8 Ways To Entertain Yourself At Work
Everyone gets bored at work. It’s pretty much an inevitable fact of life, like paying taxes or spilling coffee on your shirt when you have a big meeting to get to. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to entertain yourself at work. I want to share a few of my favorites.
I have to share the inspiration for this post. I hope you find this amusing (albeit also cringe-worthy) as I did. If you don’t want to read the story, you can skip ahead to the good stuff.
I live in a house that is directly in front of a two-way intersection. If I look out of any front-facing window in my house, I can easily see all the way down the next street because perpendicular and math and blah blah blah.
In any case, the city just hired a road crew to come in and repair the other road, so there have been workers and equipment blocking the street pretty much all week. The weather is really nice, so the windows have been open. It’s loud, but that’s not really an issue for me. It has only been a minor annoyance but nothing that I can’t live with short-term.
Friday morning, I was sitting in my home office, trying to get some work done, when I noticed a construction worker pacing back and forth in the middle of the road. He was intentionally scraping his feet along the ground, then kicking them up in the air in an exaggerated motion, like he was playing soccer with loose rocks. I honestly thought he was going to lose his balance and fall backwards a few times. So, yes, I found myself staring for longer than was acceptable.
I probably had some sort of weird stalker vibe going on, but I don’t think he ever noticed so that’s okay. What can I say? I’m an introvert who loves to people-watch. Especially when those people are doing weird things in your front yard.
So, I kept watching for a while. It was clear that this poor guy was bored to death. He was trying to amuse himself, but his kicking, shuffling, dance moves just weren’t enough.
Then, out of the blue, he started arguing with himself. It started as just a little mumbling that I couldn’t really hear or understand, but his mouth was moving. Then it got much louder.
In case you are wondering, no he wasn’t talking on the radio. There was no Bluetooth headset in his ear, nor were there any other workers around that he might have talked to. He was completely alone, arguing with himself. Loudly.
It was entertaining, but I was starting to get a little concerned.
After a few minutes, a pickup truck stopped and another worker jumped out carrying a road sign to direct traffic. They exchanged a few words before the first man walked away and left the new guy standing in his place. Within seconds, that guy was also shuffling his feet and pacing around in circles. But at least he wasn’t arguing with himself.
I closed my window and the curtains at that point. I’m not sure what I would have done if he, too, had gone down the same seemingly insane path, but I don’t really want to find out.
I couldn’t help but feel empathy for both workers. Because let’s face it, work has the tendency to feel like a boring, mundane, complete waste of your time sometimes. Even if you are like me and LOVE your job, there are still moments when you just don’t feel up to the task. You’re tired, or bored, or there’s something else you would just rather be doing.
That brings me to my point…
How do you get past being bored out of your mind at work?
I mean, besides arguing with yourself and practicing your goofy soccer moves.
If you’re like the construction workers, your options might be a bit limited. For safety reasons, you can’t exactly pull out a pen and paper or stuff ear buds in your ears, especially while standing in the middle of the road waiting to direct traffic. Well, I suppose you can, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
If, however, you are lucky enough to work from home or in an environment that allows you to mix up your routine and entertain yourself a bit, there are so many great options to choose from to help pass the time. Some of them are a bit obvious, but there are a few that you may not have considered until now.
Read All About It
You have already discovered one of the most popular ways of curbing boredom – reading. Whether you are into fiction, nonfiction, magazines, newspapers, graphic novels, digital articles, or just about anything with text, you know that reading can be entertaining and helps pass the time. This is one of those super obvious choices that doesn’t need much of an explanation.
But what do you do when you have to focus on something visually and can’t just stop to pull out your favorite book? Maybe you’re a graphic designer and want to do something while you continue to work. You’re bored, but you’re also still kind of busy.
Read With Your Ears
I’m talking, of course, about audiobooks. Many new books, as well as some of the classics, are also available in audio format. You can purchase them from bookstores, online vendors like Amazon, or usually wherever books are sold. You can even get them for free from your local library or subscribe to services like Amazon Kindle Unlimited to get access to thousands of books for a really low price. Then you aren’t stuck with a book you don’t like.
