My Personal 'How Am I Feeling About My Job' Litmus Test

Over the past five years working in tech I've developed a sort of litmus test that I perform every morning to gauge how I currently feel about my job and how my career is progressing. And I do it all with a morning playlist.

So, I’ve discovered something curious that I’ve told others about but never really wrote down before. Over the past five years working in the tech industry, from cyber security to vacation rentals to now cloud providers, I’ve developed a sort of litmus test about how I’m currently feeling about my job. Funny enough I didn’t set out to build this but rather it sort of just happened. It’s a test I apply every morning and when the results come back negative for too many days in a row I know it’s time to change something.

My Morning Shower Playlist Litmus Test

So, like some I enjoy listening to music while I shower in the morning. I used to listen to the news on my Google Home but I’ve learned that starting your day off with the latest news is a great way to ruin your day and put you in a sour mood. So, I started messing around with the idea of a playlist that I listen to every morning. Some people may opt to just have random music play every morning but that’s not really my style. My morning shower playlist is more of a hype playlist and I enjoy the repetition. One of the things that annoys my friends and family is that I can watch the same TV show or listen to the same music over and over and over and never get tired of it. I’m embarrassed to say how many times I’ve watched the entire King of the Hill series and when I was in college I bought the Book of Mormon CD (my Toyota Corolla didn’t have Bluetooth) and I left it in the CD player for about 4 years. On rare occasions I would change it to Wicked but then right back. I am happy to report now that I own a vehicle with Bluetooth I now alternate my music a little more. Anyway, the point here is that while some people would be annoyed with the same music every single day I actually love it. So, I started adding and removing songs to the playlist until I settled on what I believe is the perfect shower playlist. I’ve noticed that when I spend long amounts of time in the shower it’s usually because I’m avoiding going to work. I can even pinpoint how I currently feel about the day ahead based on which song is playing when I finish and turn the shower off.

The Playlist

Here is my “‘How Do I Feel About Work’ Shower Litmus Test”.

  1. High Hopes - Panic! At The Disco
  2. Shooting Stars - Bag Raiders
  3. Come On Eileen - Dexys Midnight Runners
  4. Don’t Stop Me Now - Queen
  5. 9 to 5 - Dolly Parton
  6. The Show Must Go On - Queen

If you are unfamiliar with the songs, this playlist is essentially a hype playlist with songs like High Hopes, Shooting Stars, Come On Eileen, and Don’t Stop Me Now that devolves rather quickly at the end. Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 is pretty much a working class anthem that criticizes the capitalistic system (and that’s putting it lightly) which is then followed by The Show Must Go On, a lesser known Queen song that, to me, reminds me of a sad clown putting on a happy face to do his job1. Like I said, this playlist is a rollercoaster that drops fast at the end.

How I Administer This Litmus Test

Every morning I wake up, tell my Google Home Mini to play my playlist and take a shower. I listen to the music and enjoy the warm water and depending on what song is playing when I get out helps me determine how I feel about the day ahead.

Here’s what I’m feeling when each song is playing:

High Hopes - Panic! At the Disco

So, I am rarely done when this song is playing. If I am it usually means that I’m running late. It takes half the time of this song just for my water to warm up. So, on days where this song is the result it tells me I need to get up earlier.

That being said, this is a great song to start your morning to. It is a fantastic hype song and usually wakes me up quickly. Some might say it is an intense song to start the morning off with, I think it is just intense enough.

Shooting Stars - Bag Raiders

It is also rare for me to be done when this song is playing. However, it does happen. When this song is the result of the test it tends to mean I’m either running slightly less late than if I had finished listening to High Hopes, that I’ve figured out the answer to an issue I’ve been having and want to rush out to fix it, or I’m just generally excited for work. Often, it’s that I’m still running late, but slightly less late.

This song is more of a meditative song than a hype song in my mind. It is a great song to just stand with your head under warm water and think. Therefore, this song is not often the result of the litmus test. It is not meant to be.

Come On Eileen - Dexys Midnight Runners

When I finish my shower on this song that usually means I got a good night sleep, am ready to go, and am excited about the day. This result should be interpreted as “You are currently happy and excited about your job.” I would say that maybe 35% of the time I finish here. And I suspect the reason this number is low is due to lack of sleep not excitement.

This song is just fun to sing along with. The Too-ra-loo-ra Too-ra-loo-rye-ay is just too much fun to not sing along with and play with harmonically. So have fun.

Don’t Stop Me Now - Queen

Ah. This song. The hype songs of all hype songs. If I finish with this song I may have been a little groggy waking up. I’m notorious for not getting a decent night’s sleep but this song definitely wakes me up. This result basically means everything’s right in my work life. I’m happy, I’m fulfilled, I’m ready to tackle the day. This song is the result a vast majority of days.

Who doesn’t love this song? Like seriously. It just gets you pumped.

9 to 5 - Dolly Parton

So, as I said earlier, this roller coaster takes a downward angle fast. 9 to 5 is not the song of happy workers. I would imagine there is a correlation between the amount of people listening to this song and unions starting to form. That being said, if this song is the result of my litmus test it is not necessarily game over. This just means I’m tired with the bull shit I’ve been dealing with lately and will more probably be in a bad mood that day.

Dolly Parton is a national treasure. Enough said.

The Show Must Go On - Queen

This is the bottom of the roller coaster. If we are here, it is not good.

Inside my heart is breaking
My makeup may be flaking
But my smile, still, stays on

When this song is the result of the test, I know that I need to take immediate action to make something better at work. Whether that be take a few days off, talk with my manager, or polish up the resume, this is not where I want to be.

This song is hauntingly beautiful, and I highly recommend that if you haven’t heard it before that you give it a listen.

How Do I Use This Data?

So, I bet you’re wondering “If he gets to the end of his playlist does he just quit?“. The answer here is no. No one day is enough to make me quit. It is a great indicator about how I’m currently feeling, but that day could turn everything around. I use this data two different ways. The first is to get a gauge of my mood for the day. The second is to gauge my long-term mood. If I wind up listening to the ghostly voice of Freddie Mercury singing The show must go on for a month straight that’s when I start to think that serious action needs to be taken. And I’ve been there. I switched teams at a past job because I found myself in this dark place for a long time (this past job was actually how I developed this playlist). And even then, when nothing changed after switching teams I decided it was time to move on.

And to be honest, that was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Conclusion

Your mental health matters. Being unhappy in a job can drag you down into some very dark places. I stayed at a job for a year and a half hating my life wondering why none of my side projects were getting anywhere, why I didn’t want to achieve the goals I had set for myself, and why my personal life was suffering. I know times are tough and getting a new job, especially in the current state of the world, can be scary or downright impossible. But life’s too short to wake up every morning hating it. I didn’t realize just how much a toxic work culture could drag you down until I left one. It’s like having a weight lifted off your chest. I urge you all to find some way of being able to measure your happiness and satisfaction with your life. Because it’s possible you’ll wind up like me, confused and depressed, trying to figure out what’s wrong when the answer was right in front of my face.


  1. That being said, it’s a beautiful song and if you haven’t heard it, I highly recommend it. It chronicles Freddie Mercury’s struggle to continue performing while losing his battle with AIDS. ^

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