Lacking inspiration at work? Teach someone what you do!

We’ve all been there — you’re fully onboarded to your new role, you’ve been stewing in it for a year, and you’re starting to tire of the “daily grind.” At least, that’s where I found myself a few months into quarantine. Don’t get me wrong, I love my company and job, but a little bit of that spark of inspiration was gone.

Rather than vent my frustrations out to my dog all day (working from home, am I right?), I decided to reach out to my team and see if our newest team member might be ready to learn some new tasks. And no, this isn’t about offloading boring tasks onto my team members (I swear).

What I discovered is that when you teach a coworker or friend about what you do, you create a newfound appreciation for your work. I’ll share two things I discovered when I taught my coworker (hey, Kelly!) some of my work.

1. You remember the complexities of your work.

A good bit of my work is cyclic and predictable — what my team calls a “whirlwind.” Whirlwind is day-to-day stuff like emails, meetings, company newsletters, and more meetings, that keep the marketing function alive. Because this work happens so regularly, it’s been easy to label it tedious and unexciting.

So when I set out to teach a colleague about the ins and outs of Atomic’s monthly internal newsletter, the Nucleus, I figured it would be easy peasy. I had written a “how-to” document and was prepared to pass it all over. As we started our meeting, they let me know that they had never used Mailchimp before.

“Okay,” I thought, “Mailchimp is easy! This newsletter is easy!” So when I opened up Mailchimp to start showing her my process, I saw this:


To me, someone with a few years’ experience under my belt, it was obvious that I had to:

  1. Click on the Campaigns button.
  2. Create a new campaign.
  3. Use an existing template (one specific template).
  4. Reach out to a colleague to schedule a project interview.
  5. Find our internal documents and fill out the appropriate sections of the newsletter.
  6. Send a test email to our internal tester.
  7. Add some pizazz.
  8. And finally, send it out into the world.

But to my colleague, it likely looked like this:

Wowza — that was a lot. Even for me! After walking my colleague through those steps and sharing all of the things that had been such old hat for me, I realized how much work I had actually been doing. And I appreciated it more. I felt proud.

2. You can teach AND learn.

Teach & Learn has been a longtime Atomic value. The basic premise is that you never ascend from learning but rather should strive to constantly learn from your colleagues and share your knowledge, too.

Because of the cyclical nature of whirlwind work, it had been easy for me to accept my process as-is and not look to make any changes because it was working. But that approach was challenged when my colleague asked simple questions during our pairing session like “Why?” or, “Is there a different way to do this?”

Having someone that I respect look at a project with a different perspective changed then how I looked at that project. So when they suggested that we take a look at how the email renders on mobile view, I shuddered. How had I been missing that step all along?

When we cracked open the mobile view on Mailchimp this is what we saw:

Wrapping text? Squeezed words? Let’s all give that a resounding, Midwest “Ope”! Why had I not thought to check out the mobile view before?

It’s easy to let the fresh, shiny curiosity about your work dull over time. It’s happened to all of us. And there are different ways to keep yourself inspired, but for me (a verbal processor who loves people) I needed to share my process to understand how it could be improved, even without critical feedback.

Turning Inspiration into Action

It’s easy to take ideas like this to heart for a week or so but never commit to it. I’ve started building two steps into each project that I do: 1. Write documentation. 2. Share with a team member. This holds me accountable not only to my team but to myself and my curiosity.

Gaining inspiration isn’t always as magical as we’d like to think — sitting down and getting lost in each task for hours just because you’re SO into it. But you can add in the magic yourself, in whatever way works for you.

If you’re more of an introvert and teaching others about your work sounds like a nightmare, try setting personal, private goals for yourself to re-invent a portion of your whirlwind work. Could you dive deeper into your task? Or maybe look at your project from a different view (literally, like does your email look ok on mobile?).

Share your tips and tricks for staying inspired and curious with me in the comments below!