Key points

  • Boredom can be a serious stressor
  • Being able to modify your mindset is the secret
  • Although we eat three times a day, it's never boring. Why?

My work is boring, repetitive and doesn't challenge me. Each day, I count the minutes to going home!" Sound familiar?

Have you noticed that when you are working on an enjoyable task, time ticks by so quickly that you don't even notice it. But when you are doing a boring task, the minutes go by slowly. The problem is that routine jobs, like filing, updating a database, form filling etc are not going to be stimulating but there can still be a sense of satisfaction once it has been completed.

We tend to think that the boredom scenario, that we term ‘rust out' only affects people in low-paying jobs, but high- performing employees are also affected. Our modern work environment is governed by automated systems, remote working and endless, boring meetings!

We are probably less inclined to accept the boredom of routine jobs and have lost the ability to use our spare time as ‘thinking time'. Our time is filled to capacity with email, texts, uTube clips and videos, computer games, instant messaging and communication with Skype and Hotmail. We seem to have developed an expectation that every moment needs to be filled, and so it is.

I have a number of clients who have left their highly paid, but boring jobs and gone to lesser paid jobs that provide the satisfaction and stimulation that they need in their lives. One of them was an asset manager for private clients at a merchant bank. He and his wife now run a school just outside Nairobi where his job satisfaction is 100 per cent plus!

The boredom factor: Organisations don't necessarily appreciate that the ‘rust out' factor is a stressor in the same way as overwork has also been identified.

Think about it: If you were a firefighter, what would be greatest challenge for you? Sitting and waiting in the fire station for the phone to ring, or rushing down the street in a fire engine to extinguish a fire. Well, we know which one is safer but we also know which one the fireman would rather choose!

People who are incarcerated in prisons have to manage their time. Some will use this time to read, study or write but they all need to learn the art of managing the boredom factor.

How to beat ‘rust out': Whether you are a bored employee, or a manager who is trying to manage their bored employees, the following tips might be helpful to you.

Analyse: First of all, find out what you find boring. Is it the task? The repetitive nature of the work? When you have thought this through, write it down so at least you can see at a glance what is causing you stress.

Communicate: As an employer, talk to your team and acknowledge that you know the job is boring. Ask them for ways that they think might help. The key is to engage with them and have an open and honest conversation.

To do list: Create this list with the aim of ticking off the task you have completed every day and have the satisfaction of doing so.

Set goals while you work: Break your task down into bite-sized chunks. If you are writing a book, challenge yourself to write as many pages as you can in three hours. Remove all distractions such as surfing the internet, the television and turn off your cellphone!

Managers need to manage: It is not easy to manage a team where the work is tedious and repetitive but it does have to be managed. Greater attention needs to give to motivation and morale.

Flexibility and rotation: If you are working in one department putting widgets onto a piece of machinery, it might be possible to rotate your work. One day in one department, and one day in another.

Find other ways: The phrase that says ‘there are more ways to skin a cat' comes to mind. Be creative. How can you improve your working conditions or the process by which you are required to produce your results.

‘Rust-Out' is not new but it needs to be recognised and dealt with in order we remain efficient and productive. I would love to hear of your own tips that help you get through those boring tasks.

The author is a BBC Guest-Broadcaster and Motivational Speaker. She is CEO of an international Stress Management consultancy and her new book, ‘Show Stress Who's Boss!' is available in all good bookshops.