Although we hate it when we just finished a task and another one crept into our list, with a close deadline, there is one thing we hate even more. And that is monotony, one of the declared enemies of happiness at work.
Another way of putting it would be: Enjoy your problems and hectic schedule! At least you don’t have the time to get bored. And it’s true. As much as we dread the tension and anxiety of joggling so many unexpected projects, shifts of focus or activities, it’s better than feeling like we’ve entered a rut from which there seems no way to get out.
We’ve done some research and tried to come up with a series of happiness boosting activities that can help you fight monotony. So far, we’ve managed to find two solutions to this problem.
The first possible solution would be to work harder. It’s not always easy and you probably won’t be able to do this every day, bt you can find ways to improve your productivity and get more things done, if you set your mind to it. Here’s a great article from Harvard Business Review that shows you how to lose some of the monotonous and repetitive activities and focus on your most important work.
The second solution we came across has a different approach to the matter: Take a break and do something engaging, something that makes you happy.
Even if they both hold a valid truth, we value the second approach more. If you combine and alternate the two behaviors, you’ve got a real recipe for success. Take your pick! Here are 9 ways to change things:
1. Listen to music
A lot of people say that music helps them concentrate better and get rid of the tension. It decreases stress levels and it can put you in a great mood that allows you to fight monotony at work! Depending on the music.
You can run an improvised radio station in your department and get special requests from your coworkers. Agreed, it will probably have an impact on your productivity but where there’s a will, there’s a way. And having some fun at the office may boost happiness and productivity for everyone so it’s worth a try.
You can restart your brain and fight monotony at work with a quick game break with your colleagues. Choose your weapon: Wii, PlayStation, Xbox, you name it. The 15 minutes you spend playing can maximize the next couple of hours!
3. Try sports
Why not do some sports during breaks? If your office has a shower, it’s a perfect way to stay healthy and re-power your brain. You could run 5 miles twice a week in the afternoon.
4. Plan other tasks in a timed interval schedule
- Email an old friend.
- Add something to your website.
- Research a weekend trip.
- Check out a new gadget via web research.
- Research something of interest to you, your hobbies or a potential interest.
- Call your mother-in-law.
Using the same concept as the Pomodoro technique, after you’ve made your list, take a work break every 25 minutes and give yourself 5-10 minutes for an item on the list.
5. Maintain a healthy level of insanity
We found this list in an online discussion. Its owner signed it Anonymous coward. Surprisingly a lot of people ranked this advice with a 5 on a 1-5 scale. Have fun reading it!
“1. Page yourself over the intercom. Don’t disguise your voice.
2. Send e-mail to the rest of the company telling them exactly what you’re doing.
3. Every time someone asks you to do something, anything, ask them if they want fries with that.
4. Put your trash can on your desk. Label it “IN.”
5. Make up nicknames for all your coworkers and refer to them only by these names. “That’s a good point, Spike.” “No, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to disagree with you there, Sparky.”
6. High-light your shoes. Tell people you haven’t lost them as much since you did this.
7. While sitting at your desk, soak your fingers in Palmolive liquid. Call everyone Madge.
8. Hang mosquito netting around your cubicle. When you emerge to get coffee or a printout or whatever, slap yourself randomly the whole way.
9. Put a chair facing a printer. Sit there all day and tell people you’re waiting for your document.
10. Send e-mail back and forth to yourself engaging yourself in an intellectual debate. Forward the mail to a co-worker and ask her to settle the disagreement.
11. Encourage your colleagues to join you in a little synchronized chair-dancing.
12. Feign an unnatural and hysterical fear of staplers.
13. Send e-mail messages saying there’s free pizza or donuts or cake in the lunchroom. When people drift back to work complaining that they found none, lean back, pat your stomach and say, “Oh, you’ve got to be faster than that.”
14. Put decaf in the coffeemaker for three weeks. Once everyone has withdrawn from caffeine addiction, switch to espresso.”
Try coming up with fun activities, together with your manager, to make sure that your workplace is monotony proof. Neelam Gill Malhotra, former Vice-President – HR at CSC has noticed that engaging employees in fun activities helps spread positive energy within the organization and improves productivity. As she puts it, “when leaders create a fun workplace, there is a significant increase in the level of employee’s trust, creativity, communication and productivity.”
6. Get more involved in your work.
Try to think of a new angle of solving a current task. You can also go over some of your past activities and evaluate their long-term results or figure out a completely different way of doing things.
Get creative! There’s no better way to fight monotony at work. If you’re worried that you’re not “the creative type” we have great news for you; Doctor Tina Seelig, the executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, is one of the people who have debunked the myth of creativity as a birthright. She also designed a practical model called the “Innovation Engine” that gives you a series
of tools to increase creativity and encourage innovation. Read more about it in her book – “inGENIUS: A Crash Course on Creativity”.
Buy two hats, of different colors. Let’s say green and orange (see what we did there?). Wear the green one while performing an activity from a very cerebral, grounded point of view. Then use the orange hat to think of a different and fun way to do it.
So, if you were Sherlock, what would you do?
7. Research a new idea that you can build on.
It gives you the upper hand of being on top of your field’s new discoveries and advancements but the real value is in using that information to build something of your own. A new project, a new framework or a new product. Wouldn’t you like to be recognized as a pioneer?
The challenge of research is that it’s very time consuming. So if you have some free time on your hands, make the most out of it by catching up with the latest news.
Ask for a colleague’s opinion and try to find new ways of approaching the matter. You can discuss it over a break or, even better, over lunch.
8. Make a change
If your chair is really uncomfortable or you’ve been sitting for hours new, get up and take a walk, maybe talk to a friend or go grab some a coffee. Make yourself be aware of the things you can improve around you.
Unclutter the mess on your desk or get a personalized object that makes you happier when you look at it. Your working space should help improve your productivity and keep you happy.
A great technique for balancing your working time with a smart break is the Pomodoro technique we mentioned earlier that allows you to do more and have fun. It’s the perfect way to fight monotony at work.
9. Learn something new
Learn a new program, a new subfield, anything that gives you a brain thrill. Ever heard of Coursera? It’s great platform with all sorts of different online courses, including several languages. You can even get a verified certificate for some of these courses.
While it’s very hard to avoid monotony at work, you can choose to fight it through a combination of working hard and having fun. Don’t exaggerate on just one of these two.
Try them out, one at a time, and figure out what the best solution for you is. So the next time you feel like you don’t feel challenged anymore, try one of the ideas above.
You should also sit down with your manager and figure out what causes this feeling and how you can improve your happiness at work.