It would be nice to think that you’re going to be just as excited about going to work tomorrow as you were on your first day on the job.
But between increased workloads caused by your company’s reluctance to hire more people, or a change in management that has put less than stellar people in charge of your little corner of the universe, or maybe the fact that you have done the same job for a while now, you may be feeling….well, not exactly burned out, but fatigued.
What to do?
- Telling yourself to get more excited about the same old thing isn’t going to work. (It never does.)
- Retiring in place and simply going through the motions is not an option. (You’d be replaced a week from Thursday by someone who might not be better, but by a person who certainly has more enthusiasm.)
- And while looking for another job is clearly a choice, terrific jobs are hard to come by in this limp-along economy and you may not be ready to undergo that kind of disruption.
Let us suggest another alternative: Start something. More specifically, start something outside of work.
It could be a new company — or at least something that could lead to starting your own company — but it also could be something artsy like writing a book, composing music or doing something for the betterment of your community (such as developing an idea for a new after-school program). Heck, it could even be something you’ve always wanted to do — like learning to play the piano or speak a new language — with absolutely no possibility of financial reward. You simply want to do it for the sheer enjoyment of it.
It doesn’t matter what it is. The key is to start, to take a small step toward what you think you want. You don’t have to make a commitment to see this fledgling notion through to the end. That would be silly — you simply don’t know if this new thing is something that you are really going to like.
The key is to get moving without much cost (either in time or in any other resource.) As with all new ventures, you want to stay within your acceptable loss.
Once you take that small, inexpensive step, see what you’ve learned. If you’re happy with the results, take another step toward your goal. Pause again to see what you’ve learned this time and, if it feels right, go take another step.
How is this going to make you happier at your job? That’s simple. Some of the enthusiasm you have for your outside venture is going to carry over into your work. Making progress on things you care about elevates your mood. You’ll come to work pleased with yourself and you’ll be less dour. Guaranteed. That could be enough to get you out of your funk — which is certainly a good thing both for you, your colleagues and your company.
And if it doesn’t cure your job fatigue, or it doesn’t for long, that’s not necessarily bad, either. By taking the step toward creating something outside of work, you have done two things, both of them good:
First, you may have started down the road that could lead to you starting your own business.
Second, because you have done it, you are in the process of proving to yourself that you know how to create something new. That will be a valuable skill to have no matter what you do next — start your own company, look for a new job or try to carve out a new sort of position in your current company.
Of course, there is an alternative, and you’ve probably met this person before. It’s the person who tells you about all the things they might do, but who never seems to take the first step toward any of their goals. You offer an idea. You offer encouragement and support. But nothing happens. Somehow this person seems more comfortable and even (ironically) pleased with dreaming about possibilities while remaining unhappy.
The remedy for this malaise is simple (although not often taken). It is to act. Every action causes a change in reality. Every action carries the potential for learning. Learning about your next step. Learning about what you like or don’t like. Every act can build momentum. Small desires grow. A small talent or expertise can be developed and honed. Before you know it, you can be on a new course. But only if you act.
So, as counter-intuitive as it seems, to be more excited about your job, go do something great outside of it.
Leonard A. Schlesinger is the president of Babson College. Charles F. Kiefer is president of Innovation Associates. Paul B. Brown is a long-time contributor to the New York Times. They are the coauthors of Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future (HBR Press 2012). Learn more at juststartthebook.com.