How to cope with boredom at work?

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AnalyticalEngine
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How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by AnalyticalEngine » Thu Jul 25, 2019 9:28 am

I've had a persistent problem at work for a few years now where I finish all the work they give me in about 4 hours a day. So I end up extremely bored at work, and it's been having a very adverse effect on my mental health. I have tried numerous things to cope with this but to no avail. Part of the problem is I work in a open office floor plan and my manager sits directly behind me so my ability to go "off task" is limited. If I ask for more work, they usually just give me busy work and I'm not terribly interested in the work itself anyway, so more work ends up just continuing to be boring.

I have tried audiobooks, podcasts, and online classes. These do help but absorbing information for four hours a day without any real chance to do anything with it starts to get unfulfilling. I have also tried to work on personal projects, like writing a novel, but I'm so prone to interruptions in the office that I usually just give up because these projects require concentration. I have escaped to conference rooms for a bit before, but I am only limited to about an hour at a time of doing this before they notice I'm gone.

I'm worried I've started to develop a bunch of bad habits to cope with this, such as surfing the Internet all day (adverse mental health effects), going out to lunch everyday ($$$), and getting used to evading work and doing nothing as a lifestyle.

I could find another job in my field, but I'm starting to find my core function so boring and pointless that I have a hard time motivating myself to look elsewhere.

Has anyone else been in this situation? Any advice?

Loner
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by Loner » Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:30 am

Change job. I can relate to your story and I feel your boredom. I worked for the government one time (student summer job), and I found that I'd finish the work in 1/4 the time they expected it'd take. Just like in your case, when I asked for more work, they gave me some laws to read or some other useless busy work. Entirely unfulfilling. After a month, I physically felt the life draining out of my body. I felt sad for the people worked there, some of whom having worked in that office for years. (Some slept and snored loudly on the job; since it's govt/unionized work, they couldn't be shown the door.) What a way to wreck your life. All this to say that you can find 1000 ways to alleviate the problem temporarily (negotiate working from home so you can speed through your work and be free for the rest of the time?), but it's sometimes better to address the root cause and find some other work you enjoy (more). That's not easy, for sure, but the alternative is a life of boredom. Anyways, the way I see it, if you get FI, that's a problem you'll have to solve eventually, so it might as well be wrestled with now.

tyd450
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by tyd450 » Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:07 am

i'm convinced that most corporate employees are in similar situations and they could finish their jobs in a fraction of the time it really takes them. People quickly learn that it is important to "look busy." Ask anyone you work with how they are doing and they will probably give you some version of "i'm really busy, but good!"

I think people just learn to expand 4 hours of work into an 8 hour period. It is part of being institutionalized. Sure, some people out there have unbelievably stressful jobs and can't possibly find enough hours in the day to get caught up, but most corporate drones out there are probably in a situation similar to yours.

All of your coworkers are probably pissed at you for asking for more work too because they are worried that you are going to expose them as frauds :lol:

IlliniDave
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by IlliniDave » Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:32 am

When that occasionally happens to me I go find more work, although usually I have the opposite problem. If finding more to do at work isn't possible, then maybe thinking about a new job is a good idea. Maybe it is anyway.

7Wannabe5
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:39 am

Interesting. It's not often that I run into somebody who has obviously read all of the Nero Wolfe mysteries.

jacob
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by jacob » Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:41 am

Pseudo work is an awful experience and I agree that engaging in too much pseudo work can have adverse personal consequences. I suggest changing jobs ASAP if possible? I think the cases where this is not possible is a big reason why FIRE is even a thing, at least for those who are too exuberant to patiently follow the standard career trajectories.

FBeyer
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by FBeyer » Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:51 am

Let's try the world's easiest brain storming technique:
AEIOU
I've copy/pasted and slightly edited the points below from EntreGurus review of Designing Your Life by Evans and Burnett.

The method is quite simple. Write down the answers to these questions:

A = Activities. “What were you actually doing? Was this a structured or an unstructured activity? Did you have a specific role to play [e.g.] (team leader) or were you just a participant [e.g.] (at the meeting)?” What other activities can you engage in?

E = Environments. “Our environment has a profound effect on our emotional state. You feel one way at a football stadium, another in a cathedral. Notice where you were when you were involved in the activity. What kind of a place was it, and how did it make you feel?” Where else can you go and do those abovementioned activities.

I = Interactions. “What were you interacting with—people or machines? Was it a new kind of interaction or one you are familiar with? Was it formal or informal?” What can you change or mix up to do things in a different manner?

O = Objects. “Were you interacting with any objects or devices—iPads or smartphones, hockey sticks or sailboats? What were the objects that created or supported your feeling engaged?”

U = Users. “Who else was there, and what role did they play in making it either a positive or a negative experience?” Can you engage other people at work in a meaningful and/or helpful manner to expand your social reach in your work setting?

tyd450
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by tyd450 » Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:55 am

jacob wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:41 am
Pseudo work is an awful experience and I agree that engaging in too much pseudo work can have adverse personal consequences. I suggest changing jobs ASAP if possible? I think the cases where this is not possible is a big reason why FIRE is even a thing, at least for those who are too exuberant to patiently follow the standard career trajectories.
agreed

i made the decision to "coast to FIRE" and have let my career grow a little stagnant because of it. I enjoy less stress overall but I still do feel better after a "hard days work" compared to the days where I didn't do much of anything important at work.

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unemployable
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by unemployable » Thu Jul 25, 2019 12:01 pm

I have two suggestions, speaking from experience on both of them.

The first is to go to your boss and directly ask what sort of long-term opportunities are available to you there. Most obviously this means promotions or improvement in job responsibilities, but could include things such as working from home, working only three or four days a week, moving to contract work and so on. Even if these officially aren't options you really never know until you ask, especially if you're the reliable, low-maintenance worker you insinuate yourself here to be. This will feel intimidating and you may have to rehearse your speech, but you will end up better off, as not only will you know where you formally stand, but also your boss will receive fair notice of what you want in life and may have to prepare for your leaving.

Now the second option is most recommended after pursuing the first option and receiving an unfavorable response, but can probably still be employed regardless of what you hear. It is to start playing the game of seeing how much you can get away with.

In other words, come in late, leave early, take longer lunch breaks, have doctor's appointments on company time, take vacations on sick days, take vacation days you don't account for, pad expense accounts, that kind of thing. Naturally you want to make sure you are doing all your work. Start small, like leaving 15 minutes early once in awhile. Then head out at 11 am to hit the gym for two hours, so you don't have to do it after work. Later on, call work in the morning and say you're not coming in but you'll work from home, even if it's not an official policy. Force the issue. If you have to ask to use your vacation days, screw that and just take them. I've never had to ask to take a vacation in my life.

Now you want some plausible deniability in place, but you probably won't need it. You mentioned you booked conference rooms often. If people are used to you not being at your desk they won't think twice if you take a long lunch here and there. That trip to the gym? Oh, sorry, you were catching up with a friend and the time got away from you. If you're out of the office on work once in awhile it's even better, people think you're at a client for the day. If you make some sort of formal arrangement where you can leave at 4 (see first suggestion) your cow orkers don't need to know the specifics so maybe try heading out at 3. At my last job, between all the meetings I would take, the offsite work/business travel I had and plain random stuff such as being at another cow orker's cube to work on a project, I spent maybe 40% of my committed working hours actually at my desk. For the people above me it was closer to 25%. Unemployable's just not here right now, so what else is new?

But I'll get fired! No you won't if you've built up reputational equity, do it gradually and not as a way to avoid work. But I'll get written up! Maybe but who gives a fuck and now you have information regarding what to be more covert about. They're the ones not respecting your potential. What I noticed is that other people mostly don't care. Three big reasons come to mind: it's not a big deal, they care about themselves too much to worry about you and they just might be doing the same thing.

