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14 Oct 2020 Austin Belcak

How To Be Productive When You’re Bored At Work

It’s 3:30 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon. You lean back in your ergonomic office chair and gaze blankly at a Google Doc outlining the new process for submitting weekly reports. Your eyes shift back and forth between your screen and the clock on the wall. The office is silent, except for the click-clack of keyboards and an occasional throat-clear.

There’s no denying it…you’re bored at work.

It’s okay — it happens to everyone at one point or another. Whether things are moving slowly or your tasks are feeling repetitive — succumbing to boredom at work is totally natural.

That being said, just because it’s natural doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it. In fact, by taking initiative, you can not only escape your boredom but convert it into productive ‘uptime’ — and in this article, we’ll show you exactly how to do that!

Below, we’ll be exploring:

  • Potential reasons you’re bored at work
  • Mistakes to avoid if you’re bored at work
  • How to overcome boredom at work and be productive instead

Let’s dive in…

A Few Reasons Why You’re Bored At Work

Before searching for solutions to your boredom, it’s helpful to first understand the root of the problem. Below are 4 common reasons you may be experiencing boredom at work:

#1: You have too much free time. This first one is a classic scenario. When work is moving quickly and you’re staying busy, the pace of your workload will often keep boredom at bay. But, if you have ample downtime (for example, if you easily complete your daily tasks before 5 p.m.), this sets the stage for boredom to creep in.

#2: You’re not learning new things. The human brain is a learning machine — it thrives on absorbing new information. But, once you get past the learning curve and master your work responsibilities, the rate at which you’re learning new concepts/skills can hit a sharp drop-off. And, when this happens, your work days can begin to feel mundane.

#3: You’re not tapping into your full potential. Similar to the above, in addition to learning, the human psyche likes to be challenged. When we’re faced with challenges — and then overcome those challenges — we’re rewarded with a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. However, if you’re no longer being challenged at work, you’ll lack opportunities to put your skills/abilities to the test — which can leave you feeling bored and disengaged.

#4: Your role isn’t aligned with your interests. This last one is an unfortunate reality in the modern professional landscape. The truth of the matter is, sometimes we work jobs that simply don’t interest us. We all need to work for a living (well, at least most of us) — and with such a competitive job market, many of us are led to accept jobs we’re less-than-thrilled about. And, if that’s the case, it’ll take more than a few quick tips to remedy the situation (more on this to come).

Don’t Make These Mistakes…

Now that we’ve explored some of the most common causes, let’s review 3 dangerous traps to avoid falling into if you’re feeling bored at work:

#1: Neglecting Your Work Responsibilities

A typical side-effect of boredom is the tendency to “tune-out.” When we’re not engaged in our daily activities, everything around us can begin to feel like background noise as our mind wanders off within itself.

And, when this happens, it can become all-too-easy to begin neglecting work responsibilities — as they just don’t appear very important or urgent (and this obviously poses an inherent risk to your career).

#2: Complaining To Coworkers About Your Boredom

When something is bothering you at work, it’s quite tempting to commiserate with your colleagues — especially with those you consider good friends. And, while it can provide some comic relief to crack the occasional “ugh, is it Friday?” joke, it’ll do more harm than good over the long-run.

Not only will you begin to put off a “downer” vibe in the office (which is not something you want to be known for) — but your complaints will also become a self-fulfilling prophecy, which leads us to our next point…

#3: Becoming Complacent In Your Boredom

There’s a common saying that “only boring people get bored.” While I don’t entirely agree, I think it illustrates a good point in this context. If you’re persistently bored at work, it’s easy to just throw up your hands and say, “work is boring, I wish it was more interesting” — without taking action to try to change it.

But, instead of resigning into complacency, you should try taking some proactive measures to resolve your boredom and get back into a productive and engaging workflow. And that’s exactly what we’ll be discussing in the next section…

How To Overcome Being Bored At Work And Be Productive Instead

Recall from above that three common reasons for feeling bored at work are:

  1. Having too much free time
  2. Not learning new things
  3. Not being challenged enough

You can solve all three of these by taking the initiative to engage in new activities that either fill your schedule, teach you something new, or challenge you in a novel way (and, ideally, all of the above).

On that note, here are 4 ways you can take action to kick boredom to the curb and start feeling more stimulated at work:

#1: Offer to take on additional responsibilities. If you have some extra bandwidth, talk with your manager about adding new responsibilities to your plate. The benefits of doing so can extend far beyond remedying your boredom. By taking on new/elevated responsibilities, you’ll stand out as a rockstar to the management team — which could position you for a sweet raise/promotion.

*Pro Tip: To tackle your workload, try using the Pomodoro Technique to manage your time with optimal efficiency.

#2: Brainstorm a creative new project. A great way to break out of monotony at work is to dive into a fresh project. Don’t wait around for an interesting project to be assigned to you. Instead, come up with one yourself!

To begin brainstorming, assess all the systems, tools, and processes you use and ask yourself, “What are the biggest pain points with these processes? Where could we improve?” Then, let your creativity run free in an attempt to fix the pain point. (Same as above, this will earn you major points with the management team.)

#3: Start a group or work-related event. Your company is likely teeming with talented, intelligent folks who’d be more than happy to share their knowledge and ideas. Consider organizing a meetup group or event that revolves around a work-related theme.

For example, if you work in tech, you could organize a mini-hackathon to get the creative juices flowing. Or, if you work in marketing, you could schedule a weekly meetup to critique/study the latest ad campaigns from popular brands. The possibilities are endless!

#4: Take an online course to cultivate your skills. Many companies are highly supportive of ongoing education for their employees. Talk to your manager about allotting a set time for you to begin learning a new skill that would be useful in your job role (or honing an existing skill).

In the age of the internet, there are so many online options to choose from when it comes to self-improvement and ‘e-learning’ (Udemy is a great example). And, in some cases, your company might even pay for your courses.

Is It Time To Move On?

If you try all 4 of the above recommendations but still can’t shake your boredom at work, this might be a sign of a deeper problem. Remember, there’s another potential reason for your boredom (aside from having too much free time or not being challenged enough): the role might just not be a good fit for you.

If you’re not satisfied with your job, it may be time to leave it behind in search of better opportunities. While job hunting can be stressful, it can also be the catalyst that propels you toward a much brighter future.

If you’re considering quitting your job to pursue new opportunities, be sure to check out my articles: What Should I Do With My Life?, How to Write a Two Weeks’ Notice Letter And Leave On Good Terms, and How To Get A Job Anywhere With No Connections.

Austin Belcak

Austin is the founder of Cultivated Culture where he helps people land jobs without connections, without traditional experience, and without applying online. His strategies have been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, & Fast Company and has helped people just like you land jobs at Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, & more.

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