The 10 most important things at work

Man at workIt's very easy to get upset about things at work. Sometimes even very small things can cause a very big upset. When this happens it's useful to get things in perspective. Here's what really matters at work, in order of importance:

Your conscience
In the end you don't have to live with your boss, your colleagues or anything to do with work but you do have to live with yourself. Your conscience will always tell you when something isn't right. Listen to it and when the crunch comes, act on it. But don't be rash. You shouldn't be martyring yourself on a point of principle every time you have to do something you don't much like. All jobs have parts we don't like, that's why we're paid to do them.

Your health
No amount of share options, bonus or salary will ever buy you good health (although private health care as part of your package is an exceptionally good thing to have). If you're worried sick about your job you can be absolutely sure that you'll end up properly sick as your body will always find a way of communicating what you're refusing to hear. A certain amount of stress in a job is good for you, as it proves you're alive and shows you're trying to achieve something. But unremitting, unfulfilling stress is bad for your work and bad for your health. Kill it before it kills you.

Your family
Most people work to support their family. If working means you don't actually see your family, you may need to rethink. There's very little point in being the world's leading neurosurgeon, architect or corporate big shot if you end up a stranger to your children. Even if you don't see the point on an emotional level, staying close to your family also has considerable tax planning advantages. Having a good balance between work and family is great but this doesn't mean either taking your work home or taking your kids to work. You need to focus on one or the other which is why working from home when you have pre-school children is nigh impossible.

Your happiness
Everyone would like to be happy but it's not an inalienable human right. You've got to work at happiness and, if you've got the luxury of choice, choose happiness. Often the quickest route to happiness is to stop doing the things that make you unhappy. This applies at much to work as it does to everything else. Identify what's really draining you as a person and what really gives you energy and then cut down on the former and build up the latter. It normally takes all of your twenties and most of your thirties to do this which is why people tend to get happier as they get older.

Your job
Having a job is a blessing, as anybody who has been unemployed for any time knows only too well. Having a job that you enjoy and that pays a decent wage is a big fur-lined blessing. If you've got one of these jobs, make the most of it not just by doing it to the best of your ability but also by squeezing every drop of learning from it. You never know when you'll need it. Remember too that the best way of getting a job that you really like is from the job you're currently in. Either grow it to fit your exact requirements or use it as a springboard to another.

Your time
Time is what you fill with the things that are important to you. If it's getting filled up with things that aren't important to you, you'll get very unhappy, very quickly. The best protector of your time is the word 'No', closely followed by 'Thank you'. Controlling your time on a daily basis is pretty important but you should never lose sight of the fact that on a big level life is very short. Don't leave your big plans as big plans or your dreams as dreams. Use some of the time you protect on a daily basis to start making your big plans happen before it's too late.

Other people
In life you get what you give. If you try to make the lives of the people you work with easier, more enjoyable and more rewarding, you will derive exactly the same ease, enjoyment and reward from them. Making their lives difficult will only stack up difficulties for yourself. Most people understand how this rule works but some don't and they dish out pain and suffering in the workplace. Try to remember that they've probably been given pain and suffering somewhere in their life and are just dishing it back out. Or they're just plain nasty. You decide.

Customers are exceptionally important for two reasons: Firstly they are other people whose lives you can make easier, more enjoyable and more rewarding (see above). Secondly, without customers you have no business and you have no profits. Without profits you have no pay, no benefits and nothing to give back to the community (see below).

The rest of the world
Your job, your office and your business aren't separate from the community, they are the community. If you think the notion of community is a good thing, then you need to become a good thing in the community. That's how communities work. Exactly the same applies for the natural environment. All business sustainability ultimately depends on natural sustainability. Look after it and it will look after you.

Shareholders are people who've invested money in you to make more money for themselves. That's why they're at the bottom of this list. Often when Chief Executives talk about meeting the needs of shareholders, they forget to mention that they are a major shareholder. When a company gets the first nine things on the list right, the tenth looks after itself.

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