Work Strategies

Workplace Hacks to Stave Off Boredom and Apathy

If your job is sedentary, lacks social interaction, or involves repetitive tasks, chances are it bores you — even if you love what you do. Here’s how you can turn those moments of apathy into motivation.

An ADHD worker who now loves his job.
An ADHD worker who now loves his job.

You may like your job and the people at the office well enough, but your daily tasks have become boring. We know that it doesn’t take much for someone with ADHD to get bored. If your job doesn’t offer variety, physical action, new challenges, or social interaction — elements that add a fresh perspective to the same old tasks — there are creative ways to bring these things to your work. Here’s how one adult with ADHD did it.

Losing the Boredom

As a young man, Jeff took a job in the accounting department of a large manufacturing company. Once he learned the routine, his work seemed too easy, too much the same. It was sedentary and socially isolating.

In his position in accounts payable, Jeff noticed that every month his company bought tons of scrap metal. He wondered what that much metal looked like. People with ADHD wonder a lot. Their natural curiosity often distracts them, but Jeff used his curiosity to make his job more interesting.

He walked to the far end of the huge plant until he found the scrap iron in carloads. He asked the foreman, “What’s this for? How do you use that? What are the challenges in your department?” The foreman was happy to answer his questions.

When Jeff went back to his desk, his curiosity was satisfied. He was refreshed from the walk, the change of scenery, learning something new, social interaction, and variety, and he found he could focus on his job better. He mulled over how the problems the foreman described could be solved.

After that first excursion, Jeff regularly livened up his job by walking around during his breaks and having conversations with people in different work roles. He spoke to a grouchy security guard with extra friendliness one day, and learned why the man was grouchy. In the cafeteria he made a casual remark to the man ahead of him in line. He was the vice president of communications. In other encounters, Jeff learned about challenges in the shipping department and listened to solutions offered by workers there.

Jeff’s curiosity made his job more engaging, and his initiative and knowledge of how the company worked won him a more satisfying position, where his main duty was to solve problems.

What can you do to bring more engaging elements into your work life?

Make Little (and Big) Changes

1. Turn your desk around to face a door or a window.
2. Do your afternoon chores in the morning.
3. Eat lunch with a person you don’t know.
4. Wear something more formal — or something more casual — than usual.
5. Do something new every day. Even minor changes can perk you up.
6. Or plan a big change at the company, then make it happen.

Move More

1. If you can’t stay in your seat, stand up to do your work, so you can sway or shift your feet.
2. Sit on an inflatable exercise ball, and build movement into your work without disturbing others.
3. Use the restroom three flights of stairs above or below your workplace instead of the one on your floor.
4. Take active breaks at intervals slightly shorter than your attention span, or as a reward for doing unpleasant or boring tasks. Take a shot with a foam ball into a wastebasket after completing each small item on your list. Stand up and stretch, then reach and lean over to retrieve the ball. You will go back to your to-do list with a little more eagerness.

Take on More

Job boredom usually comes from doing too little, not too much.

1. Challenge yourself by taking a class in a new skill that will help you at the job.
2. Ask for a project that will make you stretch mentally.
3. Near the end of the day, when others are clearing their desks, challenge yourself to do a few minutes of the first small task planned for tomorrow. Make it a game; try to beat the buzzer.
4. On Fridays, do a quick Monday job before you leave. Mondays will go better.

Interact More

1. When a dull job comes up, team up with a compatible employee to do it together, alternate tasks, or split pieces of the task.
2. Ask if you may join someone from another department at her lunch table.
3. Ask a worker in drafting, sales, or maintenance about her job.
4. Seek out face-to-face contact. When possible, go see someone you might otherwise e-mail. The quality of your conversation will be better, and, when appropriate, say, “Thanks! Can you confirm these points by e-mail?”

Each one of these tips involves elements that can get your dopamine going in a chain reaction that can lead to greater work satisfaction.

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