Assess how your habits help (or hurt) your workplace well-being


You don’t need a perfect job in order to feel happy and energized at work. Instead, you need strategies for handling the inevitable demands and frustrations and — just as important — for helping you notice and savor the good parts. How many of these 19 best practices do you do regularly?

Even if you do quite a few, pick an area where you’re weak and make a plan to improve your own (and possibly your team’s) well-being.

Handling negative emotions and stress

  • When dealing with stress or negative emotions, I avoid common bad habits (e.g., losing my temper or bingeing on caffeine, food, or alcohol) and instead use productive strategiesExamples: Taking time to notice and name emotions getting in your way; going for a walk; meditating or focusing on your breathing; taking a break to chat with a colleague or your significant other; jumping into a task on your to-do list that serves as a healthy distraction.
  • I have developed relationships with colleagues who advise and help me cope with workplace challenges. Example: Developing a peer network you can tap occasionally — whether over coffee, lunch, or a call — to share similar experiences and advice in a productive (non-griping) way.
  • Rather than avoiding anxiety-provoking events, I prepare for them so I feel more confident. Examples: Thinking through and writing out scripts and possible reactions before difficult conversationsgiving tough feedback, or terminating someoneroleplaying with a trusted colleague or friend to practice.
  • I try to see the bright side of at least some challenging/negative events. Examples: Asking others who’ve had similar experiences about upsides or what they learned; mentally reframing a problem as an exciting challenge.

For more, see 4 effective ways to manage the emotions holding you back at work.

Amplifying positive emotions and feelings of purpose

  • I take time to recognize and share what makes me happy and proud at work. Examples: Telling others “that was fun” or “I enjoyed that” after a good meeting, problem-solving session, or discussion; recognizing direct reports in customized ways when they do something well or hit a milestone; keeping a kudos file of congratulatory notes, thank-yous, and “good job” messages you receive.
  • cultivate working relationships that make my job more pleasant, fun, and enriching. Examples: Exploring mutual interests when engaging in small talk with colleagues; seeking out direct reports, peers, and/or higher-ups whom you trust, respect, and learn from; developing friendships with people at work.
  • I periodically reconnect with the motivational and meaningful aspects of my job. Examples: Connecting with customers helped by your work; checking in with direct reports you’ve helped develop or advance; tracking your progress toward a big goal.

For more, see The happiness coach: 5 totally doable ways to be happier at work.

Setting and upholding work/life boundaries

  • I have set and communicated my ideal work/life boundaries. Examples: Identifying (and making clear to others) times when you won’t be working, like not checking email after 6pm or not working Saturdays; scheduling time for outside-of-work priorities, like family, exercise, and hobbies.
  • I have strategies to help me uphold my work/life boundaries: Examples: Turning off phone notifications after a certain time; routinely scheduling an evening activity that helps you decompress (and prevents you from staying late at work), like exercise or helping your kids with homework; making a list of what you’re worried about before you leave the office so you don’t bring those worries home.
  • Those close to me (e.g., significant other and/or friends) and I have agreed on how to frame and limit conversations about work frustrations. Examples: Designating certain times and/or spaces (e.g., the dinner table) as no-work-talk zones; asking whether it’s a good time to discuss work frustrations before launching into them; establishing what you want from the conversation at the outset (e.g., to vent, to have feelings  validated, and/or to get help solving a problem).
  • I take my allotted vacation time and don’t feel guilty about it before, during, or afterward. Examples: Requesting time off and actually booking vacations in advance; using time off as an opportunity to let ambitious direct reports step up in your absence; taking a few short vacations if you can’t manage a longer one; avoiding checking in while you’re away (or if that’s not realistic, scheduling the smallest possible check-in time and not checking in otherwise).

For more see 3 ways your job hurts your home life — according to managers’ significant others.

Ensuring you’re well-rested and mentally fresh

  • I take breaks during the workday regardless of how busy I am. Examples: Scheduling breaks throughout your day, like every two hours, when you’re typically low energy, and/or a recurring 30-minute lunch break; taking a few minutes to get a drink of water or go for a walk when you notice you’re tired and/or unfocused.
  • I know how much sleep I need and take steps to ensure I get enough. Examples: Tracking hours of sleep over a full week to identify when you feel rested; noticing how much more you sleep on weekends (if it’s a lot, you’re not getting enough during the week); making a point of going to bed on time so that you get enough sleep.
  • I practice good “sleep hygiene” to improve sleep quality. Examples: Budgeting buffer time in the evenings to prime your brain for sleep; avoiding evening caffeine, alcohol, and other sleep-altering substances; setting your bedroom with a cool temperature and minimal light and noise; getting up when your alarm goes off and not hitting the snooze button (sleep experts suggest that avoiding snoozing is one of the most effective ways to improve sleep quality).
  • I have strategies for when my mind races about work and I can’t sleep. Examples: Getting up and writing down what’s on your mind; purposefully doing something relaxing, like reading or meditating, rather than continuing to struggle to sleep.

For more, see Tired? How to manage your energy to do your job well.

Managing your time and workload

  • I have a systematic way to set my priorities — which occasionally includes cutting out tasks. Examples: Using a framework like FranklinCovey’s time matrix (item No. 2) to map your work as urgent versus important; periodically doing an audit of standing meetings and recurring tasks to determine what you can reduce or stop doing.
  • I proactively guard against becoming a “work martyr.” Examples: Having a few good ways to say no to nonessential requests (rather than defaulting to yes to be helpful); noting and striving to minimize how often you say “I’ll do it” either to spare your team the burden or because you believe you’re the only one who can do it right.
  • I make sure my manager understands my and my team’s workloads (and what’s sustainable and realistic). Examples: Sending your boss a weekly update for workload visibility; telling him or her when you’re stretched too thin so you can reorder priorities or suggest other solutions like budgeting for additional help.
  • I periodically adjust what I delegate to minimize how much I — and my team — feel overwhelmed. Examples: Determining which of my tasks and decisions could be delegated to a direct report; asking my direct reports about their workload and interests to determine if and when they have the capacity to take on a new task.

For more, see How to manage your time.