How to Make Your Terrible Job More Tolerable

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

Only a select few people have their dream job, and if you've found your way to this article, you're probably not one of them. But that doesn't mean you have to hate every second of every workday. These easy-to-implement strategies go a long way toward making your job suck a little bit less, which in turn improves your overall health and well being. Work may be a drag, but it doesn't have to drag your entire life down with it.

Have something to look forward to before and after work 

It doesn’t have to be fancy. Something as simple as a quality cup of fresh-ground coffee in the morning, or a favorite show queued up on Netflix in the evening can boost your happiness level. 

Carve out time to be physically active

If your commute allows, try biking to work to get endorphins flowing and power you through a crappy day. If not, take a walk during your lunch hour. Which brings us to...

Don’t be a #saddesklunch statistic

Get away from the fluorescent lights for an hour and actually have lunch somewhere that doesn't resemble a hallway at the morgue. Bagged lunches cut down on both the expense and the time associated with a meal out. Bring one to a park or other outdoor space and get some natural light and fresh air, for a change. Set a program to remind you to take stretch breaks and walks, and you’ll be more productive, too.

Make a "don't want" list...

Business analyst Monique Guild suggests using your list of “don’t wants” to show you what you do want out of a job. “Write a list of what you don’t want, and then flip it. That’s going to give you great information,” Guild says. “If you’re under pressure with a lot of deadlines in a corporate environment, what’s the opposite for you?” 

... and get crystal clear about what you do want 

Write a detailed description of your ideal job -- your work environment, hours, daily tasks, salary, what your coworkers are like -- and go after positions that fit the description, or create your own ideal job. “Whatever we focus on amplifies,” Guild says. “If I focus on how I hate my [current] environment, I’m going to stay stuck in that. I need to focus on the solution more than the problem.”

Take your vacation and sick days

They’re there for you to use them, and studies show even anticipating a vacation makes you happier.  

Maximize the perks that come along with your workplace

This doesn't mean stealing as many paperclips as possible. Plenty of workplaces offer full or partial reimbursements for gym memberships, commuter benefits... even free coffee is something to appreciate. Over time those fancy iced mochas will put a hefty dent in your wallet.

Create boundaries

If a coworker is aggravating you, close your door or put on headphones. If they're really aggravating you, tell them to fuck off (professionally and politely, definitely don't say "fuck off"). Turn off your phone after leaving the office, even if it's just for an hour. After some initial anxiety, you'll start to feel better about not being tethered to work all the time. 

Use idle time to learn new skills

If you have a job with lots of downtime, use it to plan your next career move or learn new skills, like Photoshop or coding. Likewise, budding writers can keep Word open on their computer and chip away at the next great American novel sentence by sentence. It’s easy to minimize those windows on your computer and pretend you’re doing actual work.

Remember that your job doesn't define you as a person

It’s fine to have an OK job that you aren’t crazy about, while pursuing your passions on weekends. Use the steady paycheck to make your spare time fulfilling.

Forge strong relationships with your favorite coworkers

Not only can they lend shoulders to cry on during happy hour, they’re also valuable professional resources -- they can serve as references someday, or they may even be the ones doing the hiring.

Focus on parts of the job you do like, while actively looking for jobs that are more fulfilling

This will help you feel less trapped. As a bonus, your immune system actually improves when you think positively, though the downside there is that you'll take fewer sick days. Wait, think positively: you'll be able to use those sick days when you're not sick at all!

Remember there’s sometimes a deeper personal reason for staying in an unfulfilling career

“Every situation we’re in is showing something within us that has to change,” Guild says. “People want to change the outer environment, thinking that will fix them, but it is an inside job that needs to be fixed first. Then, the outer environment changes.”
If you do end up in your perfect magical unicorn job of bliss, congratulations! Just remember, it is occasionally going to suck. Because even a dream job is still a job.

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Missy Wilkinson still feels guilty about calling in sick. Follow her on Twitter at @missy_wilkinson and on Instagram at @nowlistenmissy.