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Boredom Can Make You More Productive Only When You Learn These 8 Tricks

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Boredom Can Make You More Productive Only When You Learn These 8 Tricks

Picture this:

You’re bored at work, almost in tears because the tasks on your to-do list seem so monotonous and dull. Your mind starts to wander and you ask yourself, “Is this what I should be doing with my life?” It’s as if your brain is trying to look for anything else to do to avoid the task at hand. You check you phone, you go on social media, you might even make a paper airplane – anything to make the feeling stop! Sound familiar? You are not alone!

But what if we could use our boredom to actually help us become more productive?

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It might seem counter intuitive at first. Boredom is the feeling that you get when you feel disengaged and unable to focus. Oftentimes we feel unsure of what we can even do to make the feeling go away. We can experience different types of boredom depending on the situation, which can stem from feelings of restlessness, apathy, or even aggression. If we’re bored, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we haven’t taken action. We might watch TV, eat a snack, or surf the web to pass the time.

Productivity, on the other hand, is the ability to take concentrated action and feel a sense of progress based on your efforts. It’s about getting things done that give you a sense of pride or accomplishment. You might have scrolled through 100 updates on Facebook, but does that make you productive? More likely, it means that you are bored! All behaviors are not created equal. To be productive, you have to find value in your action.

8 ways to transform your boredom into a productivity booster

Slow down and acknowledge the boredom

We will oftentimes try anything possible to escape boredom. In a study conducted by Timothy Wilson,[1] a social psychologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, undergraduates were given the option to sit alone for 15 minutes with only their thoughts, or give themselves electric shocks. Sixty-seven percent of the men in the study opted to shock themselves, even though they had previously noted that they would pay money to avoid the sensation! This same type of psychology applies to our daily lives too. Have you ever sat down in front of the TV and had a snack, even if you were not hungry? Before you know it, you’ve eaten a full bag of chips. People eat, drink, and engage in all different types of activities out of boredom. By slowing down and recognizing your boredom, you can choose more productive behavior.

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Don’t let filler activities overwhelm you 

Oftentimes when we are bored, we can fall into patterns of behavior associated with filler activity, otherwise known as “busy work”. We send text messages, browse social media sites, or pace back and forth. We are physically doