With jobs at a premium, many of us are forced to take what we can get. And sometimes what we can get requires even less brain power than our “leisure studies” minor. Here’s how to make it better.
Day in, day out, same shit different day.
This is not how humans were meant to survive. Sitting in a cubicle or an office or staring at a computer screen for eight hours may not cause you to hate your job, but it is worse: It’s boring.
Routines can be good, sure. Forcing yourself to wake up at 6 a.m. and head to work is something of a blessing. It’s called a “work ethic” in some circles. But for those of us who need a little more, the whole S.S.D.D. thing gets old within a couple weeks.
And for those of you who want to get more out of working in a fluorescent-lit, ceiling-tiled hell, it comes down to a mindset: You probably can’t change your workplace into something resembling the Google offices — taking the giant metallic slide downstairs could be ruinous on your suit — but you can change the way you go about doing your work.
1. Set Short-Term Goals Throughout The Day
Whether you’re in it for the long haul building the foundation of a career or just building a worthy resume for future employment, most success experts always say the same thing: Be goal-oriented. The problem is, some of us are too big of fans of instant gratification to look ahead 10 years.
That’s where short-term goals come in. If you’re a person who thrives on working toward something (aside from the paycheck, that is), think of it like this. Every new day is like a new mission. With each mission comes a set of objectives. Fulfill each objective to move onto the next one and, at the end, feel as though you’ve successfully completed the mission. Fill out 50 forms in 20 minutes? Hell, I’ll send you a miniature trophy for that one myself.
Sure, this is basically a glorified checklist, but the mission/objective mindset makes things more serious. Even if the lives of a school bus full of children aren’t on the line, simply thinking of the boring 9-5 as a mission to get through can change things for the better.
Please note that this isn’t a call to go through the hallways in a full combat glide in a ghillie suit. That being said, achievements are a proven motivator. Just look at some of the video games out now. (A hundred headshots. Hell yeah, bro.) And if your job is really that boring, you’ve probably played those games during your downtime and know the raw, cathartic waves of victoriousness that wash over your fatigued bodies when the little trophies pop up on the screen.
2. Build (Professional) Relationships Within the Workplace
If you’re truly bored at work, that probably means you’re a big fish in a small pond. Or, well, just not doing your work. Both situations aren’t ideal by any means.
Playing the odds here, there is probably someone within earshot who feels exactly the same way you do. Although you may not end up rising through the ranks and owning the company in the next year together, just having the comfort that you’re not alone in your boredom can help. Not even just boredom, actually. Having someone or multiple people there you can talk to — people who you save stories to tell to Monday — is a commodity.
During some rough patches while I was working in the past, I was able to work through them while facing some fairly ridiculous adversity — for some background, someone had told me I wasn’t welcome in the workplace due to my ethnicity, among other things — because of the people. What got me through it were the people I worked with. More important than that, I worked for the people who worked for me and setting an example of fighting the good fight.
3. Count Your Blessing (Your Job)
It’s a simple concept, really, not warranting a lot of explanation. Think of it like this: There are people out there who are more educated than any of us. They have more experience. They are those who would take any job to support their families.
And they very well might take our job for less.
Since “job” and “hobby” aren’t interchangeable for most of us, hang tough. You have the one thing 8.3 percent of Americans (as of the end of July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) say they don’t have — and want: employment.
4. Step Up Onto the First Rung of the Corporate Ladder
If you’re looking to stay within the company, take a look at advancement. This, actually, is something of an evolved version of step one.
Being productive and showing your boss that you are indeed a hungry, driven employee is something that usually doesn’t go unnoticed. Getting all your tasks done on time or, better yet, ahead of time, means that, despite the monotony of your current position, you are motivated.
Cutting your teeth, earning your stripes, paying your dues, whatever you call it, it’s something that’s done in every industry and field. Whether you’re reaching your quota of dispersing free trial memberships or rewriting press releases with finesse, actively doing your job and letting the people who matter know you want to do it well is failsafe.
If it comes to it, take some initiative and ask the higher-ups if you can help with anything. You may be surprised when you’re inundated with responsibility, but that could be a good thing.
Music is a wonderful thing. The right type of song can make the most tedious, monotonous work seem like something completely different. If you’re allowed to listen to music, take full advantage of it. Get some good headphones and ride it out.
Example: Imagine sitting in a room and attempting to thread a needle. Put on John Coltrane’s Wise One. How relaxing. Now, think of doing it while listening to the Mission Impossible theme.
I can attest to the fact that music has a truly remarkable effect on people. One day, I found myself walking through the office, wordlessly giving people a bag of rubber bands, going to the computer and putting Ecstasy of Gold from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly on full blast. Cue the most epic rubber band Mexican standoff in history during which guys were literally riding office chairs on their knees between desks.
Even if you prefer to do things mindlessly, there’s a band for that. And if you work best while angry, there must be a Nickelback/Justin Bieber playlist out there somewhere.
6. Educate Yourself
In a fun way. If you’re finding yourself with constant time to kill — not just I-don’t-want-to-work time, but legitimate I-have-nothing-to-do-because-I’ve-done-everything-time — read up on anything.
Don’t go about dicking around reading something that won’t enrich your life or, hell, even your work experience. If you’re truly passionate about what you do but want a challenge, the Internet is overflowing with information about how to do whatever your job is better.
7. Eyes on the Prize
Keep something in the back of your mind to look forward to. Even put it down on paper if you must. I have a letter from my parents attached to the sun visor of my car that I read when I need motivation. In it, my father wrote, “Never, ever stop chasing your dreams.”
Even if it’s just a weekend hanging out with your best friend, there’s always something to look forward to. If your job is just awful, you have the weekend to look forward to. Or even clocking out. Thunderheads clear up eventually.
While this is also kindred to being a goal-oriented person, it’s more of a personal angle. This isn’t the mission, this is the pint after the mission and everyone’s home safe.
Keep your career in mind, your cash flowing and a positive outlook. Life is a journey, my friends, and if you have a clear view of the oasis a mile out, fall in and make a break for it.
8. If All Else Fails, Take Full Advantage of Being Off the Clock
If everything has failed, if no hope, no shimmer of light at the end of the tunnel remains, if all your goals have been achieved and nothing gets better, just live it up outside of work.
Do so much that, at the next morning at work, you’re just glad to have some time to sit down or relax. Make sure you can actually function, of course, but if you have no choice but to expend little energy at work, make it so the energy you have to expend and the brain power you have to use is challenging.
Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures.
9. Finally, Look For A New Job
If you’re confident enough that what you’re doing isn’t for you, it may be time to pack up. I’ll put the disclaimer here that this isn’t telling everyone to leave the job they’re in with starry-eyed hopes of becoming the next Anthony Bourdain, but if it really is that mind-numbing and impossible to fix, get something lined up that isn’t.
Leaving a comfortable, but boring job is something of a risk. Being unemployed is, by most measures, worse than having a tedious job.
Luckily for us, the Internet has largely replaced classifieds pages. Websites have more in-depth job descriptions and allow for instant communication via email, too.
Before you head out the door, though, truly evaluate what you’re doing. Is moving on for the best? Is it more detrimental to stay than go? Most importantly, can you survive without the job? It’d be paradise to be able to make decent money at what we truly love doing, but this is reality.
Be smart about how you steer your life and career, but never, ever stop chasing your dreams.