How to fall in love with your job again

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(MoneyWatch) It's easy to love a new job. "It's called the 'honeymoon phase' because everyone's hopes are high, it's a new challenge and it's a stimulating time," said media consultant Phil Cooke, author of "One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do." "But after three to five years, that same exhilaration can often lead to boredom and frustration." 

The buzz-kill here is familiarity. Initially in a new job, you're trying to understand your role. Once you've done that, you revel in the fact that you've developed a routine and are "good" at what you do. But then you get bored. "Despite our common pursuit of less stressful lives, humans are wired for change, and new challenges are the fuel that makes life worth living," Cooke said.

This Valentine's Day, shake things up and fall in love with your job all over again. Here's how:

Re-think your tools. It's easy to get overwhelmed by daily tasks and never-ending "to do' lists. Technology can help tame the beast. "The great artists like Michelangelo spent enormous time making sure they had the best brushes, paints and materials for their canvases," Cooke said. "The bottom line is that whatever you do for a living, there's probably an effective tool that can help you do it better." Depending on your business, different applications and software can help you accomplish daily chores faster and even make them more fun.

Say "yes" more. Variety can help an old job seem new, but you have to raise your hand when opportunities arise. It can be easier to just do what you've been doing, but if that isn't satisfying you have to challenge yourself to take on new tasks. Not only will you learn things, but you'll work with different people. That in itself may make a big difference.

Brush up on your people skills. After a few years on the job, you have probably mastered the nuts and bolts of the position. Now's the time to work on meeting new people, leading a team speaking in public or pitching your ideas. Formal programs like Toastmasters and Dale Carnegie Training can help, or you can simply take time to work on these softer skills every day. Your efforts won't be wasted, Cooke said. "Learn to deal with people more effectively and you'll become a rock star at the office."

Write a "did" list. At the end of each day, don't just cross off things that are done on your to-do list. Instead, write a quick "did" list, an informal summary of everything and anything you accomplished, from sharing a smart idea in a meeting to finally cleaning off your desk. If you regularly celebrate your successes both small and large, you won't have to wait for praise or a promotion for a boost.

Look at the big picture. If you feel like a cog in a wheel, focus on seeing how important the wheel is within the company. "In the day-to-day battle, it's often tough to see the bigger picture and learn the impact you're making in the world. But perspective matters, and each person makes a difference," Cooke said. A great manager should be showing you this, but that doesn't mean you can't try to see it for yourself, too.

Try these tips today, and hopefully you'll start loving -- or at least enjoying -- your work a little more. And if your honeymoon period is well and truly over and this work marriage looks doomed, maybe it's time to break up and start looking for something new.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Gerardus

  • Amy Levin-Epstein On Twitter»

    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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