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One Thing No One Wants to Talk About: Boredom

It can happen to all of us at some point in our careers. Sometimes, there’s just no spark in our workday. We can be quick to call it burnout. But it might be boredom. I’ve been there. In my case, it was a new job at the beginning of my career. I wanted to contribute and have interesting work, but first, I needed to learn the boring-to-me administrative ropes of the role before I was sent off for training. In the training program, I knew I’d learn the exciting elements that represented learning, growth, and the accomplishment of being a professional. I needed patience. In the meantime, I was bored.

It’s important for organizations and their leaders to watch for boredom. Boredom can result in attrition and decreased engagement at the organizational level. At the individual level, a bit of boredom can unleash creative thinking and problem-solving. Sustained boredom, on the other hand, is detrimental to well-being and performance. It requires attention.

When we are feeling bored, our energy levels are lower and it’s harder to see the possibilities to escape it. We may think we don’t have much agency in our situation. The truth is often that we have a lot more than we think. It’s important to have a roadmap to escape boredom so that when we are in the midst of it, we can find our way out. You’ll find a starter list of a roadmap below. You’ll likely want to add your own ideas to the list.


Break Through Boredom:

1) Switch Gears: Whether the boredom fleeting or sustained, switching up routine can bounce you with more positive states. Can you make boredom less boring by breaking it up with “treats” – work that is more interesting, lunch with a friend, a midday walk, or playing your go-to dance music?

2) 𝐄𝐱𝐩𝐥𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠:  This article names boredom as a feeling. Explore what’s underneath the feeling. Getting it down on paper can often help you get to the root more quickly.  Sometimes boredom comes from work; sometimes, it comes from more profound things. Often, there are things you can do to change the situation, but you can’t see them through the veil of boredom. A colleague, coach, or manager can help you see options and different perspectives.

3) 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐧𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐞𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠: Step back and identify the meaning in your work. How does your work connect to the larger mission of the company? If you can’t connect these dots, ask your manager to help you. It could ignite a great conversation that leads to bright new ways to engage with your work.

4) 𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐧 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐬𝐮𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐩𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐬: This probably doesn’t sound obvious, but it’s powerful. Our personality drives the type of work and tasks that we’re naturally attracted to. When our personality and work are aligned, it’s magic. We feel more engaged with our work; we reach flow states and have a sense of well-being. Learn about your personality through the lens of a robust tool like the WorkPlace Big Five Profile ᵀᴹ, and you’ll gain insights to make powerful adjustments to leverage your personality.

5) 𝐂𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐚 ‘𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐣𝐞𝐜𝐭’: What work-related project have you been eager to find time for? Maybe it’s a problem you’d like to solve or an adjacent area you’d like to learn more about. Give yourself permission, or ask your manager, to create a small pocket of time to explore the project. This project could fuel your current work and create a new opportunity to help your team, project, or organization.