So the boss nixed your request for a soft-serve ice cream machine. Your suggestion for a Segway polo team at the office probably isn’t happening either. So what else can you do to spice up the workday?
Here are a few simple tips.
Try experimenting with regular work tasks
Take a moment to write down a couple of regular work tasks that require a lot of time or energy. OK, now what? A good rule of thumb is: if I’m having a problem with XYZ, someone else probably is too. Quickly, to the Internet!
Say you’re frustrated at how long it takes you to read and respond to email each day. Why not spend a few minutes searching for how others deal with it? For example, you might try out a new approach/framework for email (like this one discussed on the Microsoft Office website) – or you might want to try just a couple of smaller tweaks to see how they go. But if you’re trying to enjoy the day more, why spend more time on things that you find tiring or even tedious?
Part of the reason is that even the most boring task can become more interesting if you’re able to turn it into a puzzle or mini-challenge. “Streamlining your work” is a useful framework for what types of changes to try, though you might find the chance to experiment is the best part. And when you make a breakthrough, it feels great. Better yet, even small improvements can really add up: if you save just 15 minutes a day on email, you’re still gaining more than an extra hour of free time every week from now on.
Learn a new skill
Picking up a useful skill can be a great way to make your work more interesting for you and productive for the company. If you can set aside a little time each day for learning, great – if not, then just work on it whenever you have a few minutes to spare. And if you never seem to have enough time, you can try to reduce how long you spend on other tasks (see the section above).
As long as you’re still getting your regular work done, your boss shouldn’t mind that you spend time on learning new skills. In fact, he or she will likely be happy you’re trying to get better at your job! Just make sure you have a good rationale for whatever skills you choose to study (e.g., doing an advanced PowerPoint tutorial would help you save time in making client pitch presentations).
There are many, many free resources online (Udacity, YouTube, etc.) to choose from – why not give them a shot? If some tutorial or topic doesn’t work out, just set it aside and try something else.
Read up on your industry, clients and competitors
And if you’re feeling overwhelmed or stuck on an assignment, why not take a few minutes to recharge by giving your brain something different (and valuable) to focus on?
For example, if you’re not sure what the competition is up to, why not do a little sleuthing on social media? You could also read tech or other news related to your industry. You might even discover a good a topic for the company blog or an interesting white paper.
The best part of all this: making work more interesting goes hand in hand with doing better work. And any discoveries you make could be helpful to colleagues too, which is great news for the whole organization.
Who knows? You might even come across an unexpected way to dramatically increase productivity and morale across the board. Perhaps you could suggest redoing the whole office with motivational magic eye wallpaper?
(On second thought, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one.)