5 Things Your Mother Always Said That Turned Out to Be Great Work Advice

Had it up to here with work?

Your mom probably told you there’d be days like that, and anything worth having doesn’t come easy. She probably also told you that “Mom knows best.”

And while you wouldn’t have believed it at the time, all of those momisms slowly started to stick: Hard work does pay off, you shouldn’t spend more than you make, and trust is earned, not given.

Basically, Mom did know best, and her advice transcends age. So if you’re stuck in a rut at work, here are a few things your mama always told you that you can apply at the office.

1. Enough is Enough

Mom knew when she’d had it. But we’re not always great about drawing the line when it comes to ourselves—or our work habits. But turns out, science backs our mothers up, and after a certain point, enough work is enough.

Act like the parent of your own work habits and set some boundaries for yourself. Work-life balance is an elusive concept, but try sticking to consistent working hours, avoiding your email on weekends, and taking a lunch break out of the office. Having specific time set aside for yourself and your work will help you feel refreshed and focused.

And even if you pride yourself on having a great work-life balance, work can still have an impact on your body. Here’s a mom-approved habit to try: During your working hours, use the 20-20-20 method. Your eyes need a time out, too, so after 20 minutes of screen time, focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to prevent strain and dry eye.

2. Don’t You Know I’ve Got Eyes in the Back of my Head

Once, you couldn’t get away with anything. Now you’re a hard-working, responsible adult—and your boss is acting like you’re in your bedroom with the “tutor” and a suspiciously long silence. Maybe Mom’s vigilance was for your own good, but a micromanager in the office can be soul crushing.

When you’re faced with this situation, try sitting down with your manager to walk through your goals and schedule weekly check-ins so they still feel on top of what you’re doing, without controlling every step of the way. And make sure to stay on top of projects and work towards those goals—remember, you’re proving to to your boss you’re responsible, just like you had to do with mom back in the day. Once you do? They’ll (hopefully!) start to move away from the constant oversight.

3. Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees

You know by now that you have to work hard for your money, and it (unfortunately) doesn’t grow on trees. It will grow, though, as long as you’re thinking about it smartly and (as Mom did always say) saving it for a rainy day.

Or in this case, retirement. Financial expert Dave Ramsey suggests saving 5% of your salary, to be increased every year until you’re socking away 15% or more.

Where to put that money? The first should be your 401(k). If your company will match, start by saving enough to kick that in. Then open a Roth IRA, contributing in increasing amounts until you’re at the maximum allowable.

4. Your Face is Going to Stick like That

Dr. Alan Fridlund, a scientist who spent years researching facial expressions, concluded that your pouts and winces are not so much expressions of internal emotion bubbling to the surface as they are messages beamed out for others to interpret.

What signal are you sending with that eye-pop at the news of a sudden business trip? To your boss it may not convey the shock you are feeling, but rather dissatisfaction with her decision. If you scowl often, you may be viewed as negative, resentful, or even insubordinate.

So if your face is going to stick like that, let it be in the form of a warm smile. Not only is it scientifically proven to make you happier—but also, your boss is hard-wired to smile back. Yes, even yours!

5. Someday You Will Thank Me for This

Why do you make me eat this when Janie’s mom lets her have marshmallow fluff with Cheetos? Try as she might, your mother could never answer this question to your satisfaction.

Cheese-coated fingers once seemed the ultimate reward—but a couple decades on, you know making your own turkey and lettuce on rye started your well-fed cells on a lifelong journey of healthy decisions.

The lesson for today? When work gets tough, and you’re looking around at everyone else’s seemingly breezy jobs, take the long view. When you look back, what will you say you have learned or gained from this experience? Flexibility learned under a mercurial manager? Extra thousands in your portfolio? Thank your job now, not “one day,” as no matter what, it’s getting you closer to your goals.

Oh, and thank your mom, too—for this advice, and for all the other pearls of wisdom she’s shared along the way.

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About Richard Moy

Richard Moy
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.

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