Are you in a situation like this? Your work was exciting when you started this job, but the shine has worn off over time. You’re bored. It’s a good paying job with a good company. You like your manager and the people with whom you work. But that doesn’t make the work any less boring. Should you start looking for another job?
Changing jobs isn’t your only choice. There’s no guarantee that you won’t experience the same kind of boredom after a short time at a new job. But that doesn’t mean you should settle for boredom either. Boredom with your work should be a signal that you need to engage in some self-reflection and make some changes. Here’s what you can do:
- What am I doing (or trying to do) when I feel bored?
- What am I best at, and what do I enjoy most?
- When have I experienced a sense of “flow” at work? (Flow is a state of being so immersed in your work that you can lose track of time and work for a long time without feeling tired or bored). What was I doing during that time?
Assess Your Work Diet
Make a pie chart that represents the amount of time you spend each week doing the various tasks or activities that are part of your job. This is a picture of your work diet.
- Color slices of the pie green if they are areas where you experience flow or where you’re working at the intersection of your greatest success and your greatest enjoyment.
- Color slices of the pie red if they are areas where you consistently feel bored or unsuccessful.
- Color any other tasks and activities yellow.
Focus on the Green
How can you get more green in your work diet? How can you do more of those activities that are green now? What kinds of activities are you not doing now that would fall into the green if you could add them to your work diet? If you find ways to do more of the green, the proportion of time you spend in red and yellow activities will automatically decrease. This is a strengths-focused approach to managing your work diet.
Enlist the Help of Your Manager
Armed with this new self-awareness, a picture of your work diet, and a strengths-focused approach, go to your boss, explain the self-reflection you’ve done, and ask questions like this:
- What do you wish our team could achieve that we’re not making progress on now?
- Is there a way I could increase the kinds of activities that are green on my pie chart and add some activities I predict would be green while also increasing your ability to achieve the goals you have for our team?
- Is there a way I could decrease the kinds of activities that are red on my pie chart without creating an obstacle to achieving the goals you have for our team?
This kind of conversation gives your manager a clear picture of how to help you do your best work and begs the question of how your strengths can contribute in a bigger way to the overarching goals of the team. It turns something negative (boredom and lower engagement) into an opportunity to stimulate growth -- for you, your manager, your team and even the organization. And no matter how your manager responds, this activity represents growth for you because self-awareness, self-management and crucial conversations are key qualities of the best leaders, and all three are part of this approach to addressing your own boredom.
Kim Turnage, Ph.D. works as a Senior Leadership Consultant for Talent Plus and with her colleague Larry Sternberg is author of Managing to Make a Difference. She writes regularly on leadership and everything that goes along with it. Find more of her work here.