(This is a second article from my Life Design Series. You can find the first article here: Start where you are.)

Doing work you enjoy is a crucial part of designing a good life.

In this article, I’ll show you how to find things you enjoy so you can start building your work-life around them.

Do work you enjoy

I’m just gonna say it: I suck at doing things I don’t enjoy.

I mean, I can do them if I have to, but I do so much better at things I do enjoy. So I always pick work I enjoy whenever I have a choice.

Sounds like common sense, right? And yet, we often do work we don’t enjoy. Why is that?

Well, I also did work I didn’t enjoy in the past, so I got a few reasons:

  • I’ve built up my position in the company and didn’t want to start over somewhere else, so I kept doing something I actually didn’t care about.
  • I liked the people there and didn’t want to let anyone down, so I kept saying yes to things I didn’t actually enjoy doing.
  • Or I just needed the money and didn’t even know what else I would want to do anyway.

At the time, I thought, “Work isn’t something you need to enjoy. It’s just something you do to build a successful career, get rich and famous."

But I was missing the point entirely because doing what you enjoy isn’t just some nice-to-have bonus. Doing work you enjoy is the biggest advantage you can get.

You can push yourself to do things despite not enjoying them, and you might do them relatively well. But you won’t be able to compete with someone who naturally enjoys the work.

Be the one who enjoys the work.

Design your work around joy

Whether you enjoy work isn’t just about the activity (coding, writing, selling). It’s more complex than that. It depends on many factors.

For example: Do you like the people you work with? That’s a big one.

Working with a team of great people can turn a boring project into an enjoyable experience. Or, working with jerks can turn a very cool project into a hell on Earth.

So designing your work around joy is not as easy as realizing, “I enjoy writing!" and your life is solved.

No. There’s more to it.

Enjoyable work-life has more than one ingredient.

Enjoyable work-life has more than one ingredient.

That’s why we will learn to find and understand different aspects of things we enjoy from observing our everyday experiences.

How to find things you enjoy

Action time.

There’s a helpful exercise in the book Designing Your Life for spotting things you might enjoy but don’t know about yet. Bill and Dave call it the Good time journal exercise.

Let’s try the exercise together.

Good time journal

  • Write down the events, activities, and happenings from your last few days. Use this template from the book where you have everything set up for you. Or just use a blank sheet of paper.
  • Note how engaged and energized you were by each activity.

Why do this?

Engagement and energy are two clues we can follow to find things we enjoy.

  • Engagement = How much did the activity absorb you? Was it fun? Did you want to keep doing it? Did you lose track of time while you were doing it?
  • Energy = Did it drain you or energize you?

We look for these two because the things we enjoy are usually both deeply engaging and energizing at the same time. They are clues to finding what we enjoy.

Lastly, in the template, there’s a little square to tick off next to every engagement range. That’s for noting if you experienced flow during the activity which is the highest state of engagement where you are completely immersed in what you do and lose track of time.

Let’s look at my Good time journal from last week as an example.

My good time journal from last week

My good time journal from last week

Dig deeper into your experiences After you write what you did, your engagement and energy, take some time to reflect on them:

  • What surprised you?
  • What worked well for you?
  • What didn’t work for you?

Use the AEIOU method to notice things you might otherwise miss in your observations:

  • Activities = What were you doing? What was your role in the activity?
  • Environments = Where did it happen? How did the place make you feel?
  • Interactions = What or who were you interacting with? How was it?
  • Objects = What were the objects or devices you used?
  • Users = Who else was there with you? Were they making it a more positive or negative experience?
My good time journal + AEIOU reflection

My good time journal + AEIOU reflection

Practice journaling

I’m a big fan of daily journaling. I do it every day for the last 8 years and I think everyone can benefit from doing some version of it.

I recommend trying the Good time journal exercise now and then keeping it on your desk and whenever something noteworthy happens, add it to the list and track your engagement and energy.

Once the list is full, take some time to apply the AEIOU method and think about what is there.

This practice will help you get more mindful about things you enjoy and we will come back to your findings and use them in later articles of this series.

That’s it for now.

See you in the third part of the Life Design Series this Thursday.