Some things in life need a little rekindling to keep the spark. Relationships might be the first thing to pop into your mind, but have you ever considered rekindling your job?
Excitement and enthusiasm are two emotions that are usually in excess when we’re starting something new that we’ve been after. Can you remember how elated you were when you received the offer at your current company? Perhaps you couldn’t wait to share the news and started to imagine your future commute, office environment and daily schedule.
Unfortunately, like most things, before long the novelty wears off. In busy times, it’s easy to get mired in obligations and forget what attracted us to something in the first place. Although you may still like your job, regular annoyances like difficult customers, repetitive tasks or budget cuts can lead you to wonder if it’s time to look for something new.
Although it’s possible the time has come to move on, in many cases, much of what we loved initially about the role still exists but has gotten routine or overshadowed by general frustrations.
The intense high that results from an initial win is usually fleeting and rarely sustained without stoking. So, if you find yourself feeling bored or uninspired at work, before automatically jumping ship, here’s what you can do to rekindle the passion.
Reminisce about the first time. Think about when you first learned that you got the job. Recall the excitement you felt and what specifically you were looking forward to. Perhaps it was the chance to make an impact in your field. Maybe it was the short commute allowing more time with your family or the opportunity to join an innovative company. Are these aspects still meaningful to you and if so, are there opportunities to enhance or recreate those? What may have come naturally at the start of the job may just take a little more initiative now, but you may be surprised by what interesting projects you can whip up with a little focus.
Spice it up. Once we master our role, it’s easy to develop routines, which enable us to be efficient, but also lead to monotony. Boredom can set in in any situation if we don’t initiate change. Learn a new skill. Shadow a department you don’t usually work with. Partner with a different team member. Attend a conference. Create a friendly competition within the department (e.g., Zoom bingo). Mix up your day. Start an office book club. The list for how you can infuse interesting or fun activities into your workday has endless options. And, it won’t only benefit your mental well-being, but could also boost your career.
Be curious. While routines enhance efficiency, they don’t always enhance effectiveness. We tend to approach problems we’ve seen before like a hammer to a nail. While this can work a good portion of the time, it may also lead to mistakes, misunderstandings and missed opportunities. Next time a customer presents a problem, dig deeper to understand if you can generate more solutions, and maybe even offset this problem for future customers. Learn why standard processes are in place and look for opportunities to update, automate or modernize the steps. Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.
Remove the hurdles. Have you ever dealt with a small annoyance day after day because you were too lazy to permanently fix it? For example, that perpetually loose door handle or the charger that needs to be at just the right angle to work? Those little frustrations add up, so while it may take effort to fix the root problem, it can make a big difference. For major disruptions, the solution may not be as straightforward. Perhaps a co-worker resigned and their workload fell to you? Maybe you’ve been asked to take the lead on a demanding client? Recognize some of these situations may be time limited. Seeing a light at the end of the tunnel can help, and putting a plan in place will help even more. Discuss the trade-offs with your boss, brainstorm alternatives and agree on a timeframe. Although these circumstances are unavoidable at times, having support can ease the burden.
Find balance. The spillover effect is a real phenomenon. What happens at work impacts your home life and vice versa. If you start to feel like you’re neglecting an important area of your life or not living according to your values, it will take a toll on other areas. Setting boundaries may be the answer. If you don’t want others to email you on weekends or expect responses at all hours, be clear about when you’re available and how to reach you if there is an emergency. If you struggle saying “no,” then get comfortable with responding, “I can tackle that project starting the first of next month” (e.g., a “yes” that doesn’t leave you swamped). Keep your boss informed so she can assist with prioritization when multiple deadlines arise. We often have many excuses why we can’t set boundaries, but in reality, everyone benefits when expectations are set.
Be realistic. Going into a new relationship expecting the honeymoon phase to last indefinitely will only lead to disappointment. The same is true for your job. In fact, the reason your position likely exists in the first place is so there is someone who can tackle the unexpected problems and keep their tasks in check so that a larger system runs smoothly. Seeing the importance of your role in relation to the larger organization may offer valuable perspective and meaning. Chances are, you’re not the only employee with responsibilities you’d rather delegate. But, part of the definition of a “job” (as opposed to personal time) is doing tasks you’d rather skip in exchange for compensation. When your expectations are realistic and you can connect your work to the relevance in the broader company, you tend to be more satisfied overall.
Savor the good moments. The brain tends to focus on negative experiences because these will presumably protect us from making similar mistakes in the future. This is useful, but may mean you have to be more intentional about identifying silver linings and celebrating wins (even small ones) to maintain a balance. When you feel frustrated or overwhelmed at work, take a moment to reflect on a few positives, or remember why you’re in this role in the first place. And when you experience something good, pause to relish the feeling for a moment before tackling the next problem. Over time, these brief moments of presence will become more natural and your perceptions more balanced.
Even if you make the effort to consciously focus on these actions, there will come a time when it’s best to move onto your next role. And, you’ll always be more successful if your primary motivation is to run to a job that’s exciting and has meaning rather than if you run from a role that was draining and frustrating. So, embracing these steps may not only make your current job more pleasant, but also set you up for success in your next job search.