It's no wonder that so many people count themselves among the zombies who show up for work each day. When two-thirds of people report feeling tired or bored at work, it's time to ask why - and what can be done.
If you feel as though you're going through the motions, without experiencing any real joy from your work, it's time to address the underlying reasons. Boredom's causes vary, so you'll need to stare reality in the face and see if you recognize any of these hard truths:
1. You're on autopilot.
When we're bored, our brains shift into autopilot - a problem for you and your company. Unfortunately, this is what our brains are hardwired to do best. Past experiences create neural pathways upon which our survival depends.
The brain interprets your current reality and responds with behaviors that have served you well in the past. Such shortcuts help save time, but they can also sap your interest.
Even worse, past behaviors may not fit current situations, leading you to make obvious and avoidable mistakes that have the potential to damage your reputation.
2. Your energy level is low.
When we're bored, our energy level dissipates. We lose the essential focus and purpose required to engage in truly meaningful work. Our brains no longer work for us; in fact, they actually start to work against us.
The solution may be as simple as taking a break or getting some physical exercise to promote blood flow to your brain.
It's dangerous to engage in negative thinking or self-talk about your lack of energy (i.e., attributing it to your personality, abilities or the nature of your job). These undermining messages exacerbate the problem, so treat them as a sign that you need to oxygenate your brain cells.
3. You find yourself conforming.
It's not unusual for people to start "sleeping on the job" once they hit year 3 or 4. At this point, they know their coworkers, processes and technology aren't perfect but have adjusted to inherent limitations. Interest in opportunities for improvement begins to wane.
Each day brings the same set of problems and responses. From a performance perspective, the sharp "blacks" and "whites" so obvious on Day 1 become indistinguishable shades of gray. At one point, you may have been saying, "I can't believe what's going on here!" You now find yourself saying, "I can't believe how tired I am!"
4. You're underwhelmed.
You may not be challenged enough by your current responsibilities. Either you've become too efficient and quick at completing your tasks, or you haven't been given demanding assignments.
It's your responsibility to speak up so change can occur. Your manager may not know you're ready for more. Don't be afraid of having too much work to do.
Before your boss notices that you're sluggish and bored, ask for new assignments. Better yet, put on your innovation hat and make suggestions for your own job-enrichment program.
5. You're overwhelmed.
We sometimes withdraw from everything in an attempt to control chaos and stress. What looks like lack of commitment and disengagement is actually an effort to distance ourselves from feeling overwhelmed.
If you cannot manage your responsibilities, figure out which areas are keeping you "stuck." Ask for help. Your peers, colleagues and boss can often provide assistance. Talking with them may yield new insights and tips.
Rather than letting inertia take over and falling further behind, speak up.
6. You don't like your job.
When certain aspects of your job irritate or fail to interest you, you'll likely disengage. Perhaps your real strengths and talents lie elsewhere. You simply may not be a good fit for your job, no matter how great said job is supposed to be.
Discuss the situation with your manager, and explore the causes. Together, you may be able to redesign your job to fit your strengths, rather than waste your time trying to perform tasks for which you're not suited.
Don't let the situation continue for too long. The more you delay, the more dissatisfied you will become - and this can create resentment among you, your team members and your boss.
It's easy to dismiss critical "stuck points" in your career as temporary boredom. In actuality, boredom is a sign that you need to do something else. Don't let it become habitual. The longer it lasts, the harder it is to get "unstuck."
In the end, boredom can seriously undermine others' perceptions of your potential, as well as your chances for more interesting work opportunities. Speak up and discuss its causes and solutions. Your brain craves interesting things to do.