After spending a month in France with my girlfriends, I came home determined to keep my new “French Lifestyle” intact. Sleeping in, espressos in tiny cups, croissants on the regular, and long leisurely walks through the village had become my new norm. And I was dead-set on living the rest of my life that way.
The problem? I didn’t work at all while I was away. How was I supposed to fit a 40+ hour workweek into the life of leisure I had become so accustomed to?
At first everything seemed all work and no play. But after a time I realized that I was stuck in a mindset of my own making. And a very American one at that. You see, there’s a common belief here that life is best lived after work hours, and that work hours are meant for the slog. But that is quite simply not how I want to live my life.
Mireille Guilliano says in her book, “Women, Work, And The Art of Savoir Faire” that all she wanted out of work was to eat good food and drink good wine, and so she got a job in the Champagne industry where meetings were held at five-star restaurants and board meetings met over bubbles. She worked 60-hour work weeks, bien sûr, but her day was just as enjoyable as her night.
Just like Mireille, I believe that life lived within the bounds of work can be every bit as beautiful as the life we live outside it. We simply have to apply the same principals to it. It’s easy to work 60 hours a week if your work day feels like a natural extension of your life. And a part of it you love no less. And that has less to do with whether you love the job itself and more to do with how you work it.
Here’s how I level-up my office life:
Dress beautifully: Every morning I wake up early enough to read the Wall Street Journal while I sip on a tiny cup of espresso. I make sure to shower, dress, don a favorite pair of French shoes, and a drop of Chanel №5. By the time I leave for the office I feel fresh out of a fashion magazine. #ootd post anyone?
Buy yourself flowers: On my way to work on Mondays I buy myself fresh flowers and cup of coffee from Whole Foods. I arrange the flowers in a vase at my desk (that will last all week) and drink my coffee as I catch up on emails and social media.
Design your office thoroughly: As I am married to a man who doesn’t appreciate the finer things in life (like velvet tufted chairs) I use my office as an outlet for thoroughly feminine interior design. Large pieces of artwork inspired by French Fashion icons look beautiful up against a cubicle wall as do large gold vases and a rose gold laptop (thanks Apple).
Splurge on luxuries: Despite the old adage that we should save the money and eat at our desk, I opt to splurge for the much more savory option of eating lunch out with my colleagues almost every day. The extra $100-$200 I spend each month on lunches goes a long way toward feeling decadent rather than deprived at work.
Enjoy a little ritual: Just as I did in France, every afternoon at 4:00pm I head to the (office) kitchen to brew myself a cup of decaf coffee. I bought a small rose gold French press & an old-fashioned manual coffee grinder just for these purposes, and keep them as a functional decoration on my desk.
A little hot water from the water cooler, a dash of almond milk I brought from home, and a cup and saucer I bought from Anthropologie make the occasion feel just as elegant as high tea. Some days I even add tiny shortbread cookies or a couple figs with honey to my saucer for a special afternoon treat!
Go on work dates: Meetings are often boring and unproductive, and for this reason I try to avoid them at all cost. Whatever can’t be done via email or a quick phone call, I make a point to schedule for a trendy coffee shop or cafe that I love. I get to enjoy a little treat in my afternoon, and the two of us get to develop a relationship with one another that might not have transpired had we met in a sterile office room. Relationships go a long way in business. As does a change of setting.
Drink an aperitif with late night emails: If I have to work from home in the evenings, I’ll make a point to put on some jazz music and pour myself an after dinner cocktail or a glass of sherry for a more indulgent experience. It makes me feel as if I’m a high powered COO traveling in France for business. Perfection.
You might have noticed that these are all things you probably already do at home. We buy ourselves flowers and decorate our homes. We make ourselves lattes and enjoy indulgent snacks. And yet for some reason we don’t apply these same aesthetics to our work lives. Just like life, it’s the simple pleasures that make work more enjoyable.