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How to Fall in Love With Boredom and Unlock Your Mental Toughness

How to Fall in Love With Boredom and Unlock Your Mental Toughness

Whether we are talking about athletes, artists, or academics, the story is the same. If you want to fulfill your potential then you must practice a specific skill for a long time with remarkable consistency. Mastery is never an accident.

Somehow, top performers in any craft figure out a way to fall in love with boredom, put in their reps, and do the work.

Of course, whenever “experts” share stories about successful people they often leave out a key ingredient of the story. How, exactly, do top performers fall in love with boredom that can come through repetition? Perhaps more important, how can you fall in love with boredom when you’re trying to build a habit that you know you should do, but you don’t really want to do?

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Let me share two strategies that work for me.

How to Fall in Love with Boredom

First, there is very little hope for falling in love with a habit that you truly hate. I don’t know anyone who legitimately dislikes an activity and somehow falls in love with doing it. It doesn’t add up. It’s very difficult to hate something and be in love with it at the same time (Your ex doesn’t count).

Let’s say you dislike working out, but you know it’s good for you. If you want to fall in love with the boredom of going to the gym, then you have two options:

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1. Increase your proficiency at the task.

Even tasks that you are good at will feel monotonous some days, so imagine the uphill battle you’re fighting if you are constantly trying to do something that you don’t feel skilled at. The solution? Learn the basic fundamentals of your task and celebrate the small wins and improvements you make. With our workout example, let’s say you want to learn how to do a proper deadlift or bench press. Practicing these new skills in the gym can be fun and making tiny improvements each week builds momentum. It’s much easier to fall in love with doing something over and over again if you can look forward to making progress.

2. Fall in love with a result of the task rather than the task itself.

Let’s be real: there are some things that we should do that are always going to be a hassle. Running sprints might be an example. Very few people look forward to setting their lungs on fire.

I find that I have more success in situations like these when I shift my focus away from the actual task and toward a result. Sometimes this is a direct result of the habit I’m trying to perform. Other times, it’s a result that I invent. For example, you can make a game out of not missing workouts even if you don’t enjoy the workout itself. Let’s say you have done two sprint workouts in a row. Your goal is to fall in love with becoming the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts. You’re not worried about how you perform. You’re not worried about if you’re getting faster. You’re not worried about getting six-pack abs or any other type of result. For the most part, you’re not even thinking about the workout. Instead, you’re simply focused on keeping your workout streak alive.

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This is basically the Seinfeld Strategy applied to exercise. Your only goal is to “not break the chain.” By shifting your focus away from the activity you dislike, you’re giving yourself an opportunity to fall in love with the boredom of sticking to the streak (something you do enjoy).

The Power of Patience

I was speaking with a friend at the gym recently. He had decided to change his weightlifting routine despite making good progress with his old program. I asked him why. He made a few excuses before eventually saying, “Basically, I got bored.”

It has taken me years to learn this lesson myself, but I’m starting to believe that a beautiful blend of patience and consistency is the ultimate competitive advantage. Success is often found by practicing the fundamentals that everyone knows they should be doing, but they find too boring or basic to practice routinely.

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It’s like making 120 sales calls per day. There’s nothing sexy about it, but it works. You don’t need to reinvent the fundamentals. You need to commit to them. Do more of what already works. (1)

This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.
FOOTNOTES
  1. Thanks to readers Roshni, Sebastian, and Jonathan for suggesting this topic. As always, I love hearing about the topics you’d like me to write about and welcome any feedback you have on how to make my work more useful.

Featured photo credit: Julie Edgley via flickr.com

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James Clear

James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits. He shares self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research.

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

  • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

  • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

  • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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Different Folks, Different Strokes

Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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Productivity and Trust Killer

Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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A Flexible Remote Working Policy

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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