How to maintain consistency at work and not get bored?
October 28, 2006 9:04 PM   Subscribe

How to maintain consistency on the job and not get bored?

I'm one of those people who has trouble maintaining consistency at work. I guess I'm just not a corporate person in the sense that I work hard but I tend to work more in "spurts" and have a hard time maintaining a rigid schedule (9-5) for years at a time at the same company. I've always been pretty independent and would prefer the type of job that allows flexible hours and working from home, but my profession doesn't really allow this.

Usually once I get used to a job I get so bored that I move on, resulting in job changes every year or two. Sometimes I have wondered if I have ADD. It's just hard for me to maintain concentration unless I'm constantly being challenged and stimulated. However, most jobs just don't provide this.

Whether or not this an issue related to ADD, what I'm getting at is, are there any methods/habits you suggest I develop in order to keep myself motivated and learn to stick with it when the going gets tough (boring)? I think if I would stick with the same company for longer I'd be much more likely to get promoted.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Most people I know who fit this profile end up consulting. It's a professionally acceptable way to change your job regularly, and constantly have fresh challenges.
posted by tkolar at 9:12 PM on October 28, 2006

I have exactly the same problem. It's difficult for me to work on anything for 8+ straight hours, no matter how much I like it. I like to break up my work day with short walks outside, which is a great mental reset and lets me do a lot more creative thinking about my work projects than I can get done if I'm staring at the computer screen constantly. Sometimes having soft music playing in the background helps me concentrate because it provides enough sensory stimulation to keep me from getting distracted constantly. I also pick up side projects in areas that interest me as a way to stay challenged. Bonus points if it's something that's really beneficial to my company, but even learning about something new can be reward enough to keep me going.

No job is ever going to be dynamic and exciting 100% of the time. There will always be times when things are routine enough that you can get through the day on semi-autopilot. Those times are a blessing because you can pour your creative energy into stuff outside of work. If you find a hobby or cause that you are passionate about, you'll be motivated to sustain the job that lets you have the time to do that.

Finally, if you're really at your wits end, you don't have much to lose by pushing on some of your current job's schedule boundaries. See if you can come in and leave earlier/later on occasion, or develop an informal agreement with your boss that you can work from home every so often. Approach it as "this is how I can maximize my productivity" and have an assertive attitude (rather than an an attitude that makes it sound like you're asking for a favor or special treatment). If that blows up, you may want to take the opportunity to look at whether there are other companies that you can work at. Small companies sometimes have more flexibility than large companies on these matters.
posted by rhiannon at 9:28 PM on October 28, 2006

I am very much like you, anonymous. I was a computer programmer for about 4 or 5 years and the office life was killing me. The shop I worked in used a proprietary language to develop in, and it was not very dynamic at all. After the first year or so I got over the learning curve and then after that it was the same thing day in, day out. I'm not really quite sure how I made it as long as I did. Before programming, I worked as a carpet layer and there were some days where I would come home from 8 hours of coding more exhausted than 16 hours of carpet, just because it was so hard to concentrate - there was no excitement.

Never sell your time.

What I ended up doing is switching careers. For six months I worked as a traffic surveyor. I drove all over CA and had a great deal of independence. I had a blast. The feeling of control from having that kind of job, where I was basically compensated for the amount of work I did, rather than the hours I clocked in, inspired me quite a bit.

If you are getting payed hourly, or even salary, it is hard, in my opinion, to take ownership of what you are doing. In other words, in order to enjoy what you are doing, even the mundane aspects of your workday, you need to feel that you are invested in your work, that you are making a contribution to something bigger.

Here are some of the things I do when the going gets tough:

Invent. If I am doing something that is repetitive and boring, I try to think of a way to automate the process or create some tool or new process that will speed up what I am doing or make me more efficient.

Challenge myself. I try to beat my own records. Try to do what you are doing faster, but maintain the same quality. Its is a lot more involving to do something repetitive if you are racing against time.

Listen to something. One of the things I did when I was programming was put on Daft Punk's "Harder Better Faster Stronger" and looped it all day long. Perhaps I have a higher tolerance for repetition than most but I found that song motivating and its basically about constantly improving, which fits in with the other tip, to challenge yourself to work faster or better. Also, techno or happy hardcore music, for instance, has a fast beat and is usually pretty exciting in and of itself. It rubs off on you and helps get you through the slow times.
posted by farmersckn at 12:14 AM on October 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like you need to get more excited about the money. Make a plan for what you would do with the extra cash and spend some time researching it to fuel your interest whenever you start to feel your motivation flagging. It might seem counterintuitive but I think a clear focus on the tangible rewards of the job can actually make the work more interesting.
posted by teleskiving at 12:20 AM on October 29, 2006

I've had this problem. I haven't beat it, but I found a few things work.

- get a timer and work in fifteen minute bursts on a specific thing (or whatever you can handle) take a short break, work in another burst
- work on something personally fascinating on the side. slip some cycles over to that
- I second the music suggestion, it just has to be the right stuff, and looping it does make for less distraction. Blonde on Blonde works for me, strangely enough. You would think Dylan would be distracting, but no he is a slave driver.
- Under the music, I play pink noise.
- I also agree with coming up with a system for work, but that can be a giant derail. Thinking about how you work, while you work on something that leaves you with extra thinking space helps some.
- I used to smoke, but that's not an option and I have not found a good replacement. I thought rocking like an autistic person might help, but it was just weird.
- Take amphetamine salts. I was prescribed them. In the first few days I was manic and a little weird. Now I only have a great ability to focus. It's bad for my tremors, though.
- I have been researching amphetamine alternatives. I am leaning to fish or flax oil, plus a lot of the B vitamins, and then some stimulant such as sugar-free red bull. I have not tried this yet.
- Meditate. It works for some people, but not me. I am having problems staying still long enough to start.
- And consider reading The Now Habit, which is more about procrastination, but its insights on how to think about work and how to structure it are very helpful.

And finally decide whether being promoted takes you to a position where you will be less bored, then its worth it. More bored, maybe not -- where's the value in being bored most of your conscious life? Money and happiness probably lie elsewhere.

Also check out 43folders and lifehacker for some tips on this. They're great blogs for the recursive Taylorists.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 2:22 PM on October 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Go work at a big company. There are some mega-corps out there that encourage frequent intra-company transfers. If you switched jobs within the company every year or two, you would meet new people, learn new things, and gain seniority without excessive boredom.
posted by crazycanuck at 5:51 PM on October 29, 2006

kingfisher, why the pink noise?
posted by craven_morhead at 7:39 PM on October 29, 2006

I use pink noise instead of noise cancellation headphones -- the blur behind the music keeps out other odd sounds. It's rough at first, then comforting.
There's a nice osx app I use called "noise"
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 3:18 PM on October 30, 2006

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