Let me guess: You’re reading this because you’re at work right now and you’re bored to tears. I should know–I’m a recruiter, and I spend hours of my day on the phone with job candidates who are bored with their jobs and looking for new ones. But one thing I’ve learned by talking to them–and by reorganizing my own workday–is that on-the-job boredom sometimes isn’t so much a matter of what you do at work as much as when you do it. In other words, it’s a time-management issue.
Stop Doing All Your Boring Tasks At Once
I’ve started making a list of all my responsibilities and the time they take up. I draw a rough pie chart to display the data visually, and then I label each responsibility as a positive or a negative in terms of my interest level. If the negatives outweigh the positive, I know something has to change.
I realized that I was sometimes making the least exciting parts of my job more irritating to do because I’d put off tackling them earlier, and wound up with a big chunk of grunt work, with one boring task after another. It’s great if you can delegate some of these tasks–and breaking it into a “positive/negative” pie chart can help you get a lay of the land–but if not, you can just plan your workday so that the fun things alternate with the less-fun things. In one previous role, this trick helped me realize I could change up the time I wrote my weekly report, for instance. Whenever I had to finish up a mundane task, I made sure an exciting one would follow.
Identify Your Most Productive Hours
You need to know when you are at your best. It’s easy to feel bored by a function of your job if you’re trying to complete it when you’re not feeling at your physical or emotional peak. Not sure when that is? Here’s a quick, research-backed guide to identifying and maximizing your daily energy levels.
If you have the option, ask your boss for a more flexible schedule–even if you start small, say, with shifting your hours slightly just one day a week–so you can work at a time that suits you best. (Just make sure you frame your request in terms of when you’re most productive, not when you get bored the most.) Perhaps you can start and finish earlier or later, depending on whether you’re a morning person or a night owl. Maybe you can go home when your energy levels start to fade, and then return to work when they pick up again. In fact, one Fast Company contributor wrote recently that you might have more leeway in reshaping your working hours without your boss’s explicit go-ahead than you may think.
But even if you can’t hammer out a flexible schedule with your employer, try shifting the more tedious parts of your job to the times when your energy tends to be lowest. I personally like doing my easier tasks at night, because I found that my focus deteriorates toward the end of the day.
Look For Opportunities–Then Ask For Them
One of the unfortunate realities of the workplace is that it’s no one else’s job to make your job more interesting for you. Only you can do that. In just about every company, there’s bound to be a project or task that lets you learn and grow–and make you feel a little less bored.
So the next time you see a coworker take on a project that you wish had landed in your lap, ask them what they did to get it–and how they made the time to tackle it. Or ask your boss how you could get it next time, and which tweaks to your workflow you might be able to make in order to do that. This is a boredom-beating time-management hack rolled up in a career-advancement one: two birds, one stone.
While there are bosses who are personally invested in your career, many are too busy to realize what sorts of “stretch” assignments you might really excel at. So take the initiative and propose a few. Many managers will gladly give you the chance to try something new if you just ask. And in doing so, they’ll help shake up a tedious daily work experience in a way you might not be able to do on your own.
Still having trouble feeling engaged, but unable to leave your job at the moment? You can probably still find more fulfillment–you might just need to look for it outside your job. Whether it’s pursuing a side hustle, hobby, or goal unrelated to work, anywhere you can seek gratification outside of the office will probably make life better in the office.
Katy Spriano is a partner and director of recruiting at WinterWyman, supporting the accounting, finance, and administrative contract staffing division.