3 Ways to (actually) be busy at work

Ways To Be Busy At Work

//Photo Courtesy: Levo League//

Ok darlings, pop-quiz time. Rules are easy. Read over the following scenarios…if any of them cause you to make “teeth emoji” facial expression, make a mental note:

  • When your roommate asks you what’s going on at work, you, at the risk of sounding uninteresting, say something like, “Oh God, work is just so busy,” without really being able to articulate why.
  • You’re in a status meeting listening to your co-worker run down their long-list of tasks, and you’re thinking how to make your two updates sound significant enough to keep you busy all week.
  • You look back on your week and  realize you probably spent a solid 55% of your time doing real actual work. The other 45% was most likely spent g-chatting, watching viral videos, and sharing workout recommendations with your cube mate.
  • You watch your manager go in and out of meetings all day everyday, and you wonder how one person could be so busy, while your calendar is full of a whole lotta nothin’.
  • While you feel like you’re always doing a lot at work, you constantly feel like that work is either not recognized, or doesn’t really matter.

So, how’d you do? Does your jaw hurt yet?

Admittedly, I made that stupid face writing every single sentence. Unfortunately all of those scenarios have been my reality at some point in my career. And while it pains me, I’m here to tell you, it’s common to feel bored at your job, or worse, feel like your work has no real significance.

Let’s face it, there’s immense pressure to be the busiest worker don’t you think? We’re a culture fixated on being busy. But why? Because being busy gives us a sense of purpose.

It’s weird, you would think that a job that required only 55% of real effort would be the dream right? Then you could relax? But people don’t want to relax, they want to feel like they’re contributing to something larger than themselves, and that requires a hell of a lot more than 55% of effort. Feeling bored or insignificant at work is essentially the same as feeling like you lack purpose. And darling, you’re too fabulous to think like that.

So if you’ve ever felt this way, you may be wondering what the problem is. Is it you? Is it your aloof manager? Your big company? For me, the root of the problem doesn’t really matter. What matters is what we do about it. 

The easiest answer I have is to take fucking control. Of course, this is easier said than done. Fortunately I can shed some perspective, speaking as someone who has spent far too long being bored to tears.

Here are a few ways that have helped me take control of this problem in the workplace. My hope is that they will help you take control too. Try them and let’s make a pack to never pretend to be busy again. Let’s ACTUALLY be badass busy bees showing our value and purpose to everyone we meet. Deal?

1. ASK. 

I know, tragically simple, and yet so effective. You see, boredom at work has a side effect, and it’s called complacency. You get comfortable with the way things are, and instead of making a change you just accept it. If this sounds familiar, you may find that you never actually ask your team or supervisor for work. You instead wait to be told what to do. You justify doing this by telling yourself, “If they wanted me to work on this, they would have asked me.”

For the love of God, please stop thinking this. If there is a project you want in on, or a meeting you want to attend, ASK. Ask to sit in on brainstorm, ask to take a stab at a first draft, ask to be the point of contact for a client. The worst upper-management can say is no. But they will remember you asked, and that’s what’s important.

Extra Credit: Set up a meeting with your supervisor where you have time to really talk, and discuss not feeling challenged with your current workflow. Be careful not to just “complain”, instead, offer enthusiasm and ideas on potential solutions. 


2. Play detective. 

This is not as simple as just asking for more work. This requires stepping outside the comfort of your position and seeking out opportunities that may not exist yet. No matter how efficiently a company is running, there are always holes. There are always areas that could be improved. These are the areas to pay attention to.

I once joined a company that preached the “fast paced work environment” bullshit during my interview, when that was not the case. A few weeks in I knew I could not rely on my team to outline my priorities and objectives. I had some time on my hands so I did some digging. I discovered that the company hadn’t touched their social analytics in over two years. Here they were posting on social media without any sense of their audience or that what had worked in the past. I made it my mission to not only backlog years of data, but create a analytics reporting strategy moving forward. My findings and reports resulted in a company-wide presentation a few months later.


3. Make something up.

This is a little like number two, but a tad embellished. It too, requires going beyond your job title and thinking outside the box. And while I don’t recommend making up your own job completely – l mean, let’s leave some work for the company – I think there’s something to be said for being entrepreneurial-minded within a corporate structure. So basically, get creative. I would start by thinking about what skills outside of your immediate job the company could benefit from. For instance,  you could start an internal community or collective for employees. Or, if you like to write and your company doesn’t have a blog, make a suggestion to create one and recruit writers. I’ve literally seen entirely new jobs created out of side-project employees made up.


Using these methods will not only make boredom a ghost of Christmas past, but will help increase your value and purpose within the company. Which, at the end of the day, isn’t that what we really want?