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Maybe odd question, but I think I have an odd productivity problem. I lose the will to finish my projects at work when I have very little to do. I am more used to fast-paced environments that keep me on my toes, and keep my mind revved. Trivial projects bore me, and the boredom leads to worse performance and worse delivery of the final product.

The kind of work I do is office work, web programming in specific. I would get piled on lots of work and get it all organized, and because there was a lot to do, it incentivizes my need to double-check every detail to make sure it's all complete and in order. Now with my new job and my new boss only giving me one small project at a time, I have so much down time that I procrastinate, and my performance has dropped.

My performance is better when I have a large workload but the irony is that my boss won't offer me more work until my performance improves. How should I stay on top of things where there's a lot of free time luring me to not work?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

A few ideas:

  • Have you tried setting aggressive deadlines for the small projects to try to make it harder to get it done in time?
  • Have you considered looking at your work from other angles than just getting tasks done and seeing what areas could be improved beyond just output and quality?
  • Have you tried to change your perspective on a "trivial" project so that it no longer appears to have little value?

Changing your perspective is the main theme I'd suggest exploring.

There are a few different reasons why I'd be quite suspicious if I wasn't given timelines and just left to "get it done":

  • Could your boss have a time line in mind that isn't being communicated?
  • Could your boss just not really care when something is done?
  • Could your boss be testing you to see if you'd notice this and say something rather than just blindly do as you are asked?

Another line of thought would be seeing if there are other things that could be done that aren't likely to annoy your boss if you jump on them though this can be a tricky place to manage.

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RE: your first bullet point- that may be part of the problem. My boss set short term milestones but never mentioned when the entire project needs to be completed by. Should I be suspicious about that? – JustChris Sep 19 '11 at 17:49
@JustChris Yes, you should, I think it's important that everyone in the project knows where the project stand in the strategy of the company and how it affects the company (will it benefit customers, a department or no one?). Personally, if I would be in a similar situation, I would have a chat with my manager and say that I'm demotivated because I don't have enough work, I'm sure that both of you can reach an agreement that will give you more work and make your manager more confident that you'll deliver it, but you have to work with him to find how to do this. – Augusto Sep 21 '11 at 15:49
I find that I'm unable to 'trick' myself with self-imposed arbitrary limitations. Oh, how I wish I could though. – huntmaster Apr 1 '13 at 20:45

This isn't actually uncommon in highly driven, self-motivated individuals used to a fast paced environment. When members of my team start to complain of this I tend to do one of three things:

  • give them more work where possible to increase the load
  • encourage them to define micro-goals within a project, with tight deadlines that force them to work harder
  • shift the workload around so each team member gets to do something a little outside their comfort zone

It sounds like you are similar to those members of my team - you need a little stress (in a good way) in order to focus. So think about the three ideas I listed, or come up with other ways to add stress in.

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