HOW TO KICK WORK BOREDOM
Pallavi Pinakin presents tips and tricks to motivate yourself in the workplace
Boredom is a frequent companion at work for many of us, right? No matter how interesting, creative or fulfilling your primary job may be, there are always tedious items on the agenda – administrative housekeeping, compiling wordy documents, upskilling to keep pace with the changing times and so on.
But dull or not, these tasks need to be ticked off the to-do list. And endless procrastination can have a seriously negative impact on your growth and success.
So how can you move past the boredom and motivate yourself to keep going?
Almost every productivity expert stresses that it is crucial to keep the end goal in sight. Make it a point to consciously identify the ‘why’ behind each activity.
Why are you entering data into mammoth spreadsheets? To boost your team’s (and ultimately your own) performance. Why are you learning to use a new project management tool? To earn a place in an elite team of specialists.
Knowing the ultimate aim gives context to mindless monotony, adding meaning and significance to it. More-over, visualising the final result provides you with the inspiration and positivity you need to power through. Along with intentionally thinking about your purpose, you can use other techniques to keep it uppermost on your mind – think personalised playlists, ‘mood boards’ that capture your vision of success or a journal in which you pen your cherished goals.
While some tasks can be made more interesting, others may prove more difficult. A potential solution is to transform an activity into a habit. You know how fitness trainers insist that beginners must visit the gym every day whether or not they’re in the mood. So you can apply a similar maxim to tedious tasks.
Whether your Achilles’ heel is tracking social media metrics or practising French grammar, work at it consciously for 30 consecutive days. That means spending at least half an hour on it preferably at a set time every single day. Yes, it will be dull and often, you won’t feel like doing it; but if you to stick to it for 30 days, the activity will come naturally to you and automatically integrate into your routine. In other words, it will become an unconscious habit.
Another great way to tick off boring tasks without wasting excessive hours on them is to focus deeply for set periods of time punctuated by short breaks.
The Pomodoro Technique is a tried and tested method that combines intense work with breathers. It is also wonderfully simple. Switch off all your devices, set the timer for 25 minutes and get down to work. When the alarm goes off, force yourself to take a five to 10 minute breather – have a cup of tea, chat with a colleague or listen to a couple of songs. Then set the alarm and start all over again. This technique enables you to be hyper productive in bursts and beat the tendency to procrastinate.
Given today’s constantly changing business environment, it’s become critical for employees to continually adapt and learn new skills from mastering software introduced at the office recently to learning a foreign language in order to service certain markets.
In ‘How To Get Excited About Topics That Bore You,’ published in the Harvard Business Review, Barbara Oakley describes her personal learning journey: “I used to be the prototypical young math-phobe: I flunked or barely passed any math course. The young version of me would have been shocked to learn that I would eventually become a professor of engineering, enchanted with mathematics and comfortable in the world of technology.”
Oakley goes on to explain that labelling something ‘boring’ is often a reaction to finding it too difficult or incomprehensible. But you can become interested in and even passionate about these subject areas. Knowing the science of the brain can be helpful.
For instance, did you know that we learn more effectively by switching between a state of focus and state of rest? So if you don’t understand something right away, it’s not because the topic is too tough or you’re not smart enough; it is that you haven’t given your brain a chance to absorb and process the knowledge.
Finding meaning in boring tasks, turning them into automatic habits, developing a focussed approach to work and adopting a more realistic attitude to learning are long-term strategies to overcome boredom at work.
In the shorter term, you can work with a partner to alleviate the tedium. For example, if your colleague and you both hate doing paperwork, schedule a weekly meet up to tackle the worst of it.
You don’t actually have to collaborate – just sit together and focus on the task at hand. You and your buddy can offer each other crucial motivation when distraction begins to beckon. And when you meet your targets, reward yourselves with something that is fun.