At my last job everyone down to the admins had to document all their work for the week on timesheets, down to six-minute intervals (decimal hours). It was kind of a sport to complain about it. Except the timesheets actually enabled you to get away with stuff. They were the way vacation days were tracked and were supposed to be used for any time away from work, so that a dentist appointment should be booked to PTO. But you had several weeks to fill them out and even then your boss would just ask you to get them done by the end of the month or whenever. Well on July 24th no one's going to remember the day off you took on the 3rd. And when you left early on the 2nd wheeling out a rollaboard bag to the elevator you were just going on another business trip. In three-plus years there I got questioned on exactly one timesheet, when I legitimately booked time to a client on a one-off job, from a partner I usually didn't work with. I never rectified this nor heard about it again anyway. Point is I never got a "Wait, three Fridays ago. Didn't you say something about flying to Seattle to hike in the Cascades?"

Maybe they knew... probably they did to some extent. But work always came first. My context was trying to get back more of my own time; at your workplace what you can get away with is probably different. It's a game though and now isn't a bad time for you to start playing it. If you get completely stonewalled at this, it's definitely time to start sending out resumes.

1taskaday
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by 1taskaday » Fri Jul 26, 2019 2:10 am

My job used to be really boring with hours spent on the internet trying to kill the time.
I never asked for more work as I would usually get given useless stuff that served no function.
It used to get me down.
But my choice was to stay there or move back to the "sweat shop" for the same wages.
I thought the intelligent thing to do was make this "cushy" number work for me as I was nearing the end of full-time work anyway.(I now work 2 days a week and this is fine)

So I made my priority everyday to get my exercise done at lunch.
I ran every lunch hour no matter what was happening at work.
This made it all bearable as the high from it nearly lasted until home time in the evening.

Most of my co workers chat their way through the day.
Every minute detail of their lives get discussed.
I think this is common practice and explains why most people enjoy work.
I think it's called "office comradery"...it used to wreck my head as it was mostly talk about kids as I worked mostly with mother's.

Works for them though,sometimes they can pass the whole day just chatting getting nothing done and they really enjoy it.
They always were appalled if you gave them any necessary task that needed to be done as it would interrupt their conversations.

So it all really depends on your age and personality type.

I think if I was younger I would have changed jobs as the mundaness of it would have eventually killed me.

If I could have got a personality change I would have chatted my way through the day as it seems to be great fun.

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Dream of Freedom
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by Dream of Freedom » Fri Jul 26, 2019 3:59 am

Sometimes I have a busy day at work, but usually I have some time to kill. You mentioned audiobooks and podcasts which would have been my first recommendation. If the information isn't useful or interesting maybe they are the wrong books. You should avoid caffeine. Don't get me wrong it's great when you are busy, but it will make you restless if you are just sitting there. If you are interested in starting an internet business this could be an opportunity since you apparently have the time and energy. The same with trading stocks. Use your lunch time to workout and your work time to have lunch.

thrifty++
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by thrifty++ » Fri Jul 26, 2019 2:20 pm

I actually think this is quite a nice problem to have.

I view boredom as a more pleasurable state of existence than overwhelming high pressure, risk and stress. I have experienced both and much prefer boredom. You probably have gone past the enjoyment phase though. I don't know I have ever had it enough to get there.

You have quite a few options. Firstly I think its an awesome opportunity to work on personal projects. In particular, personal finance. So much time for investment analysis and activity.

Secondly, asking for work isn't the best way I think. I never like to ask for work as you always get drudge work and it sounds like your not busy to people when you ask. Its much better to take charge yourself. If I am quiet for long enough I will start to develop projects to improve things myself. Have a think about what deficiencies there are with things and what would make it better. How can you fix them. Start working on those things. Then announce what you have done once you achieve success. I think that is the type of work that gets you noticed, promoted and given pay rises.

Thirdly, have a look around your workplace and see if there is anyone there who inspires you, Who is successful and has habits your admire. What things do they do. Try and model your behaviour on their behaviour. If there is no one like this that seems a bad sign to me and time to look for a new job. I have always found someone inspiring where I work.

Fourthly, what things are recognised and rewarded by your organisation. Focus on doing work towards those things. Again, stay away from drudge.

Fifthly, failing all of that find a new job.

cimorene12
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by cimorene12 » Fri Jul 26, 2019 4:54 pm

unemployable wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 12:01 pm
The first is to go to your boss and directly ask what sort of long-term opportunities are available to you there. Most obviously this means promotions or improvement in job responsibilities, but could include things such as working from home, working only three or four days a week, moving to contract work and so on. Even if these officially aren't options you really never know until you ask, especially if you're the reliable, low-maintenance worker you insinuate yourself here to be. This will feel intimidating and you may have to rehearse your speech, but you will end up better off, as not only will you know where you formally stand, but also your boss will receive fair notice of what you want in life and may have to prepare for your leaving.
I'd highly recommend asking if you could work from home one day a week. If you're already reliable and they know that you get the job done, I think it's completely reasonable. You might schedule an evaluation meeting after a trial period to assess what worked and what didn't.

CS
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by CS » Sat Jul 27, 2019 1:24 pm

I used work hours to keep up on all the continuing education requirements for the field. Most jobs had more than enough down time for this.

FIRE 2018
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by FIRE 2018 » Sat Jul 27, 2019 2:04 pm

I wouldn't advertise at work I was bored. When the next layoffs come around guess who would be the first to go?

trfie
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by trfie » Mon Jul 29, 2019 2:19 pm

Brian Tracy described the exact situation in one of his books. He asked for more work and got drudge work like you mentioned. He kept his spirit up, completed it, and asked for more work. This went on for several weeks of doing useless tasks, until his boss started giving him some real work assignments, which Tracy also completed expeditiously. On one of these assignments he ended up saving his company a considerable sum of money (is described in detail in the book). He ended up getting a string of promotions, higher pay, etc.

My question would be whether you are interested in advancing in the company. If not, then I would get out of there and find something you would rather be doing.

2Birds1Stone
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by 2Birds1Stone » Mon Jul 29, 2019 2:50 pm

Unemploymable gave you some excellent advice. It's a game I enjoyed playing for the past few years of my career. Once you get really good at it, work stops feeling like work.


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Lemur
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by Lemur » Wed Jul 31, 2019 10:14 am

I'm usually fairly busy at work, doing analysis and scheduling things with clients but there are those days where half my time is spent waiting for my scripts to finish running (like today!). In-between, I post on the FIRE/ERE blogs....studying philosophy a lot lately and other interesting subjects. I usually really value this time due to my long-commutes and lack of quite time (and just time in general) at home.

So boredom at work is a really nice problem to have. I would look into linkedin learning. Learn to code, study interesting subjects. Perhaps start polishing your resume for a job hop if you're bored enough.

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mcs2269
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Re: How to cope with boredom at work?

Post by mcs2269 » Thu Aug 01, 2019 1:01 am

AnalyticalEngine wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 9:28 am
Part of the problem is I work in a open office floor plan and my manager sits directly behind me so my ability to go "off task" is limited. If I ask for more work, they usually just give me busy work and I'm not terribly interested in the work itself anyway, so more work ends up just continuing to be boring.
@AnalyticalEngine - How far do you live from work? Have you tried going home for lunch and returning at like 4 PM? I live 8 minutes walking from work and if I have a day where I finished all my work early I'll go home and do my personal things and just return when it's natural, meaning when I have a need to return to work. When a problem does come up ( or someone needs me ) I'm at most 8 minutes away.

Just show up for the parts people remember, like the morning meetings and when people sign off for the day. I have a young manager who let's me do whatever I want provided I get things done, so this is my experience. I also currently work in an open office environment.

Also, do you guys have a ping pong table or anything? You could just go play ping pong for an hour. lol

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