You used to love your job.
You were one of those people who was excited to get up in the morning, who talked about work all the time, and who may or may not have been slightly obnoxious about letting everyone know how awesome your career is.
And now? Well, let’s just say you’ve lost that loving feeling.
The bad news is, feeling bored or uninspired at work is pretty much the worst. The good? You’re not alone. Everyone feels this way from time to time, and even the most amazing jobs in the world have lulls.
But that doesn’t mean you have to run out and get a new gig. In fact, before you completely write off your current job, it’s worth at least trying to reignite the spark that was once there.
Consider the example of Binny Thomas, as featured in Seth Godin’s book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?. Thomas successfully revitalized a boring job and found herself totally re-inspired. Or as Godin puts it, she got a new job without leaving. How?
She stood up, spoke up, and started doing a new job. She didn’t leave her organization, didn’t even get a new title or new responsibilities. Instead, she started doing her old job in a new way. Binny stopped going to meetings with the goal of finding deniability or problems to avoid. Instead, she started leaning in and seeking out projects where she could make a difference. Suddenly, Binny was inspired. She was looking for opportunities instead of hiding from blame. She was putting herself on the line, probably through the dip, and making things happen. The fascinating (and universal) truth is that the opportunities came after she was inspired—she wasn’t inspired by the opportunities… All it took was a choice. Binny didn’t ask for permission to do her job better; she merely decided to.
Here’s what we can learn: If you’re bored with your job, know that you have the power to change it. Try these tips to bring some life back into a job that you used to love and hopefully—like Thomas—find yourself way more inspired.
1. Gain Perspective
One change you can make immediately is your perspective on your position. Instead of counting down the minutes until 5 or keeping a tally of all the times you’ve switched back and forth between your email and calendar, consider instead what unearthed opportunities might exist for you beyond your cube. A less perky way of saying that would be to keep your eyes open for problems that need solving. (And don’t stop there—look for ways to solve them.) Move one step past boredom, and look for ways to take action. No matter what you find yourself doing, you’re bound to feel more engaged. (Bonus: Your efforts won’t go unnoticed.)
2. Find Your Impact
One common source of dissatisfaction in work is not knowing whether you’re making a difference—whether that’s a difference in society or even a difference in your organization. But the fact is, no matter what you do, you very likely are. In fact, that’s probably a little bit of why you took the job in the first place. So, sometimes you just have to be a bit more intentional about thinking about it.
Next time you’re faced with a mindless task, take some time to take a step back and reflect on what your impact is or what greater cause you’re contributing to. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a noble cause like alleviating world hunger. Are you delivering great customer service or elevating the company brand? Maybe you’re just brightening one person’s day—whatever it is, take a moment to just recognize the impact you might be having.
3. Take on Risk
Like Thomas, consider putting yourself on the line more. If you find yourself wondering how much longer you’ll be sticking around in this job because your day is getting so dull, then it’s definitely time to be taking on more risk—both to keep things interesting and to develop yourself further. Try suggesting a new project to your supervisor for you to tackle or innovate on your current responsibilities by reevaluating how they’re carried out. Is there a way to streamline a process? A completely new way to approach a usually tedious task? If you can find ways to carve out more time in your day, just think: You can take on something much more exciting.
The main takeaway is this: It’s your choice whether you want to be bored or not at work (assuming you once didn’t have a boring job). Take a step back and think about what angle you’ve been approaching your job from—is it a particularly negative one? What impact are you making each day? And, what are you doing to make your own job more interesting? Boredom is important to address because your efforts to make your job more exciting don’t just benefit you, but also your long-term career. After all, what manager doesn’t want an employee who takes initiative and constantly thinks about impact?
Lily Zhang serves as a Manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab where she works with a range of students from AI experts to interaction designers. When she’s not indulging in a new book or video game, she’s thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author