Kabir L.

Community Manager
May 24, 2022

Signs You’re Wasting Your Life at Work

Work is often perceived as a waste of time when you don’t feel that you are working in the service of something, or working towards your purpose

According to a survey from Pew Research, majorities of workers who quit a job in 2021 say low pay (63%), no opportunities for advancement (63%), and feeling disrespected at work (57%) were reasons why they quit. If you struggle with any of these reasons, then you may be feeling lost at work or feel like you are wasting your life at work.

Moreover, Gallup asked employees how important certain attributes are when they consider whether to take a job with a different organization. They found that employees place the greatest importance on a role and an organization that offers them:

  • the ability to do what they do best
  • greater work-life balance and better personal well-being
  • greater stability and job security
  • a significant increase in income
  • the opportunity to work for a company with a great brand or reputation

This article will go over

Is working wasting your life?

Work is often perceived as a waste of time when you don’t feel that you are working in the service of something, or working towards your purpose. You may feel stuck and disempowered, and not know what you want to do. You may want to change careers to do something different, and don't feel engaged at work. Usually, employees seem to leave about nine months after their engagement at work starts falling, according to this report.

Source: Heartbeat

If you feel like you are wasting your time at work, you may be:

  • Feeling like you can’t do more
  • Having difficulty asking to do less
  • Having trouble advocating for yourself
  • Unexcited about your work
  • Having difficulty with not being recognized
  • Having trouble working with your manager

Generally speaking, the role of work in someone’s life is more than just a means to an end. To be fulfilled in life, a person’s work needs to be more than just a way to earn their living. Most people work upwards of 8 hours a day. That is a third of their day, while another third goes towards sleeping. Therefore, work is a significant part of a person’s life, and if you feel like you are wasting these eight hours, then your experience of life will be unpleasant.

How do I enjoy my work?

The first step to improving your experience at work is to assess the problem areas. You can start by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. What do you dislike about your work?
  2. What do you enjoy about your work?
  3. What is your relationship with your manager like?
  4. Do you feel like you’re doing a good job?
  5. Does your manager feel like you’re meeting basic expectations?
  6. Are you fulfilling the duties of your job?
  7. Do you find it easy to ask for feedback?

Asking for Feedback

Some people have difficulty addressing the feedback after they ask for it because they feel bad. They may not know how to address it or may feel like they are already addressing it, but it isn’t being noticed.

After addressing feedback, you oftentimes have to follow up directly with the manager and point out how you have improved. If you don’t bring it to their attention, they may not notice. You may feel embarrassed to do this. However, your manager will really appreciate you bringing it to their notice as it makes their job easier. They do not have to do the work of verification if you present them with the facts. 

Work through the feelings after receiving the feedback, make the changes, and then circle back within 2 weeks to your boss. You could say, “Hey I just wanted to check in with you. 2 weeks ago, you mentioned I need to have a better attitude towards customers, and I’ve really worked on that. I don’t think I’ve had a single customer complain. What do you think about my attitude?”

If your manager suggests additional points of feedback, do your best to address those.

Ask to Do More

This may sound odd. Why would you ask to do more if you don’t enjoy the work you already have? The reason is that sometimes, you may not feel like you’re enjoying your work and are wasting your time because you do not have enough responsibility. Moreover, you may have responsibilities that you did not ask for. 

As a result, as long as you are not overwhelmed, it is generally helpful to willingly take up more responsibility. This will also help you advance in your career, as over time, you will demonstrate the willingness to take on more responsibilities and your ability to execute them well.

It is important to understand how your company values its interests. That will help you develop a compass towards what to work on and prioritize.

If you can’t do more, you can ask to replace work instead of doing more work. If you’re passionate and interested, you’re more likely to succeed.

Most managers have their own problems and are focused on how they themselves are being perceived by their managers in turn.  It follows that they are hoping someone will help them be successful.  Yet few employees actively approach managers either seeking to improve their own performance or to help the manager.  Therefore, employees who do seek feedback to improve stand out positively, and employees who proactively offer to help the manager succeed stand out even more.

The strategy here is to build a relationship with your manager, boss, or customers where ultimately you can ask them to do more interesting, more valuable work.  Humans tend to help those who help them, so by investing in helping your manager, group, and company succeed the client can open these doors.  

Learn Prioritization Skills

Prioritization skill matters because in order to help your manager you must complete your work, even if it is “make work” or “stuff you don’t want to do” efficiently enough to have time to do the things you wish to do and to assist the manager with more interesting work.

When you decide to take on a particular task or project, you choose not to take on another task. A choice to spend time on A means not spending time on B. Use this principle to make calculated decisions about how you spend your time.

When you work for someone, they have a say in your priorities. Therefore, you need to make sure that you are on the same page about the work that is best suited for you. You can ask them the following questions to align with your goals:

  • “I think A is more important than B because of X, do you agree?”
  • “After I complete B, I will work on C next. How does that sound to you?”

By asking these questions, you are inviting them to have a say in your priorities while at the same time maintaining your independence by not asking them to define your priorities for you.

How do I not waste my life at work?

If you are struggling with feeling like you are wasting your time at work, Dr. K explores that feeling in this video:

How do you know it's time to leave a job?

The question of quitting is usually driven by frustration with the leadership at a company. According to a report from DDI, 57% of people who leave a job do it due to their direct manager. As a result, the main skills to consider here are Communication and Collaboration.

It is important to recognize the underlying situations that are driving consideration of quitting and then evaluate if those factors may be addressed.  There is generally accepted broad advice in switching jobs such as “Never run from something, run towards something.”

Understanding your style and then potentially recognizing or asking about your manager’s preferred style can alleviate problems.

For example, some managers like to be kept informed.  Some employees experience this as their manager being interested and engaged.  Others experience it as micromanagement and a lack of trust.

If you try to engage a manager in positive communication and/or invest competent effort in collaboration with the manager to achieve group goals, but continue to have intolerable friction with the manager, at this point it may be time to quit. While this will involve quitting, it is not reactionary. It is a decision to seek a better workplace and manager as much as a decision to leave the current one.

It is better to switch jobs because something superior has been actively identified, not primarily to escape something negative. Without a clearly better next alternative, there is a good chance that the next circumstance will be the same or worse. 

If you quit, you may face social, emotional, and economic pressure to quickly find a new job and that rapid alternative may not be better.

Another potential area of improvement is skill gaps.  You may be going to the job and attempting to work, but have critical gaps in major skills that are resulting in poor performance. As a result, you may feel like you are not having an impact at work, want to quit,

In other words, you may want to quit a job because your boss criticizes you, you are not rewarded, etc. but the root cause may be that unacknowledged skill gaps are driving these problems. You may want to consider evaluating the feedback for valid areas of necessary improvement.

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Boss Type
Favorite Quote
Communication Strategy
Seeks control.
"Did you do what I told you to do?"
Approach privately, don't contradict them in public.
Career Climber
Ambitious. Concerned about own image.
"How does this reflect on me?"
Understand their goals. Support them or avoid embarrassing them.
Company Man
Wishes to avoid criticism from above.
"Will my boss/the company be happy?"
Align your work with corporate/group goals.
Minimize hassle, collect pay, go home. Value peace above fairness.
"Who is causing me a hassle now?"
Pitch assurances of safe ideas.
Old Timer
Values safety of the proven past. Operates on inertia and fear.
"This is how we've always done it."
Present ideas as small, safe, and as tiny deviances of current systems.
Made a manager because of craft excellence, not management skill.
"Is this work at my standards?"
Ask for their expert opinion and help. Be meticulous in your work.
Value adherence to instructions.
"Did you do it exactly as I told you?"
Invite oversight and give frequent updates.
Cannot say no. No balance.
"I'm so busy, I have no time for this."
Set boundaries, offer help, bother them rarely.
Invisible Hand
Remote. Delegates the day to day. Trusts employees.
"Call me if you need me."
Handle problems you can, call them quickly if there are issues.
Servant Leader
Values team players. Struggle with disruptive or selfish employees.
"How can I help you succeed?"
Work towards team goals.
Retail Manager
Disempowered. Common in fast food, mall stores, etc.
"That's what HQ said; I can't change it."
Adhere to the letter of the rules.
Deep emotional ties. Threats to business are threats to them.
"My name is on the building."
Treat their business as personal property.