Bored at Work: How to Motivate Yourself and Become Productive
You’re at work, staring at the tasks before you. But you can’t bring yourself to complete them. Is this boredom? Disinterest? Or maybe you’re just tired?
It’s a scenario most of us face at some point or another. Finding the root cause is key to finding a solution.
With some work, it’s possible to get over the hurdle and feel rejuvenated for your career.
Why am I bored at work?
Repetitive tasks get a bad rap for being boring, but boring work isn’t always the root of boredom. Everyone’s skill set is different, so while some people will find a task boring, others won’t.
But just because you’re not doing a mundane task doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t get bored.
For instance, maybe you feel unchallenged with executing strategies and would prefer to work on the creative side — being stuck with tasks you don’t find fulfilling can make it difficult to stay engaged.
This isn’t something you usually catch at the start of a role or business, when you’re probably excited to jump in, learn new skills, and take on more responsibility. But once you’ve mastered the basics, the work may seem too easy… and boring.
Some other reasons you may become bored at work:
- Too much time on your plate: You speed through your daily tasks, leaving you idle to daydream about tonight’s activities or watch the clock. This could mean your work is too easy or that you’re not getting enough work.
- Interests or passions aren’t aligned with work: You once had a passion for your role, but it’s shifted or disappeared. Or you lost interest in your field and want to pursue something entirely different. This can happen when you remain in a role too long.
- Unclear professional goals: There’s no clear direction for your future in your position. Will you stay in your current role another five years, chase a promotion, or leave to another company/role? Not knowing your path can make you feel discouraged.
- Burnt out from too many goals: You’re ambitious and want to achieve multiple, major goals within the next 6-12 months. This can lead to toxic productivity and extreme exhaustion.
- Not using your full capabilities: You’re in a role that uses some of your skills — but you feel you can make a bigger impact. Without the opportunity, you may feel underappreciated or undervalued.
- Lack of purpose: You find no satisfaction in just collecting a paycheck, and desire a role in which your work feels meaningful, like by improving lives or helping the environment.
- Contributions don’t matter: You do everything you can, but it never seems like it’s enough — so you may feel your time and efforts are wasted.
What can happen if you don’t cure workplace boredom?
Being bored at work or in your business can hurt relationships, advancement, and performance. If left unchecked, boredom in the workplace can lead to:
- Decreased productivity and motivation: Disinterest in work often affects your work ethics, in turn hurting production levels and quality.
- Higher turnover rates: Long-term boredom can lead employees to seek greener pastures elsewhere.
- Increased stress and anxiety: Staying in a boring role can cause high levels of stress and anxiety, leading to health problems down the road.
- Poor performance reviews: Boredom leads to disengagement, which reduces productivity and lowers performance.
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks: Allowing boredom to persist can make it tougher to focus on your duties.
- Low morale among colleagues: Being bored at work can bring about negative attitudes and apathy, which can be noticeable and hurt team dynamics.
- Reduced creativity and innovation: Coming up with ideas for a boring project or task can be challenging, but not in a good way.
- Increased absenteeism: Calling in sick looks increasingly attractive if the alternative is going into a boring job.
- Negative impact on customer service: Reduced motivation and engagement means poor-quality services and support for customers. This can hurt customer loyalty and retention.
- Poor decision making: When you’re bored with tasks, you’re more likely to rush through them, increasing the odds of making bad decisions.
What to do when you’re bored at work
Pulling out your smartphone to enjoy your favorite social media or game app is one way to get over workplace boredom — but it’s also a quick way to get fired or lose customers.
So, here’s a list of steps to get over your boredom while working:
- Identify the cause: Evaluate why you’re bored — is it a lack of new challenges or tasks? Or feeling like your contributions don’t matter? Journal your feelings and take some time to reflect.
- Set goals: Once you know the problem, set goals to overcome it. For example, learn a new skill to take on more tasks and responsibilities that you find fulfilling.
- Find a mentor: Sometimes it takes someone who’s been where you are to spot your issues and advise how to overcome them. (It can also open doors to advancement opportunities.)
- Continue learning: The more you learn, the more you can perform new and engaging tasks or roles. Take courses, read books, and agree to projects you’ve never done before.
- Talk to your leaders: Talk to your boss about your struggles and propose ways they can help. For instance, ask to join an initiative to learn new skills; this way, you have leadership on your side to ensure your goals are met.
It’s also possible that you’re in the wrong field or role. If that’s the case, do some soul-searching to determine what job or business to pursue that’ll excite and fulfill you.
If you’re a business owner with bored employees, then use these steps — find the root cause, set goals, assign a mentor, and offer training — to help workers reignite their flame.
How to Not Be Bored at Work
Developing good work habits can keep you busy, healthy, and engaged. Here are several ways to prevent becoming bored at work:
- Take breaks: Sitting at a desk or performing the same task for hours can be unhealthy. Give your eyes, muscles, and brain a break by getting up, stretching, and taking short walks throughout the day.
- Talk to colleagues: Engaging with co-workers can break up the monotony of work. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to connect. Ask questions, share stories, or seek advice from colleagues.
- Take on new tasks: Ask your boss if there are additional projects or tasks you can do to keep your workdays fresh and exciting. Try opportunities that allow you to learn new things and gain experience.
- Start a side project: If you’re feeling creative, start a small project that’s related to your field. For example, if you’re a web designer, create a website for a local business or charity. Just make sure your side project doesn’t cut into your work time.
- Change up your routine: Routines are good for productivity but can make tasks feel mundane. Switch it up by reordering your daily tasks or creating time blocks to alternate them. For example, you could dedicate the first hour of your day to emails, then switch to brainstorming the next hour.
- Take a lunch break: Instead of skipping lunch or eating at your desk, invite co-workers on lunch dates. Getting away from the office and socializing can reenergize you for the rest of the day.
- Look for opportunities daily: Be on the lookout for opportunities to take on new tasks or roles. If you’ve upskilled recently, be the first to volunteer for upcoming projects related to your new talent.
What happens when you’re the boss? Growing bored with your business can happen. And when it does, it can make you second-guess your business decisions.
Ryan Turner, founder of ecommerce email marketing agency Ecommerce Intelligence, found himself bored and lacking motivation at the beginning of 2022. The combination of being isolated while working from home and managing a small team took a toll on him.
“This was a big change for me as someone who’s spent a lot of my career working in a large office environment — or at least in big virtual teams,” says Turner.
To overcome this, he joined a coworking space in Austin, Texas, where he met and could network with other professionals working on similar things.
“The energy of having other business owners and freelancers around me during the workday really helped,” Turner says.
They eventually set up recurring weekly calls where a few of them would check in and discuss the week, their tasks, goals, problems, and so on.
So, whether you’re a bored employee or business owner, finding your source of disinterest is critical to overcoming your bouts of “blah” moments. Mentorship and networking can shed light on your issues and guide your next steps so that you can regain the motivation to succeed in your professional endeavors.
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