Boredom at work: we’ve all experienced it. Whether it’s something that just creeps up on you occasionally in the middle of the afternoon, or a more ongoing sense of being bored with your job in general, boredom can be destructive to your productivity, your job satisfaction, and your mental health.
Right now, boredom – at work and more generally – might be hitting you harder than usual. Many of us are stuck at home and don’t even have the easy work/home divide to help us break out of a bored mindset.
What is boredom, exactly?
Boredom can be about more than just not having enough to do. But it can also mask for, or be a symptom of, other issues.
If you’re feeling bored but actually have things you should be doing, you’re most likely procrastinating. Related to this is a lack of motivation. You know you should be working, but you just can’t bring yourself to care enough to get on with it.
Boredom is also often tied to tiredness. You might be struggling to sleep at the moment, or just feeling mentally exhausted from the disruption to normal life.
More seriously, an ongoing sense of boredom can be linked to mental health issues like depression or anxiety. If you think you might be suffering from one of these issues, talk to your doctor straight away.
And, sure, it’s also possible your boredom is caused by simply not having enough to do to occupy your time, or by not being sufficiently challenged by what you’re doing.
Establishing the root cause is an important step on the way to mitigating boredom. But once you know why you’re bored, how do you go about solving the problem? Read on for 6 of our top tips.
Lack of motivation is a common cause of boredom. You know you have things to do, but you just can’t seem to care enough to actually do them. If this sounds like you, try one of our tips to motivate yourself and start cracking on with your to-do list.
Keeping to a routine as much as you can is important for motivating yourself. Having a routine trains your brain so that when you sit down at your desk, you’re ready to dive into work.
If your to-do list looks too long and intimidating, try breaking it down into smaller and more manageable chunks.
Don’t forget to reward yourself, too! Every time you tick off a task, reward yourself with a little break to do something fun. And give yourself things to look forward to in the evenings and weekends after your work day is over.
Refocus on your dreams and goals
A lack of direction can cause boredom. Do you feel like you’re just treading water and not really making any progress towards your goals? Sounds like it’s time to refocus.
What do you really want out of life – personally and professionally? Write it down. Now break these goals down into smaller steps. What do you need to do to get there?
Is what you’re doing now helping you towards your dreams? If it is, then the act of refocusing might be enough to beat boredom and get you motivated again. If it isn’t, then you need to think about making a change.
Of course, now might not be the time to change jobs (it probably isn’t!) But can you at least start doing some research and polishing up your CV? Are there any online training courses you can do or areas where you can brush up your skills? Any more experienced colleagues you might be able to reach out to and ask for some mentoring or a shadowing opportunity? Books or papers you can read, webinars to join, podcasts to listen to or videos to watch?
Time investing in your professional development is never time wasted, and it will all be incredibly useful when you are ready to make that next leap.
Ask for more to do – or make your own tasks
A lot of jobs have fundamentally changed in the last few months. You might be bored because you genuinely don’t have enough to do.
If this is the case, speak up! Tell your manager that you have some time on your plate and ask if there are any projects they’d like you to pick up or extra tasks you could work on.
If not, take this as an opportunity to make your own work. Obviously you don’t want to end up doing completely pointless things just to fill time, but if you look around I bet you’ll find things you could usefully do.
Those files that are a mess? Tidy them up! That spreadsheet that’s enormously out of date? Update it! Those contacts you haven’t spoken to in a while? Reach out to re-establish connection and see how they’re doing!
If all else fails, spend some of your newfound free time on your personal professional development – see the previous tip for some ideas.
Many people are feeling isolated at the moment, especially those who are working from home and not experiencing the usual camaraderie of the office environment. Boredom can often mask loneliness. This is why socialising is more important than ever.
Can you call a friend or family member on your lunch break, or even meet up for a physically-distanced walk or picnic? How about seeing if your colleagues are up for some virtual social time? My team has recently done Zoom quizzes and played team Bingo online.
Remember to schedule online social dates into your calendar just as you would with in-person get togethers. And don’t be afraid to be the first to reach out. Your friends, family and colleagues are very likely dealing with their own version of loneliness, boredom and listlessless right now, and will probably welcome a friendly voice on the other end of the phone.
Creativity of any kind is a great boredom-buster, and being home much more than usual is a good opportunity to try a new creative pursuit (or dedicate more time to an existing one.)
Try writing a story or poem, playing music or singing, learning to knit, sew or crochet, drawing, painting, or whatever other creative thing you’ve always wanted to try. Don’t worry about doing it well – the idea isn’t to become a master. You don’t even have to show your creations to anyone else if you don’t want to. But creativity is fantastic for mental health and before you know it, you’ll have been absorbed in something for hours. Boredom beaten!
People often feel bored if they’re not being sufficiently challenged. If your job feels easy to you, or if you find you’re missing opportunities to stretch yourself, this is a fantastic time to invest in learning something new.
This might involve developing your professional skills, as we’ve discussed above. But it doesn’t have to be. Why not use this time to read a classic book you’ve always wanted to read, get onto Duolingo and learn some phrases in a foreign language, or teach yourself a new digital skill such as Photoshop or a programming language? You could even sign up for an online class or course (which has the added bonus of giving you the opportunity to make new like-minded friends.)
Whatever you choose to do, it must be something that interests and excites you enough to pull you out of your bored mindset and get you fired up again. It’s difficult to feel bored when you’re filling your brain with new information about a subject you love.
Boredom can be a really difficult trap to get out of once you’ve fallen into it. But it’s also completely understandable, especially under the current circumstances. Take care of yourself, make time for fun and relaxation, and please seek professional support if you think your boredom is masking something like anxiety or depression.
You can get through this!