If you’re feeling burnt out in the office — and even if you’re not — you may find yourself bored, wanting to put off daily tasks, and fantasizing about napping through your upcoming meetings.
Sevenshift CEO, McKinsey senior adviser, and former McKinsey partner Caroline Webb understands your pain. Thankfully, she has a solution, she writes in her book “How to Have a Good Day,” a collection of career best practices she’s learned in her 16 years as a consultant.
Simply find something interesting to focus your attention to switch your negative lens to a positive one.
When Webb worked at the Bank of England in the mid-1990s, she and her colleagues would occasionally play “buzzword bingo,” where they’d pass a painfully dull meeting by tallying up all of the jargon speakers would toss out. It made them grin, but it also made them pay attention when they otherwise might have drifted off.
“Why did it lift our spirits so much?” she writes. “Largely because we decided that there was something worth listening to, and directed our attention accordingly.”
She points out that the brain is constantly filtering out information it doesn’t want to process, and that we have a level of control over that. “We focus on whatever confirms our expectations (among other things) and tend to filter out the rest,” she writes. “So if I’ve decided that what I’m about to hear is going to be boring, I’ll tend to see and hear things that confirm I’m right to be bored. If I’ve decided it’s going to be interesting, I have half a chance of finding it a little more so.”
She writes that your approach doesn’t have to be as subversive as slyly mocking your superiors with “buzzword bingo.” For example, if you’re working on a complex group project, make it a point to learn more about how your teammates are doing their jobs. You’ll not only gain a better appreciation for your coworkers, but you’ll become more engaged in the task and handle your own responsibilities better.
Or if you’re in a training session that is crawling along, pay attention to the way it’s being taught. If you’ve got a miserably boring task to do, drive yourself by finding the quickest and most effective way of completing it.
“We know the reality we perceive is highly subjective; we might as well seek out the more interesting aspects of reality if we want to feel more energised by everyday life,” Webb says.
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