There are a few benefits to listening to audiobooks.
- As I mentioned, audiobooks don’t usually prevent you from getting other work done at the same time, depending on what you are trying to do. Sitting in on a conference call is not going to work well, but listening while you clean out your inbox or answer a few emails is perfectly acceptable.
- Read at your own pace. You are able to to increase or decrease the narration speed, depending on what you are listening to. If you’ve chosen a self-help book, you might decide to slow the narration down so you have more time to think about what is being said. Or, if there’s a big war scene going on, you might choose to speed up the narration so the experience feels more intense.
- You can pause when you need to and press play again without missing anything (or losing your place in the book).
- Your phone, tablet, or computer is always nearby, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting your book at home and being bored all day without it.
Of course, the biggest disadvantage of audiobooks is that you have to listen to them. So, if you work in an office setting that doesn’t allow headphones – those monsters! – audiobooks aren’t going to work for you.
If that’s the case, there’s still hope for you. Check out these great ideas.
Your Music Is Great, But Let’s Mix It Up
Music is the most obvious choice for most people when they want to do something fun but still get work done. It’s easy to lose track of time when you are rocking out to your favorite songs. But even this can start to feel monotonous, especially if you listen to the same few bands or songs on loop every single day. If you have your music blasting but you still feel hopelessly bored, your tunes may be putting you to sleep.
It’s time to mix it up! Try this instead:
- Pick a genre that you wouldn’t normally listen to and find a playlist for the most popular songs in that genre.
- Play one of the songs and try to focus on the parts of it that you like. If the words don’t make sense but you enjoy the beat, try to focus on that. If you find the instruments a bit twangy or annoying, try listening to the words and see if invoke any sort of emotion or deep thought.
- Compare the song to the music you normally listen to. Try using an analytical approach rather than being overtly biased. Are there similar instruments being played? Is the beat the same? Are the topics of the lyrics pretty much the same?
- Make a game out of it and try to have fun.
Discover New Podcasts
If mixing up your music wasn’t enough, it’s time to try something entirely different. Why not try listening to a podcast?
If you don’t know what a podcast is or have never listened to one, you are missing out on one of the best forms of educational and entertainment content in the world. Ok, that might be a bit dramatic, but that doesn’t mean I don’t mean it. Podcasts are like a television series (but for your ears). Some of them are intended to help solve real-world issues, like boosting your productivity, while others are a series of comedic radio talk shows. You can stream them all for free or download them to your device for offline listening. You can even subscribe to your favorites and get notified when new episodes are released.
The best thing about podcasts is that most of the good ones make you feel like you are actually sitting in the room with the speakers and you’re a part of this amazing conversation that they are having. This is even better if you work alone and get lonely from spending so much time by yourself without anyone else to talk to. All you have to do is open your favorite podcast app – I recommend Overcast – and press play. Within minutes, you will feel like someone has leaped into your little world and you are no longer alone.
That sounds kind of creepy, but you get the gist.
Learn Something New
Another option for your busy ears (or eyes) is to take the time to learn something new.
I have a creative job, which allows me to spend every morning illustrating designs for whatever Color My Life project I happen to be working on at the time. Since this requires very little analytical thought, I also use this time as the perfect opportunity to learn something new or brush up on some skills.
Now, to be frank, you probably aren’t going to retain all the information if you are multitasking and trying to learn. Answering phone calls at the same time is out of the question, as are other tasks like writing a report for your boss or performing in-depth calculations. But if you have a lull at work or can focus on more than one thing at a time, it can be fun and advantageous to use that time to learn something new.
How You Choose To Learn Is Up To You
Listen to an educational podcast, read a book or online article, or watch/listen to educational content from providers like Udemy, CreativeLive, and YouTube. You can probably even learn something that will give you a leg up at your job or take your hobby to the next level.
