.     Sense of purpose

Some more research in to the reason people suffer from burn-out revealed that people who feel like their job matters cope a lot better with stress and generally feel happier in their job. Feeling like you make a difference avoids becoming disengaged and cynical. 

Sense of purpose at work has nothing to do with your job title or where you find yourself on the career ladder. Identifying what makes your job meaningful to you and shifting your focus to that instead of what you loathe is the key. 

3.     Job matching

Another question to ask yourself: Is this the right job for the person you are?  Maybe you are an introvert in a job that requires endless talking to people. Or vice versa,  are you a social butterfly in a boring desk job? Do you feel like you are at a dead-end in your current company?  Or is it time for a new challenge? 

Maybe it’s simply time to move on and start considering the next step in your career? 

4.     Get the basics right

Talking about clichés. And probably the last one you want to hear too: a healthy diet, sufficient sleep, enough exercise. 

The ultimate trio requires a lifetime of work and learning. But like happiness, they are a journey. It’s not about whether you have it all perfectly sorted. It’s about putting one foot in front of the next and making a little progress every day. Remember, none of us have it all figured out, no matter how many picture perfect images we show off on social media. 

5.     Friendships

But when things don’t go smooth at work (you have a demon boss, the stress is through the roof and your co-worker is a bully), having a good friend at work can make all the difference. Connecting with people boosts our morale. And when it comes to getting out of bed on Monday morning, having that friend at work, may just be the thing to get you up and going with a bounce in your step. 

And last but not least, be the person you want to be around. Hear people out, respect others opinions, make the effort to get to know different people and cut out the toxic workers as much as you can.  

And if you really want to make friends, keep your presentations short.