Bring Meaning to a Boring Job

Executive Coach and Entrepreneur in Residence Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin offers four ways to breathe new life into your daily grind.

From Elizabeth:
We’ve all had that moment on the job—when we’re down on what we’re doing, tired of what’s in front of us and looking to be inspired. Here are four ways to leverage your way out of the boredom rut at work. Bored at Work? Return Inspiration and Meaning to Your Job

1. Take action

In my work with high-performing executives, I’ve often found that boredom is a result of procrastination. Rather than taking up assignments we’ve been given and engaging with work, we avoid it, surf the web and complain internally or to others about our jobs. The fastest way out of the boredom rut is to kick yourself into gear on your to-do list. What have you been avoiding? What needs the most immediate attention? Tackling the tasks you know you need to handle will immediately lift your spirits and your energy. A word of advice: do the thing you’ve been avoiding the most first thing in the morning, before anything else. You’ll often find it takes much less time than what you’d expected, and can be accomplished with less dread. You’ll then be free to tackle other tasks with ease and greater energy.

2. Offer to take on more responsibility and grow your career in the process

If you’ve been facing down the same set of tasks day after day and feel like you could do your job in your sleep, it’s time to start looking for new levels of responsibility. Often, those are responsibilities held by someone senior to you in the chain of command. Have you noticed that your boss seems overwhelmed in communicating with new clients? Approach her, and offer to take some of the client communication off her plate. Does your supervisor need assistance in handling a new project? Suggest that perhaps you’re ready to take on more responsibility in overseeing that project, and to make her life easier in the process. The challenge of new responsibility always serves to kick-start our interest at work. And this strategy also has a long-term benefit: showing yourself to be a team player and adding to your level of responsibility sets you up for advancement down the road. When your boss considers who’s most ready to rise to the next level, you’ll be the first person who comes to mind.

3. Think creatively about how you can add to the pie

Here’s a fun experiment when you’re bored at work: imagine that you’re the boss of the whole company. What would you do next to grow the business? And how would that translate to your current role? Sometimes a game of pretend can invite bold new initiatives that inspire us to take our work to the next level. Do you have an idea about a new product to develop or a new client to pitch? How could you create new value for the company by offering a game-changing solution to a problem or a bright new idea? Making yourself invaluable at work is one way to make sure you get invited to great new projects and assignments that inspire. No one is more invaluable than the person who thinks creatively about how to grow their business—and by extension, their own careers—to new heights.

4. Take a break

Sometimes, boredom is really just a mask for overwhelm and exhaustion. It may be counterintuitive, but sometimes when we’re bored, what we really need is a true break. Are you in the habit, as many of us are, of not using all of your vacation time? Plan that next trip now. Or if you’ve maxed out your vacation time, take a mini-break—a walk around the block at lunch or a stroll through a local park when you ordinarily take a coffee break can serve to lift your spirits and your energy in the short term. If boredom spells exhaustion in your book, it’s also important to take a technology break. Put your phone in a drawer for the night and connect with your partner or a loved one in real time. Share your struggles at work and ask for feedback. You’ll be surprised at how much real-time connection can shift your perspective. Lastly, at least a couple of times a year, set aside a day for long-term planning. What do you want from your career over the long-haul? How does this current job fit into that plan? If your boredom signals that you’ve gone as far as you can go in this position, it may be time to move on. Evaluate the source of your boredom, seek creative solutions and take action! Inspiration will be yours once again in no time.

For more from Elizabeth, read her recent posts on our site—and visit her online at emclaughlin.com and 40percentandrising.com.

Image Courtesy of Ivanka Trump. Illustration by Jonny Ruzzo