Bring Joy to Your Job
Early on in my interview with Bruce Daisley, he said something about stories that I think is really interesting. Bruce recently stepped down as Twitter’s Vice President for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Before that, he ran YouTube UK at Google. He said that the stories we remember about leaders are often ones that aren’t really applicable for most people or even most leaders.
For example, the story of how Steve Jobs returned to Apple and, mostly by strength of personality and vision, turned it around singlehandedly. Or stories of CEOs who work crazy hours and who say that if you want to be successful, you need to put in 80 or even 120 hours a week. These stories have an impact. And it’s almost always a negative one because it saddles us with destructive, unhelpful inner voices that drive us towards behaviors that don’t really help us achieve our goals.
Try a Monk Morning
Bruce talked about this as we discussed his new book, Eat Sleep Work Repeat: 30 Hacks for Bringing Joy to Your Job. I asked him specifically about one of his “recharges” that he calls “monk mode morning.” The idea is that you give yourself 90 minutes of uninterrupted time, once a week, to work towards accomplishing something on your to-do list. No emails, no social media, no phones, no meetings.
Just 90 minutes of work. Why? Not to be more productive—though that’s probably going to happen. But because research shows that we’re more likely to answer the question, “How was your day?” positively if we actually make meaningful progress on a work goal. Think about that. It’s a “joy” hack, not a productivity tool.
Another joy hack can be doing something that helps you avoid brain burnout. Creativity, Bruce reminded me, often happens in the “default mode” of our brains—what can feel like boredom to modern people. We’ve all heard someone say that their best ideas come to them in the shower. Bruce shared the story about how the great screenwriter Aaron Sorkin realized that this was true for him… and so installed a shower in his office and took 6 or 8 of them a day. Why does this work? Because our minds simply can’t be creative when we’re bouncing from email to texts to social media to TV to phone calls to meetings and back. It’s not that those are bad activities in and of themselves. But if those are eating up all your work time, then you’re trading quantity for quality.
Beware the Evil Mill Owner Mindset
As leaders, we need to recognize these traits in ourselves first so that we don’t model them for our teams. We have to be on the lookout for, as Bruce calls it, “the evil mill owner” mindset. The “old style boss” who lives in all our heads and makes us feel guilty (or judgmental) when we (or others) aren’t working full tilt, all the time, every minute of every day. We need joy in our work, and we need time to sleep and be bored and be creative or else the work actually suffers. It’s ironic, of course, but too much focus on work makes the quality of the work go down.
I hope you’ll take a few minutes and listen. Bruce is, himself, a masterful storyteller and has a great many things to teach us all about how to add joy to our work lives.
For more information, see Eat Sleep Work Repeat: 30 Hacks for Bringing Joy to Your Job.
Photo credit: Preslie Hirsch