” The war between being and nothingness is the underlying illness of the twentieth century. Boredom slays more of existence than war. – Norman Mailer “
I’m not one to get bored, ever … but a number of readers have written in with the question: What do I do if I’m bored out of my skull at work?
It gave me pause, to think about why I can’t recall ever getting that bored at work. And I realized: I always keep myself busy, doing something, whether it’s productive or not.
Sometimes, I’m creating a new project, or improving myself somehow … but sometimes I just find interesting stuff to read online or find a cool solitaire game to play. (Well, I haven’t played any games in awhile, but Freecell used to be my poison of choice a few years ago.)
So the short answer: just find things to entertain yourself. Keep your mind busy. Challenge yourself. Talk to somebody. Break out of your mold.
The longer answer has to do with analyzing why you’re bored in the first place. Is your job that boring? Are you really doing what you want to be doing? Is there a way to start pursuing something better? Or are you already in a great job, but something or someone is holding you back? And what can you do to improve the situation?
I’m not going to pursue the longer answer in this post, but give you some ideas for the shorter answer. It’s not an exhaustive list of ideas. Just some things I’ve done to keep my mind busy — pick and choose those that might work for you.
- Create a new challenge. I think this is by far the best thing on the list, but you may differ. Many times we’re bored because we don’t have a challenge — things are too easy or routine. So instead of waiting for someone to create a challenge for you, do it yourself. How can you challenge yourself? Set a new goal at work. Challenge yourself to produce more than ever. Explore new projects. Set personal goals and pursue them. Whatever excites you.
- Pursue your next job. If your job is so boring you don’t know what to do with yourself, you may need to move on. But instead of quitting right away, start lining up your next gig first. Look around for openings, call people, update your resume and submit it to a few places, pick up a few applications, send out some email feelers. Find something that will never get you bored, something you’ll be passionate about.
- List your life goals. What is it you want to accomplish in life? Not just with work, but personally? If you’ve listed them before, it’s always good to update them. Then choose one of those goals to achieve this year. Now think about what you can do today to move closer to that goal, even if it’s just a small thing. Get the ball rolling. Do this every day — move yourself closer to that goal.
- Read Zen Habits. Or whatever your favorite distraction is. If it’s something that will improve your life, even better. Just limit how long you read at one time, so you’re not reading through the Zen Habits archives in one sitting.
- Declutter your workspace. If I’ve got nothing better to do, I’ll clear off my desk (if there’s anything there), or start looking around critically at everything in view and asking myself, “Does that really need to be there? How can I simplify this?” Weird, I know, but I have an oddly uncluttered workspace. Right now my desk is a table, my iMac, an nothing else. No files, no papers, no office supplies, nothing. Everything is done on my computer, and I love it that way. Nothing on my walls. You may not need anything as spartan as that, but decluttering can be a lot of fun.
- Pursue a hobby. My hobby (until it became a profession) was blogging … I would do it at work in my spare time, or before or after work. Not everyone can pursue their hobby at work — the model airplane glue might bother your coworkers, for example — but sometimes you can just read about it while at work. I was upfront about my blogging and freelancing at work with my boss, btw, but many people get away with doing it on the sly. I won’t make a recommendation, but just don’t get fired.
- Make your work a game. You can make a game out of anything. See how many widgets you can crank in 10 minutes. Pretend that your coworkers are evil villains. Imagine that you are a CIA agent in disguise, and no one knows. Or a fairy princess. Whatever floats your boat. 🙂
- Educate yourself. On Guam, this is called “edumacation” — it’s not a real word, but we like to play with English. Whatever you call it, you can improve your knowledge online in any area — whether that be work-related or not. Be your own college instructor. Wikipedia is a great place to start, but if you’re going to have a specialized knowledge in anything, branch out from there.
- Improve your skills. Along the same lines: choose a skill that needs sharpening, and challenge yourself to get better at it. Whether that’s computer programming, writing, working with Adobe InDesign, or whatever. Perfect your skills — you can use it to further your career, get a new job, or become self-employed. Or just have the satisfaction of knowing you’re the best you can be at that skill.
- Play Sudoku. Perhaps not the most intellectual game of all time, or the most exciting … but I still find it a lot of fun. I only played it a little while and didn’t get addicted like other people I know, but I have to admit it’s a fun way to pass the time.
” The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. – Dorothy Parker “