Making Work Fun

Eight ways to increase your enjoyment on the job.

Big whoop: your boss comes to the spring picnic dressed as the Easter Bunny.

Just as the maraschino cherry doesn't make a sundae, tacked-on frivolity doesn't make an enjoyable work life. Here are eight things you can do that will make your job fun ... well, at least more pleasant.

1. Have the right job. Nothing makes your work life more pleasant than having a good job: a moderate amount of moderately difficult work, a good boss and co-workers, reasonable pay and commute, and a place of employment you're proud to work for.

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Your job isn't anything like that? The most important thing you can do to have more fun at work is to find a better job. Or tweak your job description so you spend more time doing things you enjoy.

2. Don't fight work. Many people expend inordinate effort trying to get out of work. Don't you know people whose most productive at-work activity is shopping online? (Except, of course, when the boss comes by, whereupon, they click onto a spreadsheet.) They end up feeling guilty that they're slackers or terrified they'll get caught -- neither of which is much fun.

Fact is, work is key to a meaningful life, even if you're just a payroll clerk whose job is to recount the beans counted by a co-bean counter. Most employees don't check their paycheck's accuracy -- they rely on you. Nearly all ethical work is more fun than not working. At least think that way.

3. Remember, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Mary Poppins famously said, "In every task that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap! The job's a game."

Whatever task you're doing, ask yourself "What's the most fun way I could do this?" You'll be surprised how often the fun way is at least as effective as a more painful way. (See my example in point #8.)

4. Reward yourself. Many of us are motivated by concrete rewards -- how many of us would show up to work every day if we didn't get paid?

But wouldn't it be more fun if you got paid more often? Well, you can get "paid" as often as you'd like. For example, why not promise yourself that if you finish that stupid task in 59 minutes or less, you'll give yourself ten minutes to flirt in the break room. That ticking clock can be fun to compete against.

5. Threaten yourself with punishment. This can be just the motivation you need to stay on task -- and keep things interesting.

For example, if you're a Democrat, write a $100 check to the McCain campaign, if you're Republican, to Obama's or Clinton's. Give a friend the check. If you haven't completed the agreed-on-work by the agreed-on time, he mails it. You'll enjoy your work more knowing you'll get the $100 back if you get it done and that the good-for-nothing candidate won't get a dime from you.

6. Think of difficult problems as challenges rather than annoyances. That's more fun. And if you can't meet a challenge by yourself, find someone who'd be fun to solve it with.

7. Think of your work life as an endless series of choices. Even if you're a peon with a micromanaging boss, you are the emperor of your (admittedly small) dominion, with many choices: What do I wear today? Which task should I do first? Should I wear headphones? Should I make the report pretty or no-nonsense? Should I spend my break chatting with my honey or schmoozing with someone who might help me get a better job?

See Make the Most of Your Job to learn how to use a menial job as a springboard to a more fulfilling position.

8. Consult this compendium: For a cornucopia of capers and other condiments to catalyze your colorless career, see Leslie Yerkes' book, Fun Works. But caution: continual cavorting can cause catastrophic calamity, culminating in career carrion. Curses.

(Excuse the alliteration ... I'm just having a little fun with my job.)

Marty Nemko (bio) is a career coach and author of Cool Careers for Dummies.

Marty Nemko
Contributing Columnist,