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How to Relieve Boredom at Work

How to Relieve Boredom at Work"Oh yeah life goes on, long after the thrill of livin' is gone."
- John Mellencamp
While researching a post about Capt. Owen Honors - the Navy officer who was relieved of his command of the USS Enterprise for making racy videos to entertain his crew - I was surprised to hear tales of "... gruelin­g, mind-bending boredom and monotony for months on end ..." aboard a ship deployed at sea.

We all have boring, tedious tasks. Some of us have to sit behind a desk doing the same thing all day long. It can drive you crazy. And some of us, for whatever reason, just don't do boredom well. I knew early on that I was one of those people.

As a kid working summers at a Wall Street bank, my first job was processing mail-in payments. We slit open envelopes, separated out the forms from the checks, and moved on to the next one. That was it. All day long.

I couldn't stand it. I got into all kinds of trouble trying to make people laugh, goofing on the bosses, singing songs, that sort of thing. They ultimately had to promote me ... just to get me out of there, I think.

So I gravitated toward a career with lots of travel, meetings, teamwork, and working with customers. I went from engineering to sales to marketing, climbed the corporate ladder, jumped from company to company. Anything to get out and about and move around.

So, if you're thinking I bet this guy's got some excellent tips for steering my career clear of mindless monotony, you'd be right. Just don't make any leud videos and get yourself canned, okay?

How to Relieve Boredom at Work

  • Know yourself. I say it all the time, if you love what you do, you'll be successful at it. Unfortunately, the opposite is just as true. If you're not the kind of person who can stand a straight desk job or boring tasks, don't do that for a living. You'll be miserable and not very good at it.
  • Travel. Most people hate work travel so those jobs aren't as hard to get as you might think. Having flown three million miles and woken up in hotel rooms with no idea what city I was in, I may have overdone it a bit. But if you travel maybe 10 to 20 percent of the time you can strike a balance between relieving boredom and living in a constant state of chaos.
  • Take your job to the next level. I know it's a cliché, but if you think out of the box, you might actually be able to turn your mundane job into something more exciting. Set lofty goals for yourself that nobody would think are possible. It's doable. Just don't make crazy commitments you can't deliver on.
  • Get into sales and marketing. Most sales and marketing jobs involve quite a bit of travel, getting out and about, team meetings, customer interaction, that sort of thing. Never a dull moment. Outside sales, product marketing, communications, PR, project management, they're all good.
  • Work in a busy retail environment. Believe it or not, some people actually like talking to strangers, helping people find things, and working on their feet all day. And if it's a product area you're passionate about, all the better. If you love shoes, get into the shoe business.
  • Do not start your own Internet-based business. That's the real dark side of being an Internet entrepreneur. You're tied to your computer, 24x7. If you love that sort of thing, more power to you. But if you're the antsy type, forget it.
  • Take long breaks. Don't laugh. If your job permits flexible work hours or if your company values you and your work, you can probably get away with taking plenty of long breaks. You can even work longer hours to make up for it. Go out to lunch, work out, run, take walks, whatever it takes.
  • Climb the corporate ladder. That's right; very few executive management jobs are boring. How can you be bored when you're under all that pressure to perform, right? Seriously, some people live for that sort of stuff. I thrived on it for years. Okay, then I burned out. But still ... good times. Really.
As for all the managers and human resource folks out there, do what you can to help keep these poor people from losing it, will you?

And, if you've got a tip for relieving boredom at work or an exciting career that most people wouldn't think of, spill the beans. Your fellow BNET readers need your insights.

Image courtesy of Flickr user hawk684
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