Avoiding the Autopilot
Syndrome - How to Keep Challenge Alive in Your Work
Are you bored with your job? Has your work become one endless task after another? Many people are so caught up in getting things done they lose sight of the purpose of their work and quickly get bored. In fact, the more secure and stable a job starts to be, the more likely we are to find it unchallenging. What used to be fun and interesting is now boring and monotonous. In The Tragic Sense of Life, Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno writes, “To fall into habit is to begin to cease to be.”
Why does it matter how challenging your work is?
Keep Challenge Alive
How do you keep challenge alive in your job? First, decide what challenges you. What are your most important sources of challenge? Think of times when you felt challenged and write them down. Look at your list and answer the following. Do you feel challenged by:
Challenge and the Bigger Picture
Pay attention to what challenges you and find a way to incorporate more of it. If this requires a job change that is not feasible right away, then make it a part of your long-term vision. In the meantime, find out what it takes to have these elements in your job and decide how you will keep challenged. Write a three-year timeline. Consider involving your manager so she can help you build your timeline.
What do you need to do to get there? As you take these steps you are crystallizing your future vision and making it real. Now deepen your understanding of the big picture. Draw out your own company flow chart to trace where you fit in the organization. Then diagram where your service affects others in the company, including customers and suppliers. The more you understand how your role affects others and the bigger picture, the more naturally motivated and challenged you will be.
Next, ask yourself how you help customers to be more successful. Make this a core part of what you do. Are you really serving others? Can you serve them more? Connect your role to others in the company, customers and the community. This is critical to building more challenging work. It gives you something meaningful to aim for and adds challenge.
Challenge and Meaning
When I speak at conventions about creating meaning in work, I start off by asking a rhetorical question: “What gives something meaning, besides the meaning we give it?” People usually immediately nod their head in recognition. The neat thing about understanding this is it gives license to make anything meaningful, from apparently mundane tasks to the important ones. Meaning is created by each and every one of us, whether we know it or not. Add meaning and challenge to your work by re-assessing what you think and feel about the job.
Take stock of what you do in a week. Find ways to challenge yourself more with regular tasks:
Actively thinking about what is challenging and meaningful to you will inspire purpose in your work. Remember, the only person who can really give your job challenge is you. The challenge is up to you!
Author of “All Work & No SAY," Jody Urquhart, www.idoinspire.com, speaks at meetings and conventions on How to Build a Passionate & Committed Workplace. To book Jody to speak at your next meeting email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.