When you hear the word “work” or “job” do you get excited? What about the words “homework” or “chore?” If you answered “yes,” regarding any of these words then you are among the few who tie work with something that is positive. For the rest of us, I’ve outlined three things that can make work more exciting.

This article was inspired by a recent podcast episode, where a coworker and I conclude that we should be intentionally doing things at work that helps to motivate performance like a game does. Here I outline three things that I have already incorporated into my own work.

Basically these fun at work ideas embody one simple concept:

Make Work into a Game

1) Track Mini-Goals

First you will need to find something to measure. It is scientifically proven that when you set a challenging goal (no matter how small) and then reach your goal, your brain releases dopamine, which is a hormone that gives pleasure to the body and reinforces that behavior. A mini-goal can be reinforced throughout the workday and give you pleasure and ultimately make work fun. It is easier than you may think. A small journal or even a Google Spreadsheet will work. The key is to keep track.

What is something small that I can track?

The best mini-goals to track are things that will make you a better professional and involve feedback. If you are in customer service, track the amount of smiles you get from customers. Maybe you work remotely from your customers. Maybe you can track thank-yous.

fun-at-work-ideas-smallAt my day job I am responsible for facilitating and giving away tickets to a large sporting event. I basically take ticket orders from our business network and fulfill them at a later date. The fulfillment can be really taxing since it requires meticulous attention to detail. After working on this, I found myself saying to another co-worker, “I think that I really like database work.” He looked at me like I was crazy. Upon further reflection, I realized that it’s not the meticulous database work at all. It’s that I associate the sporting ticket giveaway with fun because of all the thank-yous I’ve tracked.

Thank-yous don’t have to just come from your customers, they can come from your coworkers and your boss too. After all, the people you work with the most are, in a way, your most frequent customers.

I usually track all words of appreciation. “Good job!”, “This looks great!”, “You just made my day,” etc.

The great thing about thank-yous, smiles, and encouraging words is that they are feedback driven. Feedback is great because it tends to make us better professionals. Especially when we ask a followup question, for example, “What did you like about my presentation?” (Bonus points for the followup!)

2) Discover Your Power-Ups

When I’m feeling a bit bogged down by work, my natural inclination is to try to focus harder. Instead sometimes I force myself to do the opposite. I take a brief break and get a power-up. This doesn’t have to eat up tons of time, rather it can be just 1-2 minutes. It’s a great way to break the workday, and it adds a good dose of fun and excitement and let’s not forget dopamine.

What is a power-up?

Some games have power-ups that make your character, car, or whatever else you are controlling supercharged. An example is the star-power in Super Mario Brothers for Nintendo. A common one that you are probably already aware of is a cup of coffee. Some even call it a pick-me-up which can be another word for power-up. There are more power-ups than just coffee that can increase your energy and fun and they are free.

I heard a TED talk by Jane McGonigal about how she overcame a sickness that put her in depression. She pulled herself out of it through power-ups. She recommended going to Google Search and typing in an animal and putting “baby” before the animal name, for example, baby penguin. This produced a quick power-up for her.

Power-ups you can try:

– Smell a flower. (This has been scientifically proven to give you energy.)

– Allow sun rays to hit the iris of your eyes. (This also gives natural energy. Note: never look directly into the sun, just let the light hit it at an angle)

– Text a friend a short phrase of encouragement. For example, “You make the best french toast!”

– Say words of appreciation. For example, “What a beautiful day!” or “I appreciate my opportunity to serve customers and make the world a better place in the process.”

– High five a friend.

– If your workplace has a ping-pong table, spend a 5 minute break with a co-worker and power-up!

3) Determine Your Next-Level

The next-level is a major goal or benchmark. Benchmarks can bring work and fun together by giving you something to aim for. This is another thing that should be tracked in a journal or in some other form, like Evernote, I use both regularly. These are important for giving greater purpose to the work you do. And your body will be pumped with more natural dopamine when you are able to say, “I accomplished this!” Goals and benchmarks should be something that you do over the course of days, weeks, or months. Too much longer than that and it’s easy to lose motivation. Aiming for your next-level is probably the most important of these fun at work ideas.

Here are a few next-level examples:

– Get a salary raise or promotion.

– Get a certification in your field.

– Complete a job related course online.

– Get published or featured in a magazine or popular website.

If you want to get really creative, you can assign points to the mini-goals (fun at work idea #1) and allow your accumulated “experience points” to take you to the next-level.

For example, every time someone gives you positive feedback you get +4 points. If it comes from your boss you get +7 points. When you get a total of 50 points, you are at your next-level.

Remember to celebrate with a reward

Don’t forget to celebrate. Upon reaching a new level, do something to reward yourself.

Some examples:

– Buy yourself a great gift (something you always wanted but would never buy).

– Take a vacation.

– Throw an ice-cream party.

Sure rewards may come out of your paycheck, but you’ve earned it. Celebrate your next-levels in style.

Rewards are great motivation and can make work exciting by giving you something to look forward to.

Concluding Thoughts

That’s my list of three very effective things that you can do to make work fun. Again, these are some of the things that I do to make work fun and exciting. I hope that this perspective on work can help you become a better professional while having a blast doing it. I wonder what the workplace would look like if everyone was having a great time while working.

What are your fun at work ideas?

I’m curious to hear your stories of how you make work and fun coexist in your work.