How to Stop Hating Work

Written by Lisa Bleich.

In last Sunday’s NY Times Article Why You Hate Work, Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath argue that most people hate work because they are burned out. I hear similar things from students, particularly juniors, who feel as if they are on a constant tread mill of schoolwork, activities, homework, test prep, and college visits. Through their research, Schwartz and Porath identified four critical areas for people to feel engaged at work, which include:

Renewal: Employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take no breaks or just one during the day. The more hours people work beyond 40 — and the more continuously they work — the worse they feel, and the less engaged they become.  This holds true for schoolwork and studying.  One of my friends told me how she created a strict study schedule for herself to master some important tests and she built 30 minute breaks into her schedule after each block of studying.  Knowing she had a break coming up made her more motivated and productive.

Value: Feeling cared for by one’s supervisor has a more significant impact on people’s sense of trust and safety than any other behavior by a leader. Employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 67 percent more engaged. This holds true for teachers.  Students tell me that if they really like and respect a teacher, they are more motivated to work hard in his or her class. The converse is also true, when the don’t like a teacher, they are less motivated.

Focus: Only 20 percent of respondents said they were able to focus on one task at a time at work, but those who could were 50 percent more engaged. Similarly, only one-third of respondents said they were able to effectively prioritize their tasks, but those who did were 1.6 times better able to focus on one thing at a time. Creating a distraction free zone at home will make homework/studying go faster and more effective.

Purpose: Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations — the highest single impact of any variable in our survey.  It’s hard for many students to find purpose in their schoolwork when there is no time to reflect.  However, this is why meaningful extracurricular activities are so important.  If you do not have at least one activity that excites you, it’s time to reassess how and where you are spending your time.

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