Soul crushingly boring

Is your job "soul-crushingly" boring?

Three tips to make it better.

Busy lawyers still get bored. Maintain your motivation with this list

By Kate Allman, LSJ

TV programs such as Suits make it seem like legal work is exciting every day of the week. Somehow hotshot attorney Harvey Specter switches from litigator to transaction lawyer, and masters whatever field of law is most interesting on the particular day – from criminal defence to intellectual property. Unfortunately, day-to-day legal work is not like Suits.

Any lawyer who has ground through monotonous discovery tasks knows the torture of being bored at work. A first-year corporate lawyer in New York, who was given the painstaking chore of document review has told Business Insider Australia that he couldn’t believe his job could be so “soul-crushingly” boring.

If you are like this young associate, it may help you to know that lawyers are not the only people who get bored at work. According to a study by Gallup, 71 per cent of US workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” from their work. All this boredom is not only depressing and unproductive – a recent Finnish study showed that being bored causes stress and wreaks havoc on physical health.

So, when boredom hits, how can you salvage your health and sanity?

1. Connect with a ‘bigger than self’ goal

Rachel Clements, Director of Psychological Services at Sydney’s Centre for Corporate Health, says to avoid focusing on the “daily grind” as this only makes boring tasks more dissatisfying.

“Remember that even filing and photocopying can relate to big, important cases and are essential for the team,” Clements says. “Try to connect with ‘bigger than self’ goals that will help you to impart meaning and purpose from work, no matter what the task is.”

With your career goals in mind, you can also use the opportunity to ask for more stimulating, related work.

“If you are filing some information for a case, why not ask if you can summarise that information?,” Clements says. “Being pro-active and seeking opportunities not only leads to more interesting work, it forces you to network and stand out to senior lawyers. This in turn could put you first in line for a promotion (away from the filing cabinet!) further down the track.”

2. Break up your day

Organisational psychologist and Managing Director of Inspirational Workplaces in Sydney, Iain Crossing, says attention span is like a muscle – it needs regular breaks and refuelling to work efficiently. A break can be as simple as making a cup of tea, getting some fresh air, or chatting to a co-worker for five minutes.

“Research shows that taking a short break every 45-60 minutes results in greater productivity than ‘pushing through’,” Crossing says.

James Stanton, an Associate at Minter Ellison in Sydney, says he breaks up his day with exercise by running during his lunch hour. When he was a junior lawyer, Stanton also relished the opportunity to help colleagues with different – if unusual – tasks.

“Being tall, I was the go-to person to reach things on high shelves,” Stanton says. “In the middle of a teleconference with clients, I might get an urgent knock at the door for top shelf-reaching services. I was strangely chuffed by it. ”

3. Make a career assessment

Clements says your body will tell you if chronic boredom is becoming too much for your psychological wellbeing. Physical signs include stress, a lack of energy and feeling heavy or weighed down. If you experience these symptoms often, Clements says it might be time for a career assessment.

“Often people get so busy that they don’t take time to reflect, but it is important to take a step back and do so,” Clements says. “Try to discuss the issue with a mentor, manager or even human resources staff member, who might help you move sideways or broaden your responsibilities within the organisation. If the prospects for expansion are not available in your current workplace, you may need to look at external opportunities.”