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Bored at Work? Here Is What to Do About It

Step one is acknowledging the problem.

Are you allergic to boredom? If you like achieving I will bet you are. There is always something new to learn and do — maybe you are attracted to complex work like building business plans or product roadmaps. But no matter how busy you are sometimes the boredom lingers. It is a real feeling, even though we do not always express it. Sound familiar?

You have likely read a lot about the impact of stress in the workplace. But what about boredom? There are plenty of stress management courses, but none for boredom. And yet nearly 70 percent of U.S. employees self-report as checked out at work. Scary stuff. Easier to ignore and keep moving.

But I wonder if we have been thinking about boredom all wrong. Maybe we need to express our feeling of it more often — especially when it comes to work.

Now, to be clear, I am not referring to occasional quiet times on the job. I am talking about a persistent dullness. No sparks. The kind of boredom that surfaces and settles into your everyday. The type of lethargy that drains you. 

Your instinct may be to distract yourself with some new hobby or side hustle. But I think boredom at work merits attention. It is a warning sign that your primary job is no longer challenging or fulfilling.

Perhaps you lack a sense of purpose. Or you have mastered tasks that once seemed difficult or even impossible. Whatever it is, admitting that you are bored takes guts. You may worry that your job will be in jeopardy or that a pile of busy-work projects will land on your desk if you do.

You may even feel guilty, as if confessing boredom (even to yourself) means you are ungrateful. But you should not blame yourself for having the drive to want more.

Stop denying that ambition. Name the feeling — say you are bored and go talk with your boss or a respected leader in your company. Get their perspective and guidance. You will be surprised how willing people are to help when asked.

Perhaps they will agree that you are ready to take on tougher challenges at your current job. Or it could be that you are in a role that will never fulfill you — time for something entirely new, a new role or a new type of job like remote work. Focus on what it is you want to accomplish, then chart a course to get there. Sounds easy, but it takes work. And it may not happen quickly. 

You can start by creating a life roadmap. I’ve written about this topic before. Here is a simple fill-in-the-blank to get you going:

I will achieve____(what)_____, by this date____(when)_____, by taking these actions____(how)_____, for this reason_____(why)_____.

I do not know what a boredom management course would look like. But I do know that filling in the sentence above will get you thinking about what’s next and hopefully keep you from wanting to attend one. Because every day that you spend bored at work, going through the motions, is one more day that you are shortchanging your potential.

Yes, it takes courage to admit when something is not quite right, and then even more courage to tell those around you and take steps to change it. But remember: You deserve to find work that fulfills you and gives you purpose.

So go ahead. Give yourself permission to admit you are bored.

Now — what are you going to do about it?

Originally published on the Aha! blog

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