How to use your boredom as a launch pad to a better career
We all get bored.
Every job, however dreamy, has hours or days where you’ll find yourself in a state of ennui. A little bit of boredom is even good for you (science says so). Boredom leads to daydreaming, which in turn leads to innovation. The catch: it’s so-called “occasional boredom” that prompts our creativity and makes us better at our jobs.
“Chronic boredom” (boredom that you feel frequently, or even – ergh – most of the time) is different. If you find yourself bored at work on a daily basis, it’s time to do something differently.
To start, figure out what’s behind the boredom
Anything that sparks your curiosity is a good thing, and what better subject than the boredom itself? You need to accurately diagnose the cause of your boredom before you can successfully cure it, or you’ll find yourself back in the same state sooner than you think.
So if you’re feeling bored, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you need a break?
- Do you need to eat or drink something?
- When’s the last time you got up and moved?
- Are you spending too much time on monotonous tasks, and is there anything you could automate?
- Would music help? How about listening to an audiobook or book on tape while you work on the mindless stuff?
- Is something missing from a project that’s stopping you from really getting into it? Have you identified the real goal, or does it need more work?
- Do you need an inspiration break?
- Is it time to move on to a new challenge?
If you pinpoint the true cause of your boredom, you’ll be able to find a solution that actually helps, rather than “accidentally” wandering into six more hours of cat videos.
Now what? What to do once you’ve identified what’s underneath your boredom
Depending on the depth and breadth of your boredom, one of these ideas may well be the key to cracking it.
Take a break
This is probably the most common cure for boredom, but the key is that it needs to be a real break. By giving your brain a chance to shift away from a task or project, you give your subconscious a chance to figure things out, while the rest of you gets to recharge. When it’s time to get back to it, you’ll be ready (and possibly surprised by the new ideas you find waiting for you).
Sleep – maybe the purest form of break – has been the source of countless breakthroughs in thinking and creativity. These 11 dream breakthroughs might convince you (or, you know, your boss) that a mid-day nap is just what your workday needs.
If you think that might be too difficult to manage, some meditation could boost your attention and creativity in just a few minutes. Beginners can check out resources like 10% Happier and these top apps for a low-key introduction to meditation.
Productivity is cyclical, and for every action we take, we also need to take time to recharge and replenish our well of ideas. If you’re working on a project that you know you’re actually excited about, but you’ve hit a wall, it may be that you just need a boost of inspiration.
Steve Gordon, director of RDQLUS Creative Arts and Marketing, advocates recharging that creative battery: “My boredom is usually the loss of curiosity. If I catch myself bored with a project, I’ll stop to read magazines or watch a film, even in the middle of the day. I search for something far away from work, yet linked to the same battery crucial to that work.”
Whether or not you have the freedom to watch a movie at your desk, you can use a similar approach. Seek inspiration in whatever ways are available to you: Pinterest, a local coffee shop, or even observing what’s happening in your office. Restore your curiosity, and let it lead you to a connection you couldn’t have made otherwise.
Move on to new challenges
It may be that you’re over your work, and no amount of inspiration-seeking is going to cover up the fact that you need something new. Whether it’s a new project, a side hustle, or a totally new career path, find some way to make a change.
Maybe it’s time to take a course, or talk to your boss about taking on more responsibility, or finally figure out what you really want to do with your life. Again, your curiosity comes into play (and the importance of identifying what you really need and want cannot be underestimated). Treat your life and career as one of your most important projects; tap into your analytical mind, your creativity, and your project management skills to find and take the right next step, out of stagnation and into something great.