098: Bored at Work? Here's the Antidote
Bored at Work? Here’s the Antidote
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about boredom at work. Not only for my clients, but because I’m dealing with a bit of boredom in my own work. I’ve just completed a couple of big goals in my business, and I’m challenged now with finding the next big thing I want to go after…so I’m a bit bored at the moment.
Which got me to thinking about how some people stay at the same job for decades and totally love their work, while others feel stagnant after just a few years.
The Stages of Learning
Here’s the point: when you’ve been doing the same task, the same way, for a while, you become unconsciously competent at that task.
In other words, your brain, in its propensity to want to be efficient, creates a neural pathway relative to that task, and relegates that task to your subconscious. You can do that task without really thinking about how to do it.
Here are some examples of unconscious tasks you may do daily:
-Drive to work
-Brush your teeth
-Walk your dog
-Tie your shoes
Once you tell your brain “It’s time to go to work,” your subconscious takes over with grabbing the car keys, locking your front door, walking to your car, unlocking your car, putting the key in the ignition, backing out of your parking space, and pointing your car in the direction of your work.
If you had to give conscious thought to each of those tasks, your brain would be very busy…and would have very little capacity to think of much else during the time you were consciously getting yourself to work.
How does this relate to work? Let’s say you work in public relations, and one of your jobs every day is to scan social and print media for mentions of your employer.
You’ve been doing this task five days a week for a year now, so your brain has become very efficient at doing it. You have a system in place to get this task done, and your brain has practiced going unconscious until you find a mention of your employer.
While you are very efficient at performing this task, you begin to find it very boring. You’re not learning anything new, so you’re not forming any new neural pathways. Your brain isn’t getting a workout, so it might be going a little soft in the middle.
Ways to Stave off Boredom at Work
With all of this in mind, here are some suggestions for how to shake things up so that your brain is engaged more at work:
Do the rote task a different way
Do the rote task in a different location
Do the rote task at a different time of day
Break up the rote task into bite-size chunks, if it is time-intensive
Create a challenge/reward around the rote task
Swap your rote task with a coworker’s rote task
Learn something new while doing the rote task (such as listening to an educational podcast)
Ask to take on a new responsibility that will NOT be rote for you
Speak with your boss about reassigning the rote task so you can take on something more challenging for you
Use puzzles, games, and other tools to engage your brain
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