Rich is a software engineering generalist and all-around web guy at the University of California.
He also makes pizzas and writes rock operas about steakhouses.
He has an unhealthy fascination with musician sessionography data and spends time writing web-based visualizations of that data.
A few weeks ago, work sent me to a conference. For reasons that are not important here, I ended up spending most of one of the days at the conference hacking on a work project.
And it was awesome!
I was excited and energized to be working on something interesting and meaningful.
I’m a guy who says that he loves his job without any sense of irony or embarrassment. But, as with any love affair, I had to admit that there were periods of time when I felt frustrated. And one of those periods had occurred recently.
Having such a positive work day off-site made it clear what was going on.
And the solution, as it turned out, was not to find another job.
I started tracking my time. (I used toggl.com but any time tracker will work.) I split my time into only two categories: “Yes” for times when I was doing something that I personally enjoyed, and “No” for times when I was doing something that I thought had to be done or was important but not enjoyable.
Then I forced myself to budget how much time I was allowed to spend on “No” tasks during a day.
My job satisfaction immediately shot up. Now, not only did I love my job, but I enjoyed it immensely as well. Who knew the two weren’t necessarily the same thing?
Tracking my time this way forced me to confront how much control I have over how happy I am. Many times, problems I was having with being happy didn’t really have as much to do with others as I wanted to believe.
Granted, this assumes one has autonomy to decide how one spends time at work. But that situation is probably not all that unusual in tech.
Being happy, paradoxically, can be hard work and requires you to confront things you might not like about yourself. Often, we want to blame our problems on our surroundings when we actually have the solution within our power. It can be much easier to decide that we would be happy if only we weren’t here or so-and-so wasn’t here. We don’t want to blame ourselves. Being empowered to be happy means also taking responsibility.