In a classic “Peanuts” cartoon, Charlie Brown says to Lucy, “I have a great fear of being boring.” Then in the next frame Charlie says, “I also have a great fear of being bored.” Finally, Charlie turns to Lucy and asks, “What’s the most bored you’ve ever been?” And Lucy answers, “Besides right now?”
We’ve all faced boredom at one time or another. Routine tasks become drudgery. We need a change of scenery before we climb the walls. It gets harder and harder to get out of a rut.
My good friend Lou Holtz says, “If you’re bored with life – you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things – you don’t have enough goals.”
A recent article by Lu Hanessian in the Courier Post online distinguished between good boredom and bad boredom. “We are a very ambitious and easily bored species,” she wrote. If we didn’t get bored we might still be prehistoric cavemen. That’s good boredom. Bad boredom is designed to essentially crush the human spirit.”
Don’t run the risk of being satisfied with the status quo if the status quo means same old, same old.
Advertising genius David Ogilvy famously said, “Nobody ever sold anybody anything by boring them to death.”
I couldn’t agree more. I always wrap up my speeches by saying, “Don’t be boring! Don’t be predictable!” Don’t ever pick up the phone again and call a client or a customer without having a sharp or humorous substantive opening and how you’re going to end that conversation. Don’t give just another gift, but make it creative and out of the box. Make it a WOW! Don’t ever send another letter out without giving it a lot of thought.
That often involves releasing your inner child. Hanessian notes there is a strong scientifically proven connection between positive childhood experiences – imagination, creativity, play time and reflection – and overall health in adulthood.
Science shows us that play and laughter promote the ability of the brain to re-wire and change itself. Boredom can actually be the effect of a play deficit!
That’s another argument for incorporating some fun into work.
“Humor can make a serious difference. In the workplace, at home, in all areas of life – looking for a reason to laugh is necessary,” said Steve Goodier, founder of Life Support System. “A sense of humor helps us to get through the dull times, cope with the difficult times, enjoy the good times and manage the scary times.”
But let’s face it; every organization has jobs that are necessary but boring. It can be tough to do those jobs, especially when those employees are accustomed to constant entertainment from TV and the Internet. Managers are challenged to keep them engaged and motivated when boredom sets in and they are counting the hours until they get off work?
Think of it this way: How many times do you open the refrigerator door over and over hoping that something amazing will appear? And when it doesn’t, imagine how that compromises motivation to perform. Show your gratitude for the people who do the jobs you wouldn’t care to do.
Acknowledge up front that the work isn’t very exciting, but explain why it’s important. Emphasize how their work helps other people – co-workers, customers and so forth. Give them a little leeway to make that job fun while still remaining professional.
Give them goals. Sometimes a target can make work more interesting. Challenge employees in different ways: To greet the most customers, assemble the most widgets, count the inventory more accurately, etc. Offer a small reward to make the game more enticing. Help them see the future. Employees are more likely to stick with a job, even a boring one, if they see the possibility of moving into something better. Describe potential career paths, and tell your people what they need to do in order to move up.
Ask for feedback. Encourage employees to suggest ideas for making their work more interesting or productive. Implementing their ideas will show them that you value their opinions and take them seriously. They’ll also be more invested in making their own suggestions succeed.
And who knows? Those suggestions may be just the inspiration your organization needs to go from boring to roaring to soaring!
Mackay’s Moral: Before a bore becomes a chore or even a snore, think more about what you’re in business for!
Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.
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