None of us can be 100% stimulated all the time at work. If you’re not hyper-engaged with every single little task, that’s normal — even healthy. But if you’re noticing that it’s more of a constant state of boredom, this is a sign there’s a larger problem.
Chronic boredom is linked to increased anxiety, depression, self-destructive behaviors, and poor health. And unfortunately, being bored at work is widespread enough that there’s now a hot new buzzword for it: “boreout,” a conflation of “bored” and “burnout.”
The good news is, if you’re finding yourself bored at work most of the time, this can actually be a useful indicator that a change needs to be made. Read on to learn how to identify what may be wrong, and what to do to start feeling excited, challenged, and stimulated at work again!
Why You’re Bored at Work – Identifying the Issue
If you feel like being bored at work has become a bigger issue, it’s important to understand why it’s happening in the first place. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are your tasks too repetitive?
- Do you not have enough to do?
- Are you not being challenged enough?
- Are your particular strengths not being utilized enough?
- Do you not connect to the purpose behind your work anymore?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’ve begun to narrow down specifically what the problem is with your situation.
Put on your detective hat, peruse the following list of changes you could make, and match the ones that you think would make the biggest difference for you when it comes to reducing boredom, caring more, and feeling excited and stimulated about your work!
What to Do If You’re Bored At Work
1. Ask Your Supervisor For More (Or Different) Responsibilities
Some folks fantasize about a work situation where they can just lie around and do practically nothing. But for people who actually work these “bullsh*t jobs” (it’s a real thing! Check out this Hidden Brain episode), they end up feeling miserable, bored, and useless. Psychologically, people like to feel like they have purpose, and when they’re productive, they feel better about themselves and are generally happier.
If you don’t have enough work or aren’t being challenged enough, ask your supervisor for more — or potentially different — responsibilities. Is there a project you heard about that you think you could be an asset on? Maybe you’d just like to learn about another area of the business.
Either way, it’s very likely your boss will be impressed by the initiative, and not only will your state of mind benefit, your career could too.
2. Figure Out a Way to See the Impact or Meaning of Your Work
If you’ve been losing sight of the meaningfulness of the work you’re doing, it might be time to find a way to tap back into that. Maybe you’re a school guidance counselor and you’ve become mired in the everyday tedium of your job. Do some digging. Check to see where your former charges ended up. Recognizing what a difference your day-to-day work makes in someone’s life could be hugely motivating.
Even if your job purpose isn’t as lofty as setting someone on a path to greatness, there are still ways to see what a difference you’re making. If your design work ended up helping your company sell millions of paper towels, that’s huge! People need those! If you’re a hairdresser, remind yourself that you got into the industry to connect with people and make them feel good about themselves.
Everyone is making a difference in their own way — make sure to recognize your own impact.
3. Be Strategic About When You Schedule “Boring” Tasks
Less demanding work can actually be a welcome relief! Start to notice when your mind is the sharpest (Hint: for most people, it’s the morning). Schedule your more cognitively-demanding and interesting work for those times your brain is able to function at a higher level. Save the more “boring,” rote tasks for the time when your brain needs a break. You might actually feel grateful for the mini-breaks those boring tasks give you!
4. Redesign Your Workspace
Having a fresh and organized space can motivate you, minimize feelings of overwhelm, and generally increase positive sentiments about your job. Whether you work from home or go to the office, make sure your space lends itself to both productivity and cheerfulness. Add a friendly plant to your desk. Invest in an organizer that keeps everything in its place. Hang a motivational quote from your favorite historical figure. Anything you think will raise your spirits and keep you focused!
5. Gamify Your Work
More and more, people are using “gamification” — adding game elements to a task or process not usually associated with a game — to motivate themselves to get things done. We’re seeing gamification with budgeting, education, even Starbucks purchases — so there’s absolutely no reason you can’t gamify your work!
Set goals and reward yourself for small wins along the way. For example, you might challenge yourself to finish your upcoming quarterly report within 2 hours. If you accomplish your goal (making sure not to cut corners or lose sight of detailed work), you get to eat your absolute favorite chocolate bar!
You can get as deep as you want with this stuff. Check out this article to explore the ins and outs of gamification.
6. Get More Sleep
Poor or inadequate sleep can severely affect your concentration levels. This can lead to that feeling of being bored at work simply because you have limited focus. Make sure you’re getting at least 7 hours of sleep at night for optimum concentration and engagement.
7. Learn Something New
One of the biggest reasons for boredom at work is staying static. If you’re not growing and learning, what’s the point? Think about a new piece of technology you’d be interested in diving into — or perhaps it’s a teaching methodology that would have you approaching your work in a whole new way.
Learning new tech, new skills, new ways of doing things — these things will keep you interested and also set you up for further success in your field.
8. Make Sure You’re Taking Breaks
Research has found that not only are breaks good for your mental wellness, they actually improve your productivity! While it may seem counterintuitive to solve a “bored at work” issue by taking downtime, a break can actually reset your mood and increase your energy. Consider chatting to co-workers, taking a walk — anything that allows your brain to change “modes” for a bit will help it to power back up and have you ready to tackle your work tasks with more vitality.
9. Take a Vacation
In a way, this is the amplified version of “Make Sure You’re Taking Breaks.” If you’ve been building up PTO days, use them! Having a week away from work can do wonders for your mental health and give you a new, refreshed perspective when it comes time to take up your tasks again.
10. Collaborate With Your Coworkers
Working by yourself too much can be a drag and can cause that feeling of being bored at work. Ask your manager for opportunities to work with others! Collaborating with someone else can spark excitement, give you some much-needed social interaction, and could potentially lead to some creatively executed work that neither of you would have come up with on your own.
11. Work on Cultivating a Positive Outlook
If thoughts like “this is stupid,” “this sucks,” or “why did he get promoted?” are circling around in your mind, it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to drum up much enthusiasm when it comes to your work.
Work on cultivating a positive outlook by releasing hold of the things you can’t control (who got a promotion), and starting to notice and dwell more on the positives: “I’m really proud of the presentation I did;” “I just helped this client in a big way;” “that’s a cool charity initiative my company just announced – I’m glad I’m a part of it.”
These are the things that are going to help you start caring more, engaging, and ultimately make you happier to be where you are!
12. Look For Another Job
In the end, you may realize that you’re simply in the wrong role or at the wrong company. Some people are just not suited for certain jobs — it could be that they’re not challenging enough, or someone might have a need to connect more deeply with the purpose of a company.
And that’s OK! Almost half of American workers have made a dramatic shift in their careers, and the vast majority say they’re happier for doing so. Check out this step-by-step guide on making a midlife career change to see if it’s the right move for you and what next steps might look like.
Finding yourself a little bored at work every now and again is perfectly normal. Not every task or project will be Disney World-level exciting. But if you’ve noticed that this is something that’s happening a majority of the time, it’s time to take stock, find the root issue, and start making some changes.
There’s no reason you shouldn’t feel fulfilled, stimulated, and even happy at work.