How to Handle Tedium and Boredom at Work

Every job gets tedious sometimes, some more than others. Some hate filling out paperwork. Some can’t stand making phone calls. And some wonder whether all the time and money they spent on college was really worth it when all they do at work is type in the same things over and over. Repetitive tasks like these can kill motivation to work in the best of us, no matter what position we’re in.

Oftentimes we try to blame the job for being boring, but the truth is that no matter what your job is it’s bound to have responsibilities that kill your brain with boredom. People in higher positions deal with just the same problems as those in entry-level jobs, albeit in a lower quantity. There may not be technology to take care of tasks like these, but changing the way you look at them can make all the difference.

Keeping Busy

By keeping yourself and your mind busy, you don’t give it enough time to feel bored. By focusing on getting as much done as possible rather than how much time you’re taking to do certain tasks, you will likely feel more engaged with whatever it is that you’re doing. The same goes for the effort you put in. By trying harder to do your work well, you end up wanting to actually do the work instead of just viewing it as a means to an end — that end being getting paid.

There may not always be enough work to do to keep you busy throughout the day, so instead, try coming up with little things to kill time on slow days. Spacing out your work and rewarding yourself every once in a while can help with this. Set goals for amounts of work done (amount, not time, since measuring in time taken has been shown to reduce productivity) and allow yourself a short break once you reach those goals. The added break time can help keep you occupied and fill up more hours during the work day.

Distract Yourself

Another way to deal with tedium is to distract yourself with things you enjoy to keep interested. When doing repetitive tasks, it may help to distract your brain with music. After all, many people listen to music while working out or doing household chores, so why not apply the same tactic at work? Listening to your favorite playlist or podcast makes time seem to flow faster, and the fusion of responsibility and enjoyment makes the job feel much less dull.

Switching between tasks can help in the same way. Doing the same thing over and over is a recipe for boredom, so alternating between things you like doing and those you don’t ensures you don’t fall victim to this. It also means you don’t have to suffer through a large block of uninteresting work for hours on end, which makes it more tolerable.

You may also find interest in improving your skills or learning something new in between tasks. Whether related to your job or not, the sense of accomplishment you feel when you get better at something improves your morale and, in turn, kills your boredom.

Turn Mundane into Fun

This may seem odd, or even impossible, but it isn’t difficult to change your attitude towards seemingly mundane work. One way to do this is to change your perspective on it. To start, even if it seems weird or stupid, try to take pride in your work. By telling yourself your output is something you’re proud of, your mind eventually starts to believe it, and you become more willing to work towards producing said output.

Some sources say it helps to make a “game” out of your work. Games are fun for people of all ages, and gamification has been proven to improve motivation and enjoyment across a range of applications. This could be anything, depending on your line of work — you could challenge yourself to produce a certain amount of output in a fixed time interval, try to compete with coworkers carrying out similar tasks, or even create a point system to reward yourself after you’ve earned enough points.

Accept Your Fate — and Make the Best of it

Tedium is inevitable. No matter what field you work in or how long you’ve been at a job, it’s bound to settle in at some point. What’s important is that you accept it when it hits. Nothing good comes out of moping around and complaining and by doing so you not only make your own mood worse but your coworkers’ too. This will cause people to avoid you, and makes you more likely to perform poorly at work.

We do our best work when we’re happy, so by giving in to the unhappiness you can’t work as well and the decreased performance means you’re likely to be stuck doing the same repetitive tasks for longer.

Accepting the tedium, on the other hand, changes this. It may not be easy, but adapting the above tricks into your work and accepting the tedium can be very effective ways to make tasks seem less boring than they are. The best way to beat boredom is to accept it. It is a luxury, after all.

Boredom is an emotion mostly felt by people with at least some degree of privilege, working a job where they can afford to feel bored instead of worrying about whether they’ll be able to make ends meet. Trying to feel grateful for things like that can make you feel happier still, though it may be the hardest habit on this list to adapt.

Final Thoughts

Boredom can be awful to deal with, but it’s an inevitable part of our lives. However, if you’ve tried the above strategies and still can’t bring yourself to feel motivated to work, it may be time to look for a new job. It could be that you’re dissatisfied with your employer or workplace itself and not what you’re doing, so maybe a change of pace is in order. In any case, it always helps to try and alleviate the boredom you deal with first — it never does more harm than help.