Get to it

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are

– Theodore Roosevelt

So. The book is ending.

Right around this time the typical business book would probably tell you to:

  • Set ambitious goals
  • Prioritize those goals
  • Set milestones
  • Go to it with determination and willpower

This might work if you’re building a bridge, but it does not work for making yourself and your organization happy. I suggest that you do indeed make a plan, but that you do the exact opposite of the typical plan.

So I’m not going to give you the whole “if you want things to get better, you must do something about it yourself” and “it doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO or the security guard, YOU can make a change” spiel. Either you already know this or I can’t convince you that it’s true.

And anyway, it doesn’t matter if you believe it or not.

I will say this: Try to do something. You don’t need to believe in it. You don’t need conviction, determination or amazing CEO super powers. Just try it. Do something to create a little more happiness at work and see what happens. It may work, it may not. Find out.

I suggest you do this:

  1. Visualize your happiness at work
  2. Make a happy plan
  3. Follow up without pressure
  4. Share what you do

This is described below.

Visualize your happiness at work

What approximately are you trying to achieve? What is your work life going to look like once you have achieved more happiness at work? Why is it better than what you have today?

If you know why the future you’re striving for is better than the present you have, you’re much more motivated to do something about it. Here’s a small exercise to look at that.

First find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted for the next 10 minutes or so. Then Look at the questions below, answer them one by one and write down your answers as you go.

Think of a future time, where you’re happy at work. Take a moment to try to visualize it. Close your eyes if you’d like. When you have a feel for it, continue with the questions below.

What does your workplace look like now that it’s happy? What’s different? What has been added, what has been removed? What colours dominate? What feel does the physical workspace give you?

What does your workplace sound like? What to people’s voices sound like? What sounds dominate the space?

What does your workday feel like now that you’re happy at work? How do you feel when you arrive in the morning? How do you feel around lunch time? How do you feel on the commute home? On weekends?

What does a bad day feel like, when you’re happy at work? What do you do about it? How do you handle it?

What are your co-workers like? What do you say to each other? How do you say it? If a total stranger were to sit in on a staff meeting, what would he think? What would he say about you and your co-workers?

How do your clients/customers react to all this happiness? How do they interact with you, now that you’re happy at work? How do you treat them?

How do you handle problems and conflicts? How do people react when things go badly?

What kind of results do you get at work? How do you get them? How do you celebrate when things go well?

Take your time. If a question doesn’t make sense or doesn’t speak to you, just skip it.

Make a happy plan

Let’s plan. But let’s not fall into the usual trap and:

  1. Set an ambitious goal
  2. Make a 20 step plan complete with Gantt charts and deadlines. Commit to absolutely, positively fulfill the plan no matter what
  3. Fall behind on the plan because, surprise, it’s difficult to take time out for your 20 action items when there’s “real work” to be done
  4. Lose heart and drop the whole thing because, “apparently it wasn’t important enough or we would have done it”

Does that process sound familiar at all?

I invite you to do this instead:

  1. Make a plan that’s fun, rather than ambitious
  2. Choose so few actions that you don’t need to prioritize and tasks so simple that you don’t need to set milestones
  3. Do it with absolutely no pressure to succeed

In short, go for the low-hanging fruit. Get some quick, easy wins. Then go on from there.

Look at the table below and fill it out. You’ll notice that it only has place for five action items, and that’s all you’re allowed to plan now. Just five actions, each of which must be:

  • Fast – something you can do now or in the next week’s time
  • Easy – something you absolutely, positively know you can do. If you’re not quite sure if you can pull it off, think of something even simpler that you know you can do.
  • Fun – something you’ll enjoy doing

And of course it must be something that will make you and/or others a little happier at work.

If you don’t want to write in your copy of the book you can download a document that you can use instead from my blog at

As you make your plan, I have one major tip for you: Involve others.

Sure it’s possible to go it alone, absolutely, but it’s much easier and much more fun to do it together with others. So invite your co-workers to be a part of the project. Be sure to invite people who are sympathetic to the idea of happiness at work, particularly people who are:

  • Naturally happy
  • Fun to be around
  • Have energy to spare

Get together. Kick some ideas around. Try the easiest and most fun ones. This is what the nurses at the H4 childrens ward did (see chapter X) and look how well it worked for them.

It’s even better if you can come up with an idea that is self-reproducing, ie. one that spreads itself throughout the workplace.

For instance, you could send an email to five co-workers, praising their work, and end the email by asking them fo each send an email to five other co-workers, praising them.

Or make a piece of paper with a list of “Reasons why our department (or project team or workgroup or …) rocks”. You write the first reason at the top, and pass it on to a co-worker who must do the same and pass it on. When everybody has contributed, hang the paper somewhere highly visible.

In each of these cases, your initial effort is very small, but it involves a lot of people each of whom get to contribute. Call me lazy, but I loooooove this approach :o)

Follow up without pressure

Once a week (every monday morning is the perfect time for it), take a look at your happiness plan.

Call it a rolling plan: When you’ve done one or two of the things on your list, add one or two new ones so you always have 5 things you want to do for your happiness at work – but remember: It must all be fast, easy and fun!

When you follow up, do NOT:

  • Beat yourself up over not having had time to do any of the things on your list. There’s no rush.
  • Create any pressure to make any of the items on your plan work. They work or they don’t work. Either is fine.

Take all the pressure out of it. You can’t really pressure your self into being happy…

Share what you do

If you’ve come up with something that works, don’t keep it a secret. Share the great ideas, tips, tools and whatever else you come up with.

Share it inside the company, or even better, share it with the world on my blog Look for a page called “Share you experience” where you can tell the whole world how you’ve tried to make others happy and whether or not it worked.

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