27 September 2023

Winning the ‘bore’ war: How to work hard at not being bored

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Even in this hyper-active world it is still possible to be bored at work says Laura Stack* but boredom can be a career killer.

No one really likes boredom, because it often makes us do unwise things.

If ever an old saying was accurate, it’s ‘idle hands are the devil’s workshop’.

You’re better off staying busy at work.

Now, it would be nice if you could just point your brain in a direction, press go, and have it keep moving steadily that way until you told it to stop.

It doesn’t work that way for most of us, no matter how dedicated.

Free will and a tendency to chase new ideas can derail our best efforts at focus, sometimes leading to boredom.

This, in turn, causes us to engage in unproductive behaviour — even when we know we’re doing it.

You’ll probably recognise these five common reasons why you get bored at work.

Let’s look at what causes them and how you can best avoid them.

A basic mismatch:

Do your job and interests match?

If not, your job will get very old very quickly.

You may convince yourself that experience (especially leadership experience) in one field will transfer to another, for example, but it doesn’t always.

Or maybe you just took the job because of the pay.

Either way, you have two options: You can either find a more suitable job (a painful but often rewarding process), or you can decide to enjoy the work you have.

That may sound unlikely, but with an attitude adjustment, you can make it happen.

True professionals know you can’t just ‘do what you love and the money will follow’, no matter how often optimists tell you otherwise.

Otherwise we’d all be pro golfers, chefs, or fishermen.

What does work is finding parts of your existing job you can love, and extending that love to the rest of your work.

No room for advancement:

You may have worked at jobs that left you no wiggle room.

The scope was tight, work roles restricted, and you could only move up the ladder if someone died, got fired, or left.

If you’re facing this, and a discussion with your manager fails to shake loose opportunity (especially if this is the person who would need to die) you can either find a way to enjoy your work anyway or move on.

No opportunity to learn or grow:

You should be able to learn new things regularly for your job, but it doesn’t always happen.

Sometimes, things don’t change quickly.

Sometimes your manager fears that if they teach everything they know, they’ll lose their own job (classic paranoid territorialism).

Whatever, if you do the same things day after day, boredom sets in.

You might avoid this by setting an appointment with your manager and discussing the problem and potential solutions.

You don’t have enough to do:

Back to the idle hands.

If you don’t have enough work, you may end up looking for things to fill your time, including that bane of all things productive, surfing the internet.

This will inevitably lead to trouble.

You can head this off at the pass by asking your manager for more work or volunteering for a few cross-functional committees.

It’s their job to find that work for you, and they may not know they need to if you don’t tell them.

Take the bull by the horns. If your manager can’t find you work, look on the bright side: Now you have a chance to get a better job.

You haven’t set clear goals:

If you lack a purpose, just floating through life, things will get boring.

Rather than wander randomly, plan your path from points A-B-C and so on.

This works not only for specific tasks, but also for projects and your career in general.

When you know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it, boredom is much less likely.

It may seem difficult, but like everything else attitude-related, you can decide not to be bored.

Don’t just dismiss this statement as New Age feel-good hokum — because sometimes, attitude really is everything.

The ideas presented here are just a few ways to help you decide.

*Laura Stack is a keynote speaker, author and authority on productivity and performance. She has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time. She can be contacted at theproductivitypro.com.

This article first appeared on Laura’s blogsite.

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