02/16/2012 02:53 pm ET Updated Apr 17, 2012

Five Tips on How to Be Happy at Work

Having spent the last five years writing about being happy at work, I am often asked: "What do I need to do to be happy at work?"

Frankly, it's the same as the old joke about Carnegie Hall in New York City. A tourist was visiting New York and asked a man on the street, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" Without hesitating, the man replied, "Practice, practice, practice."

But, practice what? I would modify it slightly to: focus, focus, focus.

What do I mean by focus?

1) Do you know what makes you happy at work? Do you know what you love doing? Do you like working on your own or on a team? What do you find satisfying about at work? How often are you energized by something that you are working on? I offer that we all work at things we're pretty good at, but these are not always the things that make us happy. I'm good at packing a suitcase for a three-week trip, but I hate the time it takes when I could be doing something else. (And don't get me started on PowerPoint ...)

2) Don't postpone joy. I think we're all guilty of waiting to be happy, especially at work. "When this project is over, I will be happy." "When I get the next promotion, I will be happy." The list can be endless. If "this" (whatever "this" is) happens, then I will be happy. What if "this" never comes? Find something at work that can make you happy every day. At the risk of sounding morbid, I would suggest that no one lays on their death bed wishing they spent more time creating PowerPoint charts or packing a suitcase.

3) Be here, now. Can you appreciate a happy moment at work even if you might be having a tough day, or week, or month? I am always personally struggling to be in the present moment and not be looking too far ahead. It's like my brain is split down the middle, one side is processing and experiencing whatever is happening in the moment, and the other is thinking about lunch. When I force myself to be only in the present moment, I notice more dimensions to my work than just the obvious ones and often these aspects are something that makes me happy.

4) Do the things that make you happy at work. Keep score -- how much of today did you spend doing the things you like doing? Even in the jobs I hated (and there were a few), I had things that I liked about them. The challenge for me in the jobs I hated was that I was only happy one hour out of a twelve-hour work day. I learned that if I am unhappy at work more than 50% of my time, then I can not sustain this for years at a time.

5) Leverage the laws of attraction. Talk about being happy at work and get other people to talk about it with you. Being happy attracts happiness. Who doesn't like being around a happy person, especially at work?

I know each of these recommendations sounds both simple and simplistic. This does not make them easy to do, nor do you ever finish them -- each suggestion definitely benefits from practice, practice, practice. I can also imagine that you're skeptical about their effectiveness, or that they're even worth trying. I promise you, they are worth trying and hey, practice makes perfect!

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