It’s when nothing about what you do interests or excites you. You can do what’s required to a more-or-less OK standard, and sometimes you feel you could do it with your eyes shut. Actually, sometimes your eyes really are shut.
This feeling can hit at any time. It can creep up on you without you realising what is happening. If you do recognise what is happening, and don’t like it, you have the option to make some changes.
But sometimes change isn’t feasible. There are reasons why you have to continue doing this particular line of work – there’s nothing else around, you need to build up experience, you need to work until the end of your contract, the hours suit you, it’s only until you go travelling, start your course, finish your film script, whatever.
So there you are, stuck with a routine job which drains the life out of you.
Here’s how you inject some life into the nine-to-five. It’s simple. You just decide you are going to be the very best clerk or waiter or assistant or temp or intern or operator that could possibly be imagined.
Act as if it really matters. Bring that little bit extra to your performance, then bring another little bit extra.
Take a step outside yourself and watch yourself being wonderful. Playing the part to perfection will give you a boost, benefit everyone around you, and just possibly, teach you some new skills.
If you’re in a customer service industry, for example, decide to give every encounter your best shot. Study people. Learn when to offer help, and when to keep a tactful distance.
Find out about body language. Notice how gestures and eye contact affect the way we communicate.
Develop the habit of making personal connections. Find something nice to say to everyone.
Treat everyone as if they may be about to say, ‘Hey, I’ve been looking for someone as smart as you to run my new catering empire!’ or ‘Hey, have you ever done a screen test? You’re just the type we need for this new George Clooney vehicle.’
The thing is, you never know who you’re dealing with. And everyone, yes everyone, is important.
Use the opportunity of being under-stretched to hone your technical ability and develop your interpersonal skills. Make a point of speaking to people face to face or on the phone rather than relying on email.
Offer to help, or to take on something new, even if there’s no money or kudos involved. You’ll feel better, and you’ll learn something.
Set yourself a challenge. Pick one thing you’re not great at – it could be making a request, or managing your time, or starting a conversation, or replying with more than a one-word answer.
Decide on three actions you will take to improve in this area. When you are happy with the result, move on to something else.
What will happen, quite quickly, is you won’t have to act any more. Being the best you can be will become second nature and it’s great preparation for your next step, when the right time comes.