How to Stay Motivated When You’re Bored at Work
Have you felt the excitement of a new job wear off? What was once new, different and interesting has become dull, repetitive and boring. You’re itching to try something new and have been looking at the door for your next opportunity. Being unmotivated and bored at work can make you feel like you’re not achieving your full potential. This can lead to poor mental health or even bad performance reviews from bosses who have also noticed that you’ve disengaged.
Being bored at work sucks and it can be tempting to run away but people can (and do) overact to boring situations at work. The fact is, boredom is a mindset and there are a variety of different ways to increase your motivation at work. The trick is finding the way that works for you to get motivated again so you can get back on track.
The Dangers of Boredom
It can be easy to chalk boredom up to a slow day at work or settling into a rut. While these may be contributing factors they can disguise how serious low motivation and boredom can be in terms of both worker happiness and mental health.
Being bored at work can actually be worse for workers than being overworked. In a worldwide study including more than 800,000 workers across 61 companies it was found that workers with “too little work” gave satisfaction scores of 49 out of 100. Compare that to workers with “too much work” who gave a rating of 57.
This is why it’s so important to act if you notice that you have been bored at work for a long time. It’s like sitting in front of the TV when the show you were watching ends. Sure you can sit through the next 20 minutes of infomercials and hope something good comes on or you can actually do something and change the channel.
Don’t Fear Being Bored at Work
Although the above statistics can make you want to avoid boring situations at all costs that shouldn’t necessarily be the case. Boredom as an emotion can be quite helpful for you and shape the way you make decisions.
If you never got bored you would always stay in situations that aren’t fulfilling or don’t motivate you. You would have no desire to look for better opportunities. So when when you start to feel bored take note! Look around you and see what you can change to make it better because you know it’s not working for you at the moment.
Try these tips to beat boredom and get the kick start to get the most out of work.
14 Ways to Stop Being Bored at Work, Get Motivated, and Be More Productive
1. Change the Scene
Working in the same spot day after day can eventually leave you feeling like goldfish in a bowl. It’s important to change things up every once in a while to keep things fresh and different.
Maybe you can work in a different area or even something as simple as changing the order you usually do tasks in. Anything to make the day progress a little differently than usual can help fight boredom and get you motivated again. Even something as small as washing your hands can have an effect!
2. Get Moving
Sometimes being bored can just be the result of being stuck in the same position for hours. If you work in an office job make sure you are moving around every 30 minutes to avoid long term health risks. If you work in a job that is more active make sure you aren’t stuck in the same position or area all day.
Little things like getting a drink of water or walking around the room count. They also get your body moving and can help you break the boredom cycle. Want to be less bored, more productive, and healthier? Get moving now!
3. Make a To-Do List
This step is simple but is often overlooked. If you don’t have a clear idea of what tasks you want to complete, trying to get through your workday can feel like you’re sailing with no rudder. A to-do list can give you some order and structure to your day and help you work out where your priorities should be.
To-do lists can also help by letting you physically see your progress. You can check how many tasks you’ve completed and have a good idea about how long it will take to complete the list.
There are two ways to complete a to-do list:
Small to Big
Arrange the list in order of easiest to hardest. Then it’s simply a matter of starting at the top and working your way down the list. This method works because the simple tasks that only take a few minutes to achieve give you some confidence and let you build up momentum. The easy tasks are also easier to start and finish if you’re motivation levels are low.
Eat the Frog
This method is the exact opposite. The expression comes from a longer metaphor that says that if you have to eat a frog tomorrow, it’s better to eat it in the morning and get it over with than spend the rest of the day worrying about it. Pick your hardest, ugliest, task and get it over and done with. Then you can work on simpler tasks that will appear even easier in comparison.
Either way is fine and will help improve your motivation and productivity. Maybe try both and see which one works best for you.
4. Break it Down
Breaking your tasks down into small sections can make tasks seem easier and make your day go faster. If you have some difficult tasks ahead of you, it can feel like an impossible challenge. Even if you do a bit of work you still have so much more to do.
Breaking down your task into small, bite sized chunks can make the job seem smaller and easier. You will also get a better idea of how you are progressing. It’s easy to get bored when it feels like nothing you do is working. This method helps you to achieve your goals and keep you motivated.
You can also use this trick to help fight boredom when you have a long day or shift ahead of you. Look at the clock and break it down into periods before you can have a break. Even something small like going for a small walk or having a tea can help to break the monotony.
5. Just Do It
Eventually you will reach a point where you just need to suck it up and do it. You can make a to-do list, break it down into individual steps, and have a game plan and still get stuck. A bit like eating the frog, biting the bullet and doing a task is sometimes the only way to get through something.
Once you do start it and when you finish it you will feel much better about yourself. Not only do you have one less thing to worry about but you’ve also been productive.
6. Make a Career Plan
If you are bored out of your mind at work, maybe it’s worth putting some of that time into making a career plan for yourself. Not only is this a famous interview question (i.e. “where do you see yourself in 5 years?”) but’s also useful for your own purposes to have a good idea of what you want to achieve.
- What do you want to achieve?
- What skills, qualifications, and experience do you need?
- How will you get there?
Having a career plan can help you see whether or not you are working towards what you want to achieve in the long term. While this might not help with boredom immediately it can let you know whether or not you should really stay in this job.
7. Ask Yourself “Why?”
Obviously earning money is a big motivating factor for people to get jobs but what other reasons are there for you working where you do?
Do you work there to get experience or make connections? Do you come to work every day hoping to make a difference for someone? Whatever you reason – ask yourself are you achieving your goals? If not, there might be more you can do to feel like you’re doing more with your time (either at your current job or somewhere else).
