If you’re reading this right now, and it’s during the workday, there’s a preeeetttyy good chance it’s because you’re bored and searching for distractions. You know the boredom feeling well—you’re mindlessly scrolling thru Facebook on your phone, and then you open a new browser tab and type in “Facebook” only to realize you’re accessing Facebook in two places at the same time!
It wasn’t always like this, though. Your job used to be packed with new information, new conversations, and new energy. The thing is, it was exciting because it was NEW. You were constantly learning things you hadn’t been exposed to before. You took pages of notes, approached every conversation with curiosity, and then took notes on those conversations.
Over time, you got used to the environment. You no longer take notes, and approach conversations with obligation instead of enthusiasm.
You’ve hit boredom.
Why are you bored?
This study from the American Psychological Association points to boredom as ‘the unfulfilled desire for satisfying activity.’
Basically, your brain can’t get no satisfaction.
Why does this happen? In theory, shouldn’t your job stimulate you?
What’s happened is the psychological principle called habituation—this means the more often you’re exposed to the same thing, the less stimulated you are. When you get used to it, you don’t get excited by it. That’s why you get an amazing rush during your first kiss with someone new, but…less of a rush with kiss number 80 with that same person.
You hit boredom, and you approach each day asking,
“What do I need to get done today?”
You’ve been so exposed to the repeat stimuli, that your brain checks out and you ignore new stimuli. The work gets done, but your mind isn’t present.
But, the important thing is that you haven’t lost your ability to learn—you just have to reinvest in your awareness and put yourself back into your work.
So, your ticket to feeling excited at work again is to:
- Switch your mindset from “What needs to get done today?” to “What can I learn today?”
- Create a tracking system that holds you accountable to learning new things
The Seinfeld Tracking System
Jerry Seinfeld is known for many amazing things, but have you heard about his tracking system for becoming a great comedian?
Years ago, a young aspiring comic asked Jerry if he had any tips for a youngster.
“He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.
He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.
After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”
How Do You Apply This? Create a Learning Log
Three years ago I was in a ‘comfortable, but bored’ state-of-mind at my job. I really liked what I did, but I felt like I was getting complacent and not being challenged enough. So, I adapted the Seinfeld Tracking System to my situation, and created a learning log.
I knew my ticket to feeling excited again was to ensure that I learned something new every day. The only way I could ensure this was by writing it down.
Here’s how to do it:
Create a two-column spreadsheet. Title column 1 “Date”, and column 2 “What did I learn today?”
At the end of each day, before you leave, write down the date in column 1, and in column 2, write down ONE thing you learned that day, either about yourself, your job, a coworker, or your company.
Once you do this, you’ll walk into the office in the morning and the first thing you’ll ask is, “What can I learn today?”
When this is your lead thought, you’ll approach more things with curiosity, find more ways to be creative, and go into conversations with a whole new mindset.
And because you’re TRACKING IT, if the end of the day approaches and you haven’t learned anything new, you’ll change your behavior the remaining hours so that you seek out knowledge.
Here’s a sample of my Learning Log:
- 3/11/2013: Even when you’ve created something you think is good (a presentation in this case), it’s a good idea to look at it a few times over (on separate occasions), because you’ll look at it again with a new perspective and find ways to make it even better.
- 3/12/2013: My coworkers legitimately look to me for my knowledge and expertise and don’t see me as someone who doesn’t have enough experience or is too young to ‘understand’ what to do. Specifically, (my manager) and I reviewed an agenda to send to (the client). (My manager) initially started it, then asked me to take a look to see if we had our bases covered, if the email was worded properly, and what more the agenda should include.
- 3/13/2013: Today I learned that tedious, monotonous work does not feel tedious or monotonous if you understand the purpose and impact behind it, and have a vested interest in that purpose. Much of my day today involved entering email addresses into a system to send out an email blast to cold clients at the end of the day. The email blast itself was for a webinar I’ll be presenting in a few weeks. We’re using this webinar as a creative way to drum up some business as opposed to cold calling. Because the webinar was my idea, it’s a presentation I created, my manager supports it, and (if successful) will bring new business to the company, at no point during my four-plus hours of seeking and putting email addresses into a database did I ask, “Why am I doing this?” or become frustrated with it.
You can imagine how much this changed my day.
I did this every day for three months, which turned me from ‘comfortable, but bored’, to challenged, excited, and enthusiastic. I multiplied my learning and became a stronger asset to the company because I was thinking more proactively. I built stronger relationships with my coworkers because I talked to them with genuine curiosity. I became unstoppable.
As a result of the Learning Log, I was able to reference facts, insights and make suggestions during meetings and conversations with management that had them floored with my education of the company. My responsibilities expanded, and I became the go-to source of knowledge.
Your turn. Start your Learning Log TODAY, and become the smartest person at your company.
Image Credit: CC by Bixentro