The blog

Previous article

Next article

10 Jan

How affected are you by everyday nuisances?

Datum: 2024-01-10 09:00
A person is making a silly face by squishing their cheeks with their hands.

It is nev­er pleas­ant when some­thing big and over­whelm­ing hap­pens to or at our work­place that throws us out of bal­ance. Per­haps the com­pa­ny is sold and the new own­ers have com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent ideas of how things should be run. Our job might dis­ap­pear in com­pa­ny cut­backs and we are giv­en new assign­ments that we do not at all enjoy doing. 

Or maybe the col­league who we have real­ly loved work­ing with quits, or the office moves to new facil­i­ties and we have to put up with an office envi­ron­ment that doesn’t suit us at all.

For you who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, this post is also avail­able as an episode of the Done!” pod­cast:

Not nec­es­sar­i­ly the big, but def­i­nite­ly the small

But it is not nec­es­sar­i­ly the big, real­ly notice­able changes that affect us the most in terms of feel­ing stress or well­be­ing through­out our work­day — it is the lit­tle things, the dai­ly nui­sances that both­er and annoy us, that have the great­est effect on our mood. At least this is the con­clu­sion A.D. Kan­ner and his col­leagues drew from a study con­duct­ed at U.C. Berke­ley in 1981.

Dur­ing a whole year they once a month asked 100 peo­ple to choose which of 117 com­mon annoy­ances they reg­u­lar­ly expe­ri­enced in their lives and how often they occurred. They were also asked to describe how they were feel­ing, amongst oth­er things in rela­tion to stress, and what major changes or events (for exam­ple at work or in the fam­i­ly) they had expe­ri­enced recently.

Fol­low their lead

The researchers found what they con­sid­ered a stronger cor­re­la­tion between the par­tic­i­pants’ well­be­ing and the degree of expo­sure to all the lit­tle annoy­ances of every­day life, than the cor­re­la­tion between well­be­ing and major trans­for­ma­tive events. The study was crit­i­cized and debat­ed, for instance when it came to what nui­sances they had cho­sen to include, but regard­less what the schol­ars agreed upon or not, we can be inspired by their method to get a grip on what aspects of our own lives that both­er us and what we could do about them.

Let’s say we made our own list of things that annoy and irri­tate us in our dai­ly lives, and through­out the next year both check in with our­selves to see if the list grows longer and if we expe­ri­ence more stress and less well­be­ing, as well as see if we can iden­ti­fy which annoy­ances we should strive to elim­i­nate for it to have the great­est pos­i­tive effect on our work­days. Wouldn’t that be inter­est­ing? And don’t you think that the exer­cise itself would empow­er us to do some­thing about our situation?

Do this

  1. For as long as you want and can, sit down and make a list of all the things you can pos­si­bly think of that both­er and annoy you. Use a spread­sheet to make the list, because this will turn into a whole chart you can use to fol­low up on how you have man­aged to address these annoy­ances lat­er on. If you do not want to make your own list from scratch, feel free to down­load the list of the 75 most annoy­ing things I spon­ta­neous­ly came to think of a few min­utes ago.
  2. Cre­ate twelve columns to the right of the list which will rep­re­sent the next twelve months ahead.
  3. Take a few min­utes to grade how often you expe­ri­ence all the occur­rences on your list in the col­umn rep­re­sent­ing the first month ot the right. Let 1” indi­cate from time to time”, 2” rep­re­sent pret­ty often”, and 3” sug­gest very often”.
  4. Now cre­ate two for­mu­las at the bot­tom of the list.
    • one that cal­cu­lates how many cells you have entered a num­ber into (mean­ing, how many annoy­ances that you fre­quent­ly experience)
    • one that adds up the num­bers in the col­umn (mean­ing, how high your total lev­el of annoy­ance” cur­rent­ly is)
  5. Add a recur­ring to-do-task to your to-do-list that repeats itself for instance the first work­day of every month, and write some­thing along the lines of Make an esti­ma­tion of last months nui­sances”. The task means that you sim­ply note which of the nui­sances you have expe­ri­enced in the past month, and grade how both­er­some they have been on that scale from 1 – 3.
  6. When you have repeat­ed the task a few times and gath­ered enough data for any mean­ing­ful com­par­i­son to be made, say after two-three months, then let your spread­sheet gen­er­ate a dia­gram in which you can visu­al­ly see how you are doing in terms of instances of being irri­tat­ed, and your over­all lev­el of annoyance.
  7. If you want to take a step towards mak­ing your life eas­i­er right away, then choose one of the nui­sances you have expe­ri­enced in the past month and that seems to hap­pen often (mean­ing, one of the nui­sances marked with a 3).Think of some­thing, any­thing, you could do to avoid the event from occur­ring, make it occur less fre­quent­ly or ensure that it does not influ­ence you as much. You need to be able to use a verb when for­mu­lat­ing what you decide to do about the prob­lem. Ask” is a verb, as is bring” in the phrase Bring it up at the next depart­ment meet­ing”. If you have pon­dered the mat­ter but still haven’t thought of any­thing, email me and per­haps I will have an idea or two.
  8. When the year has passed, look back over the twelve months of chart­ing your nui­sances. Either enjoy how you have man­aged to improve your sit­u­a­tion, or if the num­ber of nui­sances have increased and got­ten more fre­quent, sin­cere­ly ask your­self if you could make a more exten­sive change. If the process felt grat­i­fy­ing and help­ful, you could repeat it for anoth­er year.

Bet­ter and bet­ter step by step

If you chart what you are annoyed by it will become eas­i­er to actu­al­ly do some­thing about it. And if you find a solu­tion to just one of the many lit­tle prob­lems you are per­ceiv­ing, you will have at least made your life a lit­tle bet­ter. And per­haps found some moti­va­tion to do some­thing about anoth­er nuisance. 

Just as you get rid of those leav­ens” that stay on your to-do-list for months on end by doing one tiny step at a time, you will improve your work­day sig­nif­i­cant­ly even by just fix­ing a small detail — one lit­tle step at a time to elim­i­nate those sources of irri­ta­tion one by one, and with less effort than if you would have tried get­ting rid of them all at once. 

Every time you elim­i­nate a nui­sance, you have accom­plished one of those small every­day-life vic­to­ries that feel so good.

What is your way?

What nui­sances both­er you most right now? Feel free to share with me. I am sure that I will feel the same as you!

Want more like this?

A laptop in a pink trousers wearing woman's lap. In her right hand, a cup of cappuccino.

If you want more tips on how to create good structure at work, there are many ways to get that from me - in podcasts, videos, books, talks and other formats.

Yes, I want more tips!