Talk to Everyone

I used to sit in my cubicle for around 8 hours a day.  On a normal day, I’d talk to my boss and maybe one other co-worker.  Even then, I’d probably only spend a good 20 minutes a day socializing.

This was killing me.  Humans are a social species and are not meant to spend long hours alone.  In prison they punish people by sending them to solitary confinement.  Isolation will drive us crazy.

It’s weird to think that I was surrounded by people and yet I’d never talked to most of them.  I didn’t even know that many people’s names.

I had to do something.  I decided to talk to as many people as I could every day.  It is hard at first.  You really have to go out of your way to do it.  Most people are exactly the same as you and I, they don’t talk to others.  They don’t even realize that it’s driving them insane.

It’s amazing how isolation makes people feel terrible.  I think this is a huge reason that cubicle jobs are slowly killing us.  We don’t talk to others.  We are surrounded by people that we barely know and rarely talk to.  It is even worse if we don’t have a lot of friends and a social life outside of work.  We can go for days on end with minimal social interaction.

My plan now is to talk to everyone.  Chat with a co-worker for five minutes on your way back to your desk.  Say hi to everyone you see in the hallways.  Talk to anybody you run into in the break room.  Make small talk with the barista.  Say high to your bus driver.  Learn the names of the janitors and security guards.

Reasons to talk to everyone:

You’ll make more friends in the office – The more people you know the better.  Most of the time life is just a big popularity contest.  When it comes time for a promotion, a better view of the window or even an invite to a group lunch, the talkative guy/girl will be the one who they think of.

You’ll learn more about your co-workers – And possibly find that you have a lot in common.  You might find out that you and your co-worker both love to play basketball, but haven’t played in years.  This could develop into a weekly one on one game.

You’ll feel all around happier – We are social creatures.  We feel better when we talk to others.

You’ll spend time away from the cube – The cube is a cage, stay out of it as long as possible every day.

This isn’t the easiest thing to do though.  A lot of us are stuck in our ways and very shy around others.  I know I was.

Some easy ways to get started:

 Ask questions – If you see someone wearing a new shirt, ask them about it.  If you know Steve in the next cube has two kids who play soccer, ask them about it.  If you know someone is going on vacation, ask them about it.  This is the easiest way to start a conversation and keep it going.

Remember that people like to talk about themselves.  If you listen and ask them questions, they’ll tell you more than you ever needed to know.  Most people are just dying to tell someone about the things going on in their lives.  Read The Art of Conversation:  How to avoid conversational narcissism .

 Ask for advice – Ask for help or an opinion on a work related matter.  Most people are willing to help you out and happy to give advice.

Talk about the weather – Yes I know it’s cliché, but there’s a reason for that.  People love talking about the weather.  Especially if you live in a place where it changes often.

Talk about sports – Cliché again, but it works.

The big thing is to just initiate conversation with others.  Most people are dying to talk about something, they just need someone to show some interest.

Any other ideas on how to be more social at work?

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Get a Hobby!

While working an office job, I often realize that I’m not getting the satisfying feeling of completing something.  I can’t quantify how much work I’m getting done and how well I’m doing it.  I rarely get to see the finished product of my work.

Most office jobs are like this.  We have endless projects going on at any given time, yet they never really seem to end.  And when they are complete, we send them on to our bosses and never see the result.

This can be really frustrating.  I think it is human nature to want to create and build things.  If we aren’t doing this, we feel like we are just floating by.  I hate the feeling of floating by.

The best days at my job are the days that I have to rebuild a report in Excel.  It’s simple work, but I like putting together all of the formulas, setting the formats, and building huge financial reports and tools.  The days that I create something new are the best days.

Unfortunately, most of the time I’m just fixing minor problems or reviewing numbers or simply just surfing the net.  All of this just feels like I’m wasting my time.

I think we all need side projects and hobbies.  These can be projects that you work on at the office or at home.  Writing “Surviving the Cubicle” is one of my side projects.  Every time I write out a post I have the satisfying feeling of completing something.  It makes me feel productive.  Someday, I’d like to put this all into a book and publish it.

I also want to start making my own wine.  I lift weights.  I cook my own meals.  I make my own beef jerky.  I think we all need these side projects to give us the feeling of completing something, working with our hands, and helping people.

I’ve realized that my job doesn’t give me that feeling of producing something, but the money I make allows me to pay for these side projects and hobbies.

Remember when you were a kid and you would wake up at the crack of dawn to do something you were excited about?  That excitement is what I’m looking for.  I want something that I can work on whenever I have spare time.  I want it to be something that I can’t wait to start first thing in the morning or first thing when I get home from work.

A lot of us try to fulfill this drive to be productive with things like watching TV and playing video games.  I’m guilty of it too.  I can spend 8 hours playing PS3 any day of the week.  I often find myself just sitting in front of the TV watching the same dumb shows over and over again.  These things are entertaining, but not productive.  They leave us feeling empty at the end.

I find that on the days where I don’t do anything after work, I feel like the evening flies by.  Then the next morning it’s really hard to get out of bed and go to work.  When I work on something like this blog, cook a good meal, or lift weights I feel like I’ve done something with my day.

I think we need to make our side projects the focus of our day instead of our jobs.  By all means, do your job well, but make sure that it’s not your whole life.

Here’s a list of possibly side projects/hobbies to try out:

–          Weightlifting

–          Running

–          Cooking

–          Writing

–          Homebrewing

–          Wine Making

–          Knitting

–          Carpentry

–          Auto Maintenance

–          Bike Maintenance

–          Pick up a sport like kickball, softball, volleyball, soccer, basketball, etc.

–          Martial Arts

–          Shooting Guns/Weapon Maintenance

–          Archery

–          Paintball

–          Hiking/Backpacking

–          Camping

–          Geocaching

–          Play an Instrument

–          Acting

–          Astronomy

–          Bird Watching

–          Photography

–          Painting

–          Drawing

–          Poker

–          Building Models

–          Building Furniture

–          Fishing

–          Hunting

–          Learn a Language

–          Gardening

There are thousands more out there.  Leave your side project/hobby idea in the comments.

First post!

Hello and welcome to Surviving the Cubicle.

Like most people who work in dull office settings, I dream of quitting my job and opening a small business, traveling the world, and writing a novel.  There are tons of great blogs by people who have done this.  Some day this will be a reality for me, but not quite yet.

Most of us aren’t ready to quit our boring office job yet.  We have mortgages, families, student loans, credit card debt, and other things tying us down.  Maybe we have the great business idea, but just need to save up some cash first.  We may want to go back to school or move out of the country.  Whatever it is, it’s frustrating to spend 40 or more hours a week doing something we aren’t interested in.

I started writing “Surviving the Cubicle” to help myself and others cope with the daily grind of working in an office.  I’m coming up with lots of ideas on how to make working in an office more enjoyable.  I’ll also take reader suggestions for topics, so email or comment if you have an idea.

The blog is directed at the average office worker/cubicle drone, but you don’t have to be one to understand the boredom that comes from spending 1/3 of your life doing something you aren’t very enthusiastic about.

Maybe you work in an office and love it.  Great, this blog will still apply because it’s all about making working in an office as enjoyable as possible.

I know this has been a pretty cheesy opening post, but I didn’t know how else to start.

Keep reading!