If you aren’t sure what to listen to, try one of the free CreativeLive on-air classes. There are different classes being broadcasted every day of the week. If you happen to miss the beginning of the broadcast, just wait for it to loop back around and watch it from the beginning.
Just to give you an idea of what you might be able to learn, here are a few upcoming on-air classes:
- Think Like a 10K Wedding Photographer May 4-5
- Smart PR for Artists & Entrepreneurs May 5-6
- Build your Lighting Knowledge May 8-9
- Drawing Hacks in Illustrator® CC for Non-Artists May 9-10
- Simple Email Marketing for Makers May 10 LIVE CLASS
There’s also a huge free live broadcasting event coming up in a few weeks (May 15-20) if you want to learn all about Adobe Photoshop. I am planning on watching as much of it as possible.
It’s not all just live streaming, though. You can also pay to have lifetime 24/7 on-demand access to any of the classes above, so if one of those sounds interesting to you, click the link to find out more and make your purchase. I was watching a really interesting course yesterday morning about making soaps and bath products, so I am considering purchasing that course to get on-demand access to the recipes and videos. Homemade Christmas presents, anyone?
Most of the ideas above required you to be able to listen to something to be of use. So, what should you do if listening isn’t an option?
Write It Down
While you’re at work, it’s usually a good idea to keep your primary focus on your actual job. This is especially true when there are things for you to do – whether or not you actually want to do them. But if you’re like most people, there are times throughout your week when you are left twiddling your thumbs because there isn’t anything for you to do. Let’s pretend it’s Friday afternoon, all your work is done for the week, and you’re all ready to go for the following week. There’s still an hour left on the clock, but if you start something new, you won’t be in a good place to stop when the quitting bell rings. So, what do you do?
One hour is plenty of time to get in some creative writing. Pull out your favorite pen and a pad of paper, or cozy up to the keyboard at your desk, and start typing away.
- Work on the novel you’ve been thinking about writing for the last ten years.
- Write a random story or article. Writing in this way is not only relaxing, but it also fuels your creativity and helps you to see things from a different perspective.
- Plan for the future. Write down all your current, short-term, and long-term goals and devise a plan to get there. Thinking about the future in this way is motivational and can help you to see the big picture if your current situation seems too overwhelming.
- Journal. If you have had a frustrating day or week, you can write about the things that happened. Vent your frustrations on paper, then throw the paper and that negative energy away.
Just be careful not to say anything that might get you in trouble. My mom always said, “Don’t write anything down that you wouldn’t want anyone else to read.” This advice has always stuck with me and has kept me out of some potentially awful situations over the years. If what you want to say is something that could get you fired, it’s probably best just to keep it to yourself and find another topic to write about.
Draw or Doodle
Who hasn’t found themselves stuck in a boring meeting or lecture, doodling away in their notebook to pass the time? As kids, this is something many of us did without thinking about it. But as adults, some of us have just stopped doodling or drawing altogether. Maybe we think of it as childish behavior or have lost that “don’t care what anyone thinks” mentality that allowed our younger selves to express our creativity without fear of judgment.
If you enjoy drawing, embrace the “don’t care” mentality. Even if you think your doodles are the worst, do it anyway. You’ll be amazed by how quickly the time will pass.
Side note: don’t doodle on important paperwork. If you want to get fired, maybe just go to sleep at your desk instead. At least then you’ll be well rested when you start running around trying to find another job.
This is a big one for any of you who aren’t able to do anything that isn’t “work related” while at work. I’m talking about no music, no books, no podcasts, nothing fun whatsoever. Just a big, old, steamy pile of work-related tasks. If that describes your current work situation, it’s more difficult to do, but you can definitely entertain yourself just by using your own imagination.
Try thinking about some of those writing ideas from above. Instead of writing everything down, just think about it. If you’re serious about writing a novel, think about the characters and try to picture them in your mind. If you want to plan for the future, think about your goals and try to come up with a plan to get there. I strongly encourage everyone to write them down, but for now you can just think.