Being bored at work can often stem from feeling like your work is meaningless or unimportant. While stacking a shelf or responding to emails may seem mundane, knowing that they are actually a part of your larger goal can make them seem more important and interesting.
8. Research Upcoming Professional Events
The days of the 50-year career with the same company are over. Now you are much more likely to bounce around between different employers and even across different industries. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to see what you can do to improve yourself professionally while at your current job.
Researching what’s happening in your field can actually really help your career. You can see different ways of tackling problems in your industry as well as get your creative juices flowing. Maybe you’ll see a way to solve an issue at work or get inspired to try a new career.
When researching events see if there are any networking events coming up that could be the lead you need to get your next job. Look for opportunities to develop new skills or even get qualifications that will boost your resume.
Being bored and unmotivated at work is tough but using that downtime to research ways you can make yourself more employable for the next company is better than twiddling your thumbs.
9. Start a Side Project
Maybe you’re bored at work but otherwise you enjoy it. The benefits are good, you generally like what you do and the people you work with are nice. If that’s the case, then you might want to consider starting a side project.
Side projects are a good way for you to add some more excitement in your life while still staying committed to your work and career goals.
The way this works is that your side project gives you a chance to work on something that you feel passionate about and enjoy. Photography, blogging, car restoration – whatever you’re into use it as a chance to escape your boring job. If you can find a way to monetise it that’s even better. It could be a no-brainer win win.
Don’t worry though if you don’t make any money from your side project. It could be the first step in a lifelong hobby or even a new career. The skills you hone will come back to repay you when you look for your next job and you can demonstrate all the extra skills you’ve learnt.
10. Ask for Feedback
Asking your boss for feedback can be daunting but it’s an important skill you need to develop if you ever want to be a great employee. You don’t need to wait until a certain time of year for performance reviews. Speak to your boss and see how they think you’re working.
Your boss could think that you’re doing a good job and on top of everything. This is when you can ask them for more responsibilities or opportunities. However, your boss might say that you need to improve in a certain area. In this case you will know that you have a new task to focus on and improve.
Either way, you will have gotten a better idea of the way you’re working and been given an opportunity to stave off boredom.
11. Surround Yourself with Positive People
Just like the cold that your co-worker Michael brought into work with him last week, boredom is infectious. If everyone around you is detached from their work it can be really hard to feel motivated to work. Work with people who like their job and will help motivate you to be the best worker you can be.
This is also why it’s so important to think twice about how you act at work – sure you might have some days where you’re feeling a bit flat but don’t bring the whole team down with you. You want to be a positive influence for the people that work around you.
If everyone is bored, unmotivated, and stuck in a rut it’s best to get out of there before you end up the same way!
12. Set Boundaries
Burning the candle from both ends is a sure fire way to end up exhausted, unmotivated, and looking for a new job. It’s essential that you set proper boundaries of where work starts and ends. Set a definite time that you will leave work and if you have a habit of letting work creep into your outside life – have a time where you will stop looking at your emails or worrying about today’s issues. Make sure that time is final.
Boundaries for your real life are important too. Social media and phones for example are best left to outside work. They can be a tempting way to escape boredom but won’t help you in the long run. Save them for when you clock off and walk out the door.
If you’ve been working hard for the past few months, it can be easy to forget to celebrate your accomplishments. This doesn’t have to be an company wide party or award ceremony but take a few minutes to acknowledge that you completed a task.
Doing tasks all day without praise can make you feel worthless or make you question your usefulness. Although the robots are coming for your job eventually, they aren’t here yet and it’s important to take some time to reward yourself for doing a good job. Make sure that you take a little while to appreciate that you conquered your boredom and finished a task.
The celebration doesn’t have to be big and in fact could represent a perfect opportunity to move around and get ready for the next task. It is an important time however as it allows you to recognise the progress you’re making and that you’re achieving your goals.
14. Hit the Road
If you have worked your way through the list and your boredom is still there maybe it’s time to take more serious action.
The fear of not getting a new job is an understandable one but there are ways to work around that. The best way is to apply for jobs while still at your current job. Not having the desperate factor of “I’ll take any job I can get” can make your interviews appear much more calm and confident. Additionally, you can be more discerning and think about the opportunity because you’ve got the security of the current job.
If you do decide to change jobs, see what other skills or experiences you can gain from your current job. If you want to have the best resume possible, there’s no point leaving skills on the table at your last job.
Let Boredom Inspire You
Getting over boredom at work and finding ways to motivate are less about finding a hack and more about changing your mind set. While some tasks are undeniably dull, seeing how they fit into the big picture can change how you feel about them.
Similarly, thinking about why your bored and what you would really like to be doing can refine your career path and make sure you’re working where you want to be. Remember, being bored is an emotion that tells you that something isn’t right. You need to change something to make it work for you the way you want it to.
Staying motivated is a constant thing and every time you find yourself bored to tears look at your situation you’ll need to evaluate your position and determine if it’s a long term thing or just a passing phase. Being bored is sucks. That said, don’t be afraid of it and don’t neglect this important informative feeling.
Have you ever had a boring job? One that made Official Paint Drying Inspector feel like an exciting career opportunity. What helped you to feel motivated again? Let me know in the comments below!
- Hints from HR: Maree Foti, Leading HR and Talent Acquisition Professional
- The 6 Interview Stories You Should Be Telling to Make a Lasting Impression and Get the Job
- How To Overcome Your Barriers to Career Change
- How to Stay Motivated When You’re Bored at Work
- What is Your Social Media Profile Telling Employers?