10 Steps To Stop Your Job Stealing Your Soul

You dream about unchaining yourself from the desk and breaking free of the 9-5, but then reality bites you in the ass when another bill comes through the door.

So you sit yourself back down and get straight to work, all the while staring at the clock. (You swear you just saw the second hand move backwards.)

Then, like Fred Flinstone, when that horn finally sounds you’re outta there in a flash and yabba-dabba-doing NOTHING for the rest of the evening.

Sound about right?

But your job doesn’t have to be a blight on your day. You don’t have to suffer through until you can finally snuggle up on the sofa, remote control in one hand and re-heated pizza in the other.

Here are lots of simple ways you can bring out the brighter side of work so it’s less soul-sucking and more joy-sparking.


1. Reset your space

Just like that feeling you get when you discover the sink is full of dirty dishes, sitting down in a cluttered space means you’re starting your day with dread.

Instead, before you clock off (ideally for the day but, at a stretch, for the week) take a few minutes to tidy up and put everything back where it belongs.

It doesn’t have to look like a minimalist lives there if that’s not your thing – it’s perfectly fine to keep a pile of important papers close at hand. Just be sure that your setup makes a positive contribution to your productivity.

Reset your space, and you’ll always return to a clean slate.

Clean & tidy office desk & workspace | Reset your space

2. Add some inspiration

Keep some things near you that pack a motivational punch.

One such item on my own desk is a painting I did a year ago. Beforehand, I firmly believed my creativity was limited to the written word. But painting Bowie (yes, that’s his name) revealed that, if I put my mind to it, I can achieve things I never thought possible.

It’s a simple reminder, but a symbol of my potential.

You’ll have something that represents a great achievement in your own life. Something you thought you’d never be able to do but proved to yourself you could. Remembering success is a surefire way to put a smile on your face.

Owl painting | Bowie

Or maybe you have a favourite mantra or phrase that gets you all fired up.

I keep a sign right in front of me that says “Do it anyway”. It reminds me that even if I don’t want to do something, or even if it’s hard or will take a long time, or even if I’m hesitant or unsure where to start, I can do it anyway.

(This very blog post may not have been written without it.)

You could make it your device’s screensaver or wallpaper if you don’t want to have it visible to others or taking up physical space, but sprinkle bits of inspiration all around you and suddenly things won’t seem quite so bad.

'Do It Anyway' lightbox | Motivational quote | Inspirational quote

3. Make it fun

Even if you like your job, it’s probably not all sunshine and roses. So it helps to have some things around that reflect your personality and inject a bit of fun and frivolity.

On my desk I have two books about unicorns and two snow globes. I also have a bright yellow smiley-face mug my husband bought for me. (The setup changes from time the time but they’re the current crew.)

They remind me to smile, even if I’m on hour 7 of video edits.

Unicorn books & unicorn snow globe

4. Eyes on the prize

You’ll often forget why you do what you do, so make it easier on yourself by leaving little reminders around. (Try keep them positive – a pile of overdue bills probably isn’t going to make you feel any more grateful for your job, even if it is helping pay them.)

It could be a career goal or it could be a personal goal, long-term or short-term.

If you’re saving for a sunshine holiday, for instance, keep a picture of the destination on your desk. Better yet, get a glass jar and, with each passing hour, add a marble (or paperclip or whatever) to symbolise another deposit into your “sand, sea, and surf” savings account.

Or maybe you’re working to provide a good education and standard of living for your children. Proudly prop their picture up beside you. (This will also count for tip #6 too.)

Perhaps you’re just counting down the days until your next annual raise. That’s fine too.

Instead of driving down an endless employment highway with no pitstop in sight, suddenly you can see your destination on the horizon. Even if it’s hazy and you can’t quite calculate how long it will take you to get there, the distance will still seem totally doable.

Baby in Target shopping cart

5. Practice gratitude

We all fantasise about never having to work again and, instead, lounging around all day. And while that’s great in small doses, the shine would quickly wear off if that’s all you’d got going on.

Yes, feeling thankful can be tricky on a day-to-day basis, but try list all the good things about your job, even if it’s just helping to pay some bills.

  • Perhaps you’re learning the skills you need to fulfil a lifelong dream, like winning an award or owning your own company.
  • Or maybe you enjoy the camaraderie and companionship you get from your colleagues.
  • Maybe you get to put that college degree to good use, so the sacrifice of spending hours studying and living on a student budget is finally paying off.
  • Or you just got some feedback from a client or customer that made you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

There’s always some good to be found if you focus on seeking it out.

And if nothing else, it makes those lazy days off all the more enjoyable.

Feet Up At The Saguaro Hotel, Palm Springs | Vacation & relaxation

6. Personalise it

This has mostly been covered in the above tips, but put your own stamp on your space. If everything’s dull and grey but you prefer colour, add an extra lamp and some bright desk accessories.

If you love to knit of an evening, yarn bomb your bin. Or hang the embroidery hoop you spent weeks working on. Pin that adorable picture of your furbaby Frank, with his floppity-woppity ears.

Or use your clothing to remind yourself of who you are outside the office. Fear not if you’ve got a strict uniform – no-one has to see that neon green tank top you’re wearing underneath. But you’ll feel more like yourself… and enjoy the thrill of your little secret.

You may not have free rein, but add as many personal elements as you can so that, when it’s time to crack on, you’ll think, “Ah yes, this is me.”

Flower bouquet in smiley face mug | Yellow roses & white daisies

7. Bring the outdoors in

If you’re near a window and it’s a viable option, open it. If not, try get outdoors during your lunch hour and look up at the sky. Suddenly everything else, including that big presentation you’re stressing about, will seem relatively insignificant.

Even if, like me, you’re a fully certified homebody, there’s still something magical about the great outdoors. Apart from the visual appeal, fresh air and flora and fauna have many proven health benefits.

Despite being a serial plant killer, I still remain optimistic about my ability to learn. I have small little succulents and air plants scattered around, and my current fiddle leaf fig project is producing positive results so far!

Plants add more life and colour to your space, help detoxify the air, and remind you that there’s a whole world just waiting for you out there.

Fiddle Leaf Fig plant beside window | Bring the outdoors in

8. Stretch

You probably have a tendency to hunch over as the day wears on. You’re tired and tense, slumpy and slouchy.

You’ve also probably learned from experience that the longer you sit, the more tired you feel, even though you’re expending little in the way of energy. Maybe at one point in time you firmly believed you couldn’t keep your eyes open another minute, but as soon as you got up and moved around a bit, your energy levels returned.

On the flip side, if you’re on your feet most of the day, you’ll also notice that as soon as you sit down, your energy levels plummet and you find it hard to pull yourself back up again.

You see, there’s something about being still that sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to switch off.

I’m not for a second suggesting you shouldn’t rest, but staying in one spot for too long will seriously deplete your energy stores (as well as wreak havoc on your posture).

Instead of being completely still, try doing some light stretching or go for a stroll. If you’ve been sitting, you’ll notice you have renewed energy and enthusiasm. If you’ve been rushing around, you’ll notice you still feel rested, but not quite as exhausted as if you’d just sat still.

So if you’re feeling sleepy or stiff, stretch it out.

Man Doing Tai-Chi In Park | A reminder to stretch

9. Take the vacation

You’re entitled to a holiday. The length will vary depending on your job, but be sure to take it. An astounding number of people don’t use up all their holiday allowance, yet will waste hours staring at a screen, feeling their very souls being sucked straight from their bodies.

Schedule regular breaks throughout the year if you can. One long break is all well and good, but the other eleven months of the year can seem even longer, then. Try a slightly shorter break – coinciding with a national holiday will help stretch it out without using up those precious vacation days – coupled with a few long weekends.

That way you’re never too far away from your next epic Netflix binge or that sun-lounger by the sea.

Flying Over Greek Islands | Kos, Greece

10. Break up the day (the Mario way)

If all you have to look forward to is clocking off and putting your feet up, the days will drag by. Instead of wishing your (work) life away, try break up the monotony with little milestones and mini treats.

  • Maybe it’s something like achieving a task so you can finally tick it off your list and do a little happy dance.
  • Or maybe you’re going to indulge in some dark chocolate during your break.
  • Maybe once you make all those phone calls you’ll allow yourself a quick chat with your favourite colleague.

Whatever it is, think of each workday like a level in a game with various missions and checkpoints. Collect some coins, beat the competition, and then, at the end of the day, say goodbye to the big, bad boss. 😉

Writing In Notebook | Filofax Clipbook with white marble cover

You’d probably agree that work isn’t the most exciting part of your day. But if it’s something you’re going to spend a large chunk of your life doing, then damn straight you’re gonna make it as enjoyable as possible.

Accentuate the positive, ameliorate the negative, and then cash those cheques on the way to the beach.

(Make space in your suitcase for me!)

Now that you've made it fun, perhaps you'd like to get more done. I've got you covered in these posts on increasing productivity:

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  1. Awwwwww Bowie is so cute! And very well done — you should indeed be proud because the brushwork, color play, movement, and compositional balance of your painting are all commendable.

    This article is also a great checklist against signs of a toxic work environment. If these tips for humanizing a workplace and taking moments for simple self-care don’t seem possible in someone’s current job, it’s a strong indicator to get out.

    • That’s a great point! I realise not every workplace will be flexible in all areas but if there’s no room for any individuality at all, that would ring alarm bells.

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