We've all had moments--and in some cases, days or weeks--of boredom at our jobs. Maybe it's a slow season for your business and there isn't enough to keep you busy, maybe you just finished a big project and you don't have anything else on your plate, or maybe you have plenty to work on but it's comprised of such mind-numbing tasks you can't bring yourself to focus on them. You're bored, and it's slowly killing you.
Rest easy--it's not actually killing you. In fact, boredom can be a powerful motivator. If you're sitting at your desk, wondering how to make the time pass faster, try using one of these incredibly productive--and impressive--alternatives to boredom at the office.
1. Create Something. Instead of doing nothing, make something. You have the power, and depending on your position and your skillset, you can make just about anything you want. If you're skilled at communicating, write a blog post. If you're a developer, tinker with a side project. If you're a manager, experiment by sketching out a new possible workflow. Taking a moment to create something--anything you want--will stimulate a kind of momentum in your brain, taking your mind off the boredom and giving you a chance to explore something new. Plus, your new creation could actually be useful, both to you and your organization at large.
2. Browse the Web and Read. Browsing the Web isn't always the best strategy--in fact, it's one of the most toxic distractions around today. But if you're bored and you need something to pass the time, the internet can be a treasure trove of new insights and new information. Organize a few reader feeds or social-media lists to collect information that's actually valuable to you. Include news outlets, industry publications, and any other sources that might provide you with valuable information. The next time you're bored, consult one of these lists and read up. The new information will help you become better-rounded, and might give you a few great quotes or facts to cite in your next meeting with the boss.
3. Listen to a Podcast, Webinar, or TED Talk. There are hundreds of free resources dedicated to improving skillsets and expanding horizons for people all around the world. Take advantage of them! Subscribe to a podcast within your industry, or even one dealing with your own personal interests. Sign up for and attend a webinar hosted by one of your customers, one of your vendors, or even one of your competitors. TED Talks, too, always have new material available that can open your mind to new limits and realities in the worlds of science, technology, entertainment, and design.
4. Start Learning a New Skill. Nobody will mind you spending time at work improving your value to the company. Take a few minutes, or even an hour or two, out of your boring day to start striking some new ground in learning a new skill. You could sign up to Codecademy to learn a new programming language, or use a service like Coursera to find and sign up for a free online class. Your new skills might improve your abilities in your current position, prime you for a new promotion, or just give you something else to do with your time. Whatever the case, your time won't be wasted.
5. Chill Out. Boredom is actually valuable. It gives your brain a chance to decompress, and, more importantly, wander. Instead of feeling bored and desperately chasing some new distraction to occupy your mind, just let everything be the way it is. Lean back, look up at the ceiling, and try to appreciate your boredom for what it is. You may find new creative thoughts popping into your head out of nowhere. You might find new solutions to old problems. You might just daydream for a minute and snap back to reality--and even that can increase your productivity by allowing you to start fresh.
6. Visit Other Departments. Chances are, you don't work alone. Cure your boredom by visiting some team members in another department you're unfamiliar with. First, see if there's anything you can do to help out--if your boredom is from lack of work, you might be able to help reduce someone else's workload if they're overwhelmed. You could also swap tasks with someone from another department if you're both sick of doing them, or just learn something new from someone else in your company.
7. Find a New Job. This is a strategy for the chronically bored. If you find yourself suffering from boredom every day, or most days, it's probably a symptom of an ill-fitting job. Your skills might be underutilized, your work culture might be toxic, or you might just flat-out hate your industry. If any of these is the case, you cannot allow yourself to stick around. Start looking for a new job, and hopefully a new position will cure your boredom for good.
Don't view boredom as a burden, and don't let yourself feel guilty about feeling it. It's a natural part of the ebb and flow of a healthy work schedule. If you see your boredom as an opportunity to do something great or improve yourself, you'll be making progress in your career while killing time simultaneously. Use these strategies wisely, and put your boredom to good use.