In a classic “Peanuts” cartoon, Charlie Brown says to Lucy, “I have a great fear of being boring.” Then in the next panel, 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 have 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.”
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 an idea how you are going to end the conversation. Don’t give just another gift; make it surprising. Make it a WOW! Don’t ever send another letter out without giving it a lot of thought.
Conquering boredom and being creative often involves releasing your inner child. Newspaper columnist Lu 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 rewire 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.”
Every organization has jobs that are necessary but boring. It can be tough to do those jobs.
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 that you wouldn’t care to do.
Acknowledge up front that the work isn’t very exciting, but explain why it’s important. Emphasize how employees’ 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 will also be more invested in making their own suggestions succeed.
And who knows? Those suggestions might 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!
Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.