Finding Meaning In Your Work When You’re Handed Lemons

Have you ever been handed a project at work that proved difficult to get through?  Did you struggle to finding meaning in it?  Perhaps it was too tedious, overwhelming, or didn’t spark your interest.  Truth is, we all have times like this, at every job level – even business  owners.

I was once assigned gathering statistics on the company’s consultants to include in business proposals.  The assignment was clear and I understood the purpose, but it was certainly different from my usual projects.  I’m usually on the creative end of things and this project was more black and white – exact or inaccurate.  It took a lot of work: creating the survey, distributing and interpreting the data, and presenting the results .  Throughout the process, however, I learned ways to make the project more manageable, effective, and interesting.  So, what do you do when work hands you a big ‘ol lemon?  You make lemonade – and then you sell it.Work purpose

Work Challenges to LemonadeJuice Your Lemons

Get all of the facts; lay out every single detail you can.  You can’t figure out what to do with it if you don’t have a clear picture of what it is.  If you’ve been assigned a project that you’re sure to hate, go ahead and start picking it apart.  The more you break it up, the less it will seem like wrestling it for the infinity of your work life.  Get the specs, know what you’re supposed to accomplish, by when, and all of the other project management basics.  Juice it – get your  lemonade base.

Work Challenges to LemonadeAdd Some Sugar

What on earth can you like about this?  Find it.  I have worked on projects that literally the only sugar about it was the networking opportunity.  Look at it as creating value.  It’s something to keep record of for your yearly review, a promotion opportunity, or your résumé.  Also consider the skills that you are learning, and the “win” that you are bringing for the company.  If you’re doing something that keeps the company afloat, contributing to business development, etc., you have some sugar, my friend.

Work Challenges to LemonadeWater It Down

Your first instinct might be to dive in and get to the finish line, but that is probably the wrong approach.  Take the workload in intervals; try to mix in other items on your to-do list to avoid burnout and ultimately selling crappy lemonade.  You can also focus on different parts of the project to keep perspective.  The objective is to keep from getting so consumed in the work that you can’t see mistakes or bad choices.  Not too much water, not too little.

Work Challenges to LemonadeSell It

Understand that it isn’t all about you.  In your work life you’re just going to have those assignments, or even jobs, that you don’t care for.  Deal with it, and move on.  You’ve done your best (right?). It’s in a pretty, thirst-quenching cup, and now you’ve got to move your lemonade product.  Let your supervisor/manager know what you did, how you did it, and what you liked about it.  Then you can let them know what you found challenging (don’t use “I didn’t like” because frankly that’s irrelevant)  and with  what parts you think you did you’re best.  In my situation, I enjoyed finding a way to summarize the data.  Now my boss knows I like to find creative ways to present information.

If you look hard enough, you’ll find meaning in everything you do.  Worst case, The Rolling Stones had it right with, “You can’t always get what you want…but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”


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