A boring movie.
A boring book.
A boring lecture.
A boring meeting.
A boring summer.
A boring job.
Regardless of what you’re doing, boring is bad. Time moves like tar. Eyelids feel like bricks. The mind shifts into neutral. Enthusiasm plummets to record lows.
Whether you’re exploring a new subject or tackling an important project, boredom leads to lethargy. It creates apathy and steals away the creative energy that stirs both the emotional and mental enthusiasm we need to stay engaged in what we are doing.
A boring anything is a great way to destroy motivation in anybody. Nobody is flocking to watch, read, listen, attend or take pictures of anything boring. Unless, of course, the picture is intended to show your friends on Instagram just how bored you are with your continuing education workshop. #boredtodeath
There is a reason why people use the phrase, “bored to death.” In most cases, the dread of having to endure one more minute of boring is suffocating. Laments of boredom are never spoken with the cheerful and delighted tone of exuberance. Think Tigger. They are doled out with the apathetic purge of dread. Think Eeyore. What parent hasn’t endured that irritating whine of children in the second week of summer vacation, “I’m sooooo booooorrrrred.”
Boredom is the enemy of enthusiasm.
Keeping a bored workforce motivated and engaged in the job they were hired to do is an enormous challenge for many companies. Human Resource Departments around the world spend tremendous amounts of time, money and energy on trying to keep employees productive throughout the day.
Why do so many employees waste incalculable amounts of time on the clock fritting away valuable energy in the break room, on social media, and in superfluous conversations with peers? All too often it is because they are bored with their work. Their job has become so predictable and routine that it has sucked all of the motivation right out of them. In their boredom, they wander around – both mentally and physically - looking for something more engaging to keep them occupied until quitting time. YouTube, Facebook, texting, rearranging paperclips all become more interesting alternatives.
In this series of articles, I am tackling the topic of what it takes to love your job. I believe there are at least four fundamental ingredients that are a part of the recipe for enjoying the work you do. (We will consider the fourth ingredient in the next article of this series.)
The first is a deep passion for your work. You have to love the work you get to do or it will become an insufferable chore you churn through each week.
The second is a sincere appreciation for the people with whom you work. Constantly feeling annoyed, aggravated or worse, abused, by the people who surround you at work will turn your job into a prison rather than a privilege.
The third ingredient to loving your job is to have an interesting variety of tasks to keep you engaged. Variety is an important key to a sustainable interest in your job.
Nobody Likes to Be Bored
Studies of human effectiveness conclude there are generally two types of personalities when it comes to motivated energy. There are structured people and unstructured people. Structured people prefer a certain amount of standardization and definition to keep in their work. They like a sense of order in what they are asked to do. Unstructured people are motivated by more freedom and flexibility in their pursuits. They prefer a lot of latitude in how they go about getting their job done.
While both may be very different in how they are motivated, neither of them likes to be bored. Both structured and unstructured people need some variety to keep them interested in what they are doing.
With that said, variety for one person looks differently from variety for another person. The kind of variety that engages a structured person might bore an unstructured person. For example, a customer service agent may find enormous amounts of satisfaction in assisting clients from her call center cubicle. Both the variety of people she assists and the problems she addresses are almost exhilarating to her in terms of satisfaction. She sees her day as being full of helping people. An unstructured person in that same role can’t imagine anything worse than sitting in the same cubicle all day doing the same thing over and over again for eight hours. He sees it as eight interminable hours of having to make phone calls.
The essence of variety in your job is having several tasks or responsibilities that engage you on different levels and help you feel like you are doing more than one thing in a day. What you are looking for is an escape from repetition. As much as you may love pizza, to have to eat it every day for three months would ruin your appetite. In the same way, as much as you may love a certain task of your job, you still need to tackle some other projects that require different skills in order to keep your interest level high.
A word of caution is in order here. Too much variety can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed. Taking responsibility for too many tasks or projects can create stress and cause you to resent your job. While there may be a seemingly infinite variety of things you can do in your day, there is not an infinite amount of time in a day to do them. You should only accept responsibility for the amount of work you can accomplish with the time you have. Variety is more about the KINDS of things you are responsible for in a week more than the NUMBER of things.
Sustainability is an important value to honor in your work. While every job has “one of those weeks” or unusually busy seasons, if the pace you are keeping is not sustainable over a long period of time, you need to throttle back on the amount of responsibility you are assuming. For both professional and personal reasons, you need to clearly define how much variety you take responsibility for in your job. The key here is balance. Look for an interesting combination of responsibilities and projects that you can effectively manage with the time you’re at work each week.
Variety is the key to a high level of interest and enthusiasm for your job.
Ask any assembly line worker robotically performing the exact same task hundreds of time each shift for weeks on end about how satisfied and fulfilled he is with his job. I doubt you’ll find a highly motivated and extremely enthusiastic employee who can’t wait to go to work each day for the rest of his life. You don’t want to be that guy! A variety of responsibilities that require different mental and physical skills is an important key to a more satisfying work experience.
The sooner you arrange your schedule with this key in mind, the sooner you’ll unlock a greater enthusiasm and enjoyment for another week in the exciting career ahead of you.