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Curing workplace boredom

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I don’t know about you, by my work day starts during my commute. While I’m fortunate the office is only a half an hour journey from home, I make a conscious effort to make use of the time I have catching up on emails, preparing a to-do list to streamline my day or reflect on what I want to achieve that day or for the week.

However, once I get to the office, emails generally take a back seat. A survey by BOLT Insurance Agency in December last year found emails to be one of the biggest time wasters in the office, and last month, US’ Secretary of Homeland Security admitted she doesn’t even use email. Therefore, I typically only allow myself five minutes to sift through my inbox for leads or emails I need to urgently follow up, but most can wait until just before lunch.

I also find creating a stimulating and comfortable working space helps me work better. Other things like having a comfortable seat, good lighting and even positioning your monitor so that it doesn’t strain your eyes and neck can go a long way in making you feel more productive.

The BOLT report also claims meetings to be a huge time waster – which I can’t disagree with – but I think it’s more of identifying which meetings are worth organising, and how to optimise your time during those meetings.

Lifehacker, which compiled a list of 10 ways you can transform boredom into productivity at work, suggested creating a strict agenda before meetings, as “constraints build creativity”.

“By not placing an end time, we encourage rambling, off-topic and useless conversation,” the article said.

But not all boredom is bad. Just like stress, having the right amount of boredom at work gives the brain a bit of downtime to sort out your thoughts and see a problem from a new perspective.

A study by the University of California found those who were allowed to take a break while problem solving outperformed those who worked straight through by 41%.

“The implication is that mind-wandering was only helpful for problems that were already being mentally chewed on. It didn’t seem to lead to a general increase in creative problem-solving ability,” researcher Benjamin Baird, said.

Lifehacker suggested other ways to help make your work day more engaging, such as spending some time to learn a new skill (preferably one related to your job), taking on new responsibilities and eating and sleeping better so your body can work at optimal levels during office hours.

So spend a few minutes deciding how you want to make the rest of today and the week more productive. Don’t make too many changes at once or you will overwhelm yourself and definitely don’t expect results overnight from your team. But it can’t hurt to make a few adjustments one day at a time. Have a great week ahead!

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