Yawn… Don’t Let Boring Work Get You Down

We’ve all experienced times of boredom in our work. Maybe you’ve been doing the same work for too long, whether it’s a corporate job or just the same types of client projects over a long period of time. Whether you are a freelancer working on client projects or someone working in a corporate environment, you can let it get to you and succumb to the boredom, or you can find ways to snap yourself out of it.

First, let’s look at how people react to boredom in the work environment. According to Susan Cramm on the Harvard Business Review blogs, there is a good chance that you are making your job boring. Here are her three questions to test whether the thing that’s making your job boring is you:

  1. Are you on autopilot? When we have been doing any task for a while, we tend to go on autopilot. This makes our jobs easier, but it also reduces our interest level and leaves us bored.
  2. Is your energy level down? Boredom saps our energy reserves and makes it more difficult for us to focus on our work and be successful.
  3. Have you become a conformist? After you’ve made the big changes needed early in the job, it can be too easy just to let things slide rather than continuing to look for areas where you can make additional improvements.

I have a few suggestions to help you snap out of your work-related boredom.

  • Exercise. Yes, this really is my answer to almost everything. Exercising increases our endorphin levels and helps us stay energized. This will help you get your energy levels back up, and you might even think of some new ideas while you exercise.
  • Change the way you do routine tasks. Kick yourself off of autopilot and experiment with some new ways of doing things. Take a routine task, and do something a little differently with the goal of finding some way to improve the process. You just might find a better way to accomplish the task, but even if it isn’t an improvement, you’ll probably come out of it with a renewed interest.
  • Pick up a new, challenging project. I try to take on new projects that will be a challenge or at least something a little different from my normal client work; sometimes these are fun, side projects or new client engagements. In Meryl’s plans for 2010 post, she talked about how she takes on a new, challenging project every year to stretch herself. When I was working in corporate jobs, I used to always volunteer for special projects and teach classes for employees because doing something new helped me stay energized and excited about my job.
  • Set improvement goals. Pick one thing every couple of months that is important, but that you haven’t focused on in a while, and set a goal of making at least one improvement in that area. This could be a personal development project or some neglected aspect of your work. The idea is to make some kind of regular improvements to break you out of the conformity cycle.
  • Find a new hobby or non-work related project. I’ve found that when I am bored outside of work, this can carry over into the work day. Find a fun new hobby that will keep you energized during your off-hours, and you just might find that it helps improve your energy during the work day as well.
  • Get a full night of sleep. Yes, I know you are busy and that sleep just cuts down on the hours that you can be doing something more fun. However, being a half-asleep zombie at work will drain your energy and make you feel bored even when the work itself isn’t all that boring. Try it for a week, and see if you don’t have more energy. You might realize that you enjoy those waking hours even more when you are well rested.

These are just a few of the techniques that I have used over the years to avoid succumbing to boredom, but I’m sure that there are other great ways to get re-energized and excited about your work.

How do you break out of the boredom cycle and stay excited about your work?