Overcoming boredom at work… it’s not a problem until it’s a problem.
Certain topics feel taboo. While leadership may talk about buzzwords like “employee engagement,” “productivity measures,” and “job satisfaction,” saying you feel bored out loud can feel like a surefire way to end up in the unemployment office. Even thinking it can feel like you’re headed for trouble.
Take a few deep breaths and know it’s normal to feel disengaged sometimes, and overcoming boredom at work when you’re searching for a new opportunity can feel like pulling teeth. If left unchecked, you might even dread every. single. day.
Also, we can shift our energy and take intentional steps to get out of this rut.
Meet Lynne. After decades with the same company, she was about to lose her job to a COVID-related reorganization.
Lynne’s job search was taking ages, and not hearing back from the dozens of people in her network was a severe blow to her confidence.
She felt discouraged and defeated, leaving her feeling utterly bored at work.
She had zero motivation to finish out strong. In her current state, she just wanted to make it through the day. Lynne did not have the energy to give it her all until her exit interview.
We worked together to uncover what she needed to make the shift. Critically, Lynne needed help overcoming boredom at work. Together, we covered methods to feel alive again in her less-than-ideal situation, and now I’d love to pay it forward and share them with you.
Follow these five steps to beat boredom at work.
Step 1 – Permission to Rest
It may sound counterintuitive, but when all you do is go go go—when you feel the need to be chronically busy—you may be doing more harm than good.
Here’s a typical schedule from one of my clients:
7 AM to 9 AM – Get up, get ready, and drive to work
9 AM to 5 PM – Work
5 PM to 9 PM – Commute, make dinner, look for opportunities, network, and send applications
A quick glance at their schedule makes it obvious: there’s no room for downtime. Searching for a job while working a 9-5 fills up their schedule. They’re busy all day long.
The alternative is to schedule relaxation. Speed up to slow down.
Think about it in terms of self-leadership. If you’re leading others and they have hectic schedules, do you expect them to perform at their best? Probably not. To boost employee engagement, you would look at their job satisfaction. Your job would be to ensure their task load is fair, encourage them to fully utilize their lunch and mind breaks, and give them the resources they need to do well.
In other words, overcoming boredom at work requires balance and rest. Permit yourself permission to do what you enjoy. Dedicate 2-3 nights a week to your job search. Devote the other nights to rest.
Step 2 – Release Low Energy
“My employer doesn’t care about employee engagement.”
“What job satisfaction?”
You may be in a low-energy state if you say any of these things or even just struggle to beat boredom at work.
When you are in a low-energy state, you feel hopeless. You might think, “Why does this always happen to me?” You feel like the world’s out to get you, and you won’t find work that fulfills you no matter what you do. Overcoming boredom at work feels all but impossible.
Hint: To give yourself a chance to overcome boredom at work, you need to shift your energy.
Unreleased low energy will fester, and nothing good will come from it. Think of it like an Instant Pot with its contents under pressure. It will out, and when it does, it’s likely to affect your work, relationships, and total well-being.
To shift your energy into a higher state, call a friend, journal, talk to a coach, color in an adult coloring book, watch a movie that makes you feel nostalgic, or explore breathwork and meditation.
Insight Timer is a free app with thousands of meditations to choose from. If you want to learn more about meditation, the Ten Percent Happier app offers guided meditations and courses with insights and detailed instructions.
Step 3 – Get Inspired
Overcoming boredom at work doesn’t have to be complicated. There are simple things you can do to shift your energy, renew your vigor for what you do, and boost your overall job satisfaction.
Watch TED Talks, tune into podcasts about leadership and personal development, or listen to whatever you like to raise your energy. This American Life, TED Talks Daily, and Wiser Than Me with Julia Louis-Dreyfus are some of my favorites!
Downloading Audible and listening to audiobooks (during your commute) is a great option, too.
And it’s often true that inspiration finds us. Explore new hobbies. Take a road trip. Try something new.
In an ideal world, employee engagement and overcoming boredom at work would be frequent discussion topics. Until then, nurture your energy and spirit. When you put a higher energy into the world, it will return to you. Put your energy into finding inspiration.
Step 4 – Build Your Leadership Skills
Whether you’re putting in the hours at your job until you find something new or just want help overcoming boredom at work, one of the most empowering ways to do it is to build your leadership skills.
Boost your confidence and hone your talents.
I wholeheartedly believe good leadership starts with self-leadership. If you are experiencing any blocks, talk to a Career and Leadership Development Coach to map your way forward. A coach will work with you to develop a growth mindset and help you live by your values and motivators.
Taking leadership classes, reading books about leadership, and starting a women’s group at your company are other excellent ways to develop your leadership muscles. Create a women’s group, or any affinity group, to encourage diversity and inclusion. Gauge interest around the water cooler, talk to human resources about your plans, and develop a list of objectives or goals for the group to rally around.
A final method of overcoming boredom at work while boosting employee engagement and job satisfaction (i.e., building serious leadership skills) is volunteering to mentor a fellow employee.
Step 5 – Network, Network, Network!
What is the secret to overcoming boredom at work and greater employee engagement and job satisfaction?
One word: networking!
Even now, I love being a Career and Leadership Development Coach. Because I work with my clients remotely, I carefully carve out time on my calendar for in-person coffee dates with friends and work friendships.
If you’re feeling disengaged or restless at work, I highly recommend you do the same. Ask a friend to go to lunch!
Plus, use this time as an opportunity to grow your network. Ask someone you admire to get coffee. Connect with someone new on LinkedIn. Ask if they would mind answering a few questions about their company or role.
Revamp your LinkedIn profile, add a professional picture, and dedicate weekly time to making new connections.
And, in this digital age, don’t forget that connecting in person is possible and beneficial, too. Nearby networking events and mastermind groups are an excellent way to meet people in your local area.
Imagine you’re at work…
You’re sitting in your office surrounded by the same old things that have been there for years. Your white mug. Simple black pens. Photographs that are 5, 10, or even 15 years old.
You’re frustrated and bored. Job satisfaction and employee engagement feel like far-off and fanciful concepts to you.
Your attitude and immediate environment aren’t good, but with your current schedule, you don’t have time to do anything about them.
Now imagine what it might look like if you took a few nights for yourself. You meditate, color, and listen to inspiring TED Talks. Over time, you begin to sit up straighter and smile more. Working on your leadership builds your confidence. You start dressing the part and even bring in some new pictures and trinkets for your desk. When you mentor someone and people are in and out of your office regularly, you want it to look nice.
Finally, getting coffee with an old friend during lunch brings you joy. You return to the office with renewed energy and a fresh outlook on the day. Count me in if you need help putting any of these tips into practice. I’ve worked with dozens of high-achieving professionals and leaders to help them love what they do. Book a free clarity consultation to get started.