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Home » Behavior, Featured, Happiness, Headline, Motivation, Work

Burnout or Boredom?

Submitted by on October 28, 2013 – 11:59 pmNo Comment

Burnout or BoredomindexArticle #578

Author: Dale Furtwengler

“I just can’t seem to get my mind focused now that things have slowed down.”This was the third time in a month that my client had uttered these words. At first I thought it was simple fatigue. In earlier conversations she said that she had been putting in 70-hour weeks. Her next statement told me that I was wrong. She said “I’m looking forward to the day when I can retire”; she was 46 years old. She wasn’t recovering from burnout; she was bored.

Case of mistaken identity

Misdiagnosis is easy because the symptoms are exactly the same, lethargy, lack of focus, a desire to withdraw from the tasks at hand and, in more extreme cases, missed deadlines. How can you tell whether you are suffering from burnout or boredom? Build something new into your routine and see what happens to your energy level. If it rises quickly you know that you were bored.

Last year another client spoke often of needing more time off. At age 49, he began to consider how he might sell the business in five years because he “couldn’t keep up the pace”. Two months later he added a new line of business. Now he is working more hours than ever and loving it. What he considered fatigue was boredom.

Boredom is an insidious enemy that creeps up slowly, masks itself as burnout and robs you of the success you deserve. The key to avoiding this trap is change.


Reinvent your business every three years and you won’t become bored with what you do. I am not suggesting that you abandon everything and start over. Simply find ways of adding new dimensions to the business. Three years ago I added speaking and training to my consulting business. This year I am adding facilitation services. These additions keep the work interesting. Building changes into your business plan will keep boredom at bay.

I know that some of you are wondering, “How am I going to add new dimensions to my business when I am already scrambling to keep up with the business I have?” You have several choices. You can either assign a portion of your work (preferably what you don’t enjoy) to others in the organization. If you don’t have a staff, you can either outsource some of the work or hire someone to take over those duties. Finally, you can eliminate lines from your current offerings. Ouch!

Do you hate the thought of giving up business; hate thinking about having to market new products or services to replace that business? It’s going to happen anyway; why not initiate the change?

Action or reaction

If you think that you aren’t going to have to offer new products and services you are ignoring the fact that customers’ needs change. You are also overlooking the fact that when (notice I didn’t say if) boredom creeps in and your quality drops because you simply aren’t interested anymore, your customers will make the decision for you.

Don’t let that happen. Establish new lines of business that will keep your interest high, your quality strong and your customers delighted. Getting rid of boring business, or better yet, delegating it to others who find the work exciting, is the best way to assure your health, happiness and business success. Before we leave this topic, let me ask you one more question. Are you the only one who can suffer from boredom?

Implications for employees

Your employees are more susceptible to boredom than you are. Why? They don’t have as much control over where they devote their time and attention as you do. When you notice a good employee’s performance sliding, explore boredom as the probable cause.

Sit down with that employee and discuss some of the projects you have on the table. See which of those projects grabs his or her interest. Then help the person find ways to free up the time to become involved in the new project. You will be amazed at the difference in attitude and energy level.

Your employee will be filled with excitement and anticipation. She will breeze through the “normal” workload to be able to spend more time on the new project. You’ll see resurgence in her energy and productivity. Your employee will, once again, look forward to coming to work. People who enjoy their work are less likely to leave. Heaven knows that finding talented people in today’s economy is a daunting task.

More prevention

An even better approach to avoiding employee boredom is to build new challenges into your employees’ jobs every week. This isn’t as difficult as it might seem. Simply think about what you want to accomplish and find ways to involve your employees in the effort. That will prevent boredom from creeping into your employees’ work experience.


Experience from years of helping clients increase productivity has taught me that few owners or managers demand so much of their employees that they burn them out. In fact, it is more common to underestimate the abilities and capacity of the employees than to overly tax them. The result is boredom, which has the same symptoms as burnout.

The reality is that all of us possess much more energy than we realize. The key is to tap that energy by adding variety to our work so that boredom can’t creep in and rob us of the success we deserve. It isn’t how much we work; it’s how much we enjoy the work!

Copyright © 1999, Dale Furtwengler, all rights reserved

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About the Author

Dale Furtwengler is a professional speaker, internationally-acclaimed author and a business consultant who uses counter-intuitive thinking to help his clients increase profits without adding resources. For more information on how counter-intuitive thinking can work for you visit

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