Ask LH: How Can I Stay Motivated In A Dull Job?

Dear Lifehacker, I work in an IT support position, and am thus in an 'on-call' type of situation. I am currently finding myself bored 99 per cent of the time (due to it being a quiet period for the rest of the departments) and with a severe lack of motivation throughout the day. I am constantly tired as well, and suspect that this is related to sitting in front of a screen all day, every day.

The issue I have is that there physically just isn't any more work for me to be doing. I've considered some study options, but none are appealing financially at the moment. Other than getting up and going for a walk every hour or so (which I already do), how can I become motivated and alert? Thanks, Demotivated

Picture by Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Dear Demotivated,

All jobs have dull patches, but it sounds like yours has more than most, and that's bound to have contributed to your feelings of exhaustion and ennui. Judging by your comments, you do have some flexibility in doing other tasks while you wait for support emergencies. With that in mind, I'd suggest the following ideas:

  • Start studying. You mention that cost could is a factor here, but there are plenty of ways to improve your knowledge without spending money. Check out our most recent Lifehacker U post for some current ideas.
  • Use a standing desk. We've written on multiple occasions about the benefits of a standing desk. This won't be viable in every workplace, but if you can switch to a standing model, you'll escape the feeling of being trapped in front of a screen.
  • Update your resume. My inner realist can't help thinking that if you're unoccupied a good portion of the time, your long-term job security could be in doubt. Make sure your resume is up-to-date so that you're ready if that happens. Even if your job is secure, an up-to-date resume will be essential if you want to seek out a promotion. Speaking of which . . .
  • See if your job can change or expand. It's in no-one's interest (yours or your employer's) to have you sitting around feeling frustrated and under-utilised. I'm sure some people will argue "Why complain about a job where you don't have to do anything most of the time?", but the reality is that's not a satisfactory situation. Scope out other opportunities and ask if you can contribute.
  • Take up a craft. If you just need to pass the time waiting for the next issue to arise and you're suffering from screen overload, you need an activity that doesn't involve using a screen. That could be knitting; it could be working with an Arduino; it could be writing a novel by hand. (Hey, NaNoWriMo is coming up again shortly.)

That's some ideas for starters. If readers have additional suggestions, we'd love to hear them in the comments.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    If you don't want to quit, maybe now is a good time to take a vacation. It sounds like you're quiet now but will get busy again when things pick up for the other departments, so perhaps if you have some annual leave it would be in your best interest to take it now :)

    If your initial contact is mostly by phone/email: forward your desk phone to your mobile, take a laptop, and go wandering. If you do face-to-face support you'll have to stay within 5 minutes of the office, but remote support can be anywhere with internet.

    It doesn't give you any more to do, but you can at least be bored with varying scenery. Work feels different when you're doing it from the cafe down the road or a bench in the park.

    I will happily swap jobs with you. I am an on call IT technician and it is so busy I hardly have time to even have a quick look at Lifehacker. I would gladly take being paid to underwork than to not being paid for overwork.

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