How to Handle (and Relieve) Boredom at Work
For some of you, the title of this article may cause a double take.
“Boredom?! Are you kidding? I have way too much to do and not enough time to do it.”
If that’s you, cool. Head on over and read, “How to Manage an Overwhelming Workload” instead.
But not everyone can be so lucky (if you want to call it that). If you experience boredom at work, keep reading. This one’s for you.
Even if you love your job and you know it’s a good fit, there are some businesses/industries/positions that have natural cycles of activity. This means that there will be times when things are crazy busy and you’re totally engaged. And there will also be times when things slow down and you find yourself going kind of stir crazy. Here are some points to consider when those down time occur.
You might not like to hear this but you have more power than you think. Don’t wait for someone or something outside of you to fix this problem. Get creative if you must. Stop focusing on the circumstances and focus on yourself. What can YOU do to stay motivated and engaged? Look for opportunities. What isn’t working and how can you fix it? What’s working well and how can you do more of that? You’re in the driver’s seat here.
Keep a List
One trick I use (and have used for years) is to keep a list of little pet projects that aren’t urgent but would be “nice to do” at some point. Things that might land on this list include:
- Create a procedures binder where I outline all of my tasks and how to do them.
- Reorganize the filing system and purge old/out-of-date documents.
- Clean out my junk drawer.
- Explore a new software. (Personally, I’m hoping to dive into Evernote soon)
- Clean out my hard drive.
- Upgrade the look and feel of our sales presentations
When you find yourself bored, grab your list, select a project and get moving.
Seek New Challenges
Challenge is the key to staying engaged. Your brain wants to be used. Ask for new responsibilities. Take on projects and tasks that push you outside your comfort zone. Look for growth opportunities, even when you’re busy. Don’t wait for boredom to set in. When it does, the opportunities may no longer be available.
Find a Friend
A recent Gallup study indicates that having high quality relationships at work increases long-term job satisfaction. No surprise there! While having a friend at work won’t necessarily offset the feeling of boredom, it will make it less frustrating. You’ll have a better overall outlook and time at work will be more enjoyable, regardless of what you’re doing.
Get Additional Training
A great way to use downtime is to learn some new skills. Online training programs make it easy to do right from your desk. Remember, the new skills you learn are making you a more competitive member of the workforce. You can take these skills with you and use them anywhere. So, while you’re improving your abilities and making yourself more valuable in your current position, you’re also improving your future opportunities for career growth and success. A double whammy!
Examine the Cause
Perhaps you’re not bored because you lack work. Maybe you’re bored because the work you have doesn’t engage you or leverage your skills. This is a different situation altogether. If you have plenty to do and you’re still feeling disengaged, you have some figuring out to do.
Boredom is a sign that you’re not using your true talents. What kind of work makes you feel “in the flow”? That’s your calling. You may have lots of things that engage you. If so, that’s great! Explore ways to align your career with these things. It might be possible right where you are. But you might need to consider moving on.
Lastly, let me just say this: We all have certain tasks that bore us but are a required part of the job. I’d say about 20% of my time is spent doing things I’d rather not do but have to in order to be successful in my work. The other 80% of the time is spent doing fun, engaging things that help me feel fulfilled. That’s a pretty awesome ratio. I’ve worked with people who are happy to have it the other way around. They’ll put up with 80% boredom if they can have 20% rock-your-socks-off great work they love. Like anything, there’s a tradeoff. Keep your expectations realistic.
Photo Credit: massdistraction (Flickr)