How to Tell If Being Bored Out, Not Burnt Out, Is Ruining Your Workflow

Photo: Getty Images/Drazen Zigic
In January 2019, the World Health Organization included burnout in its latest revision of the International Classification of Diseases, and rest of the year included a heavy focus on the concept. While it's great that there's now some clinical legitimacy to back up the emotional, physical, and mental overload too many of us experience at work, to my knowledge, there's still no word for being chronically bored at work. And there should be—so let's go with "bored out," as in, being bored out of your mind.

At the 10-year mark of her career, Erin Hatzikostas, corporate CEO turned career coach and founder of b Authentic inc, was bored out. Every time her work would yield amazing results, two voices crooned in her ear. The first noted how pleasant things are: "Hey, this is great! Enjoy this time." But the second voice? That one reminded her of a hustle she missed: "Remember when you used to start new projects, take on challenging clients, and wake up in the morning with a million ideas? Well, you're not doing that anymore. And you know what that means? Even though things are 'easier' now, you're only 'Super Erin' when you're uncomfortable."

Of course, being comfortable isn't synonymous with being totally bored at work. So to help you identify if you may, in fact, be bored out, here are four telltale signs Hatzikostas believes you should look for. 

1. You're no longer doing things "above and beyond”

When I’m really, really passionate about a project, I give it 110 percent. But when routines take shape, it can be tempting to essentially phone it in, giving way to work that’s adequate at best. “You are likely driven by being challenged,” Hatzikostas says. “You want to figure things out, not just go through the motions. 

2. You aren't generating new ideas

It's great to be known as a person who can ideate freely and well, dreaming bigger and bolder initiatives for their company. But after a long tenure at a single place, the intention for innovation can give way to sticking with the comfortable concepts we know will work. If you no longer dream up new ideas? Hatzikostas says there's a good chance you're big-time bored out.

3. You spend more time on LinkedIn than working

"When my eight-year-old is sick of watching Minecraft videos on his iPad, he starts to stare over at his sister and what she's watching,” Hatzikostas says. “Adults are no different. Once we're bored with what we're watching—or in this case, working on—our eyes and minds wander."

It's a little bit of office infidelity, isn't it? When you use your downtime to Slack about your co-worker's exciting new side hustle or cannot stop rewatching your archnemesis' TED Talk, your wandering eye is seeking out inspiration.

4. You don't wake up excited to go to work

I know, I know, who actually loves waking up when it's still dark and cold and the next item on your to-do list is a soul-sucking commute? (I hear you, but hot tip—a natural light lamp can help!) But clocking in for a job that's fulfilling should feel similar in spirit to hitting the gym; once you're in the groove, you should feel some gratification from it.

"Work is not just about paying bills; it fills a human desire to learn, grow, and contribute to yourself, your family, and society," Hatzikostas says. And if you dread going to work? Good chance you're super bored at work. 

So, it seems I'm bored at work…now what?

Over being bored at work? While there's always the option to float around your résumé and look for a new opportunity, it's still totally possible to make the most of your current situation and turn things around. Check out three tips below.

1. Volunteer for a new project or assignment

You might be able to reenergize yourself within your current job, which is great. (Jobs don't grow on trees, after all.) To make it happen, take some initiative and have a transparent conversation.

"Talk to your boss; let them know that you are up for a new challenge, and be sure to be clear that you're willing to take on something that is well outside your current job description," Hatzikostas says. In addition to helping you recharge, "this is a perfect first step to getting yourself positioned for a new role or even a promotion."

2. Start connecting with others

Specifically do so with people outside your company—and be really, really curious. The biggest mistake you can make here is centering all conversations on yourself.

"Use these connection opportunities as a way to ask powerful questions,” says Hatzikostas. Learn as much as you can from [others] on what they know, have learned, who else they know, and what advice they have."

3. Invest in yourself

While everyone’s financial situation is different, if you do have the budget for any career-forwarding purchases (hello, LinkedIn Premium), now’s a good time to be proactive. 

"Some steps you can take include signing up for an online course, going to a conference or joining a group coaching program,” says Hatzikostas. 

Starting fresh? Here's how to find a career that loves you back, even when you're not sure what to do. And here's the one mistake a Yale career coach says you're making on job interviews.

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