It’s easy to think that if we’re pursuing our passions, living our dreams, or whatever the creative people are doing, then everything at work will feel “important, meaningful, and engaging,” as psychologist Heidi Grant Halvarson tells Entrepreneur. But the thing is, she says, every job is a job; even if you’re doing your life’s work, it’s still just a job.
And every job has boring parts. Sadly, we suck at being bored–as our free space-sucking, codependent relationship with our phones attests.
Beyond declaring that we prefer not to? One idea is to learn how not to get so freaked out by a lack of stimulation, which is hard since school didn’t give us the chance to build that skill set. Another is to follow the advice of Halvarson, who just wrote a book on Focus–so let’s learn how to focus.
“The ‘why’ of what we do is much more motivating than the ‘what,’ ” Halvorson tells Entrepreneur. So when you’re doing something less than exciting–like, say, wading through invoices–find a way to connect that task to a larger goal. If the invoice is one star in the sky, then the company–and you–getting paid is the larger constellation. Which is mightily motivating.
Research on flow, that feeling of being totally in the zone while you work, shows that that immersion happens when your skills match the difficulty of the task at hand. If what you’re doing is way too easy–again, invoicing isn’t the most cognitively demanding thing you’ll do all day–then upping its difficulty will actually make the task more enjoyable. If you did the task in 30 minutes yesterday, try doing it in 20 minutes today: Making a game out of beating your best time will make you more engaged, more productive, and less likely to run the hell away from your desk.
While we haven’t interviewed all of them, it seems like a solid inference to say that every company has parts of it that are less than optimized. We shouldn’t be afraid to improve process gone awry. Halvarson says: Ask yourself if you could organize it differently or modify its structure–would that make it better?
Another tactic is to follow Brazen Careerist founder Penelope Trunk’s advice and find the crap parts of your company and fix them. This will not only make you look good to your bosses, but if you can lead the overhaul of a broken part of the system–and make sure to track the numbers that show improvements–then you can put that little leadership case study at the top of your resume. Then you can get a less boring job.