In an era of instant gratification, boredom is a state of mind we simply don’t tolerate. In fact, many of us would even choose pain over boredom with a study showing that two-thirds of men and one-quarter of women would rather perform electric shocks on themselves than sit alone for 15 minutes.
Unfortunately, it seems a lot of us are bored almost daily, with 70% of employees admitting to being bored at work. While workplace boredom doesn’t seem like a good indication of a fruitful career, it doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. It can be used to channel a number of positives in your job.
What to do when you're bored at work
Ask for more responsibilities
If you are sick of doing the same thing and are working on autopilot, force yourself to look for more challenges. This not only shows your manager that you have the drive and ambition to challenge yourself, but also gives you the opportunity to grow professionally. Boredom can act as a warning that we are simply not doing what we want to be and motivates us to move on to new projects. Working on a new challenge could mean you learn some new skills, or at the very least will alleviate the boredom.
Contrary to what you might think, boredom can stimulate new thinking. Studies have shown that boredom can actually have boost creativity. A lack of external stimuli to engage you, forces you to look internally and think out of the box. In a study by the University of Central Lancashire, two test groups were asked to either copy numbers from a phone book or not and then to think of different uses for a pair of plastic cups. Those who had endured the boring phone book task came up with the most creative applications.
Next time you find yourself daydreaming in a meeting, don’t reach for your phone, use the creative pause to allow your mind to explore and you could find the innovative idea you've been looking for.
Reassess your attitude
Millennials are often categorised as expecting too much from everything, including their career. While we should all seek purpose and meaning from our jobs, we can’t expect complete fulfilment at all times. Try and embrace the positives you experience in your job and make them your focus.
Focus on career progression
When we daydream, we are less likely to think about what’s happening around us and more likely to think about what we want for our future selves. This can help focus our minds on what we want to achieve and when. Using these moments to formulate our professional goals makes good use of our bored spells. Albert Einstein's scientific masterpiece, The Theory of General Relativity, it is claimed wouldn't have come to life if it wasn't for Einstein's propensity for loafing around. The roots of his best ideas came about when he took time off from school, without the pressure to achieve anything at all.
While boredom can lead to positive outcomes on occasion, consistently feeling bored in work is a reason for concern. If you find yourself disinterested day in day out, and your boredom is draining you, it might be time to consider a new career that challenges and excites you.