Most of us have been there at one time or another – bored on the job and striving to keep the motivation going, wondering how to make a boring job more interesting. If you’ve ever found yourself watching the clock or about to fall asleep on the job, there are some tried and true ways to make time move a little faster.
The first step is to take stock of why you might be bored at work:
- Are your tasks repetitive?
- Do you feel a lack of motivation?
- When are you most likely to become bored – is it an afternoon slump, sporadic throughout the day, related to certain tasks, or only on certain days?
Based on when and why you experience boredom, you can take some steps to improve your situation.
1. Avoid distractions and avoid boredom too.
Days drag on when you’re struggling to focus on the task at hand. If you find your mind or your attention wandering or feel stuck on a certain task, it may be time for a quick break, a walk outside, or a few deep breaths and stretches. Whatever you do, avoid looking at your phone or other distractions that take you away from work, and try to stay present in the moment.
2. Try not to look at the clock.
If you find yourself looking at the clock every 5 minutes, set yourself a mental challenge to make it 10 minutes. Then 15. When you avoid looking at the clock it requires you to focus on something else, which is sure to make the day go faster. If it’s too much of a challenge, remove the clock if you can, or keep your phone in your pocket.
3. Take initiative – it makes time pass faster!
Look around at a job you would like to do or a new task you would like to take on, even if it’s outside your job description. Maybe you would enjoy training new coworkers to do your current job, or you’d like to learn someone else’s job so you could be their backup. Let your boss know of your interest and ask if there is anything you can do to get you there. In this way, you may find a way to do more tasks that you like doing. Taking initiative to do someone else’s routine tasks may make you more valuable to the company as you learn new skills. This could also help your career by leading to a new job, a better job, higher pay, or a higher position at the company.
4. Lend a hand to make the day go faster
Look around at what others are doing, and offer to help co-workers that might be behind and could use a hand on a specific task. If someone drops their tools, offer to help pick them up. If they are moving too slow due to stressful events in their life, talk with them and ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Helping out can make a boring task more fun, almost always makes you feel better, makes co-workers like you more, and makes the day go by faster. And it could get you noticed by management – in a good way.
5. Engage your other senses to keep the day moving
If you can, listen to music while you work, or listen to podcasts when you’re doing a repetitive task. Research shows that when you listen to music you like, whether it’s jazz, hip hop, or heavy metal, it can inspire a whole different state of mind. Adding the sense to hear something upbeat helps boring jobs seem less routine and more exciting.
Besides listening, you can also engage your sense of smell, taste, or touch. Create a mental list of what you can smell on the job, think about tasting your favorite snack on your lunch break, or experience the feel of metal parts in your hands when working on a new project. Being more present can not only make the day go faster but can also make it less stressful.
6. Be social to make the day fly by
It’s not necessary to be friends with everyone who enters your work zone, but polite interactions make time move more quickly and make the workday a bit more fun. You may find yourself looking forward to your break and chatting with a certain coworker about the scores in yesterday’s game or something funny that happened yesterday. This can make both of your jobs less boring.
Forming positive relationships with coworkers has the side benefit of helping things run more smoothly. You’ll find the day goes a little faster for you and your co-workers too. And if the people around you get to know you and like you, they may be more inclined to help you.
7. Understand the benefits of doing tedious work
According to researchers at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK, being bored makes us more creative. Many times our most creative thoughts come when we’re doing something tedious or routine, like taking a shower, raking leaves, or working on an assembly line. Not everyone can write down their ideas while at work, but try to remember the best ones that come to you when your job requires you to perform the same tasks over and over. Imagine the possibilities of your ideas and think of an action plan to act on them.
Of course, there are the obvious benefits to your boring situation – a paycheck, insurance, a way to productively occupy your time, a good commute, or opportunities to build skills and employment history. Whatever the upsides are, it can help to remind yourself of those benefits and form a plan to increase them. Remind yourself that this period in your life is temporary.
Tied to that, know what you want from your job. Although we all work for a paycheck, there may be more to it than that – security, a good future, a home, a way to support a hobby, or a family. Perhaps you want to be able to go home at the end of the day to your own life without having to bring work home with you, or perhaps you want to develop some new abilities or gain some references. Finding a purpose and understanding the benefits of tedious work makes it easier to find reasons to stay engaged.
8. Try to get enough sleep
A tired mind becomes restless easily. If you find yourself counting the minutes, or having a hard time staying focused, it might be that your brain is looking forward to some rest. Becoming disciplined about bedtime can help, and so can leaving your phone outside the bedroom.
9. Stay busy to turn hours into minutes
If it’s hard to stay busy and you feel bored, you might consider asking for more work. Your company will love you for that one! Or if your job is repetitive and involves repetitive tasks, why not set yourself a quota, see if you can beat it, and create fun rewards for yourself when you do? Or start making friendly wagers with coworkers about who can do the most in a given time period. It might help form stronger bonds with coworkers too. While seeming small, these strategies can help turn hours into minutes.
There are a lot of options here suggesting what you can do when you’re bored at work. Next time you’re feeling bored, choose an example or two above that peak one or more of your interests. You will reduce boredom, exercise your brain, find a fun way to make your boring job work for you, and possibly earn a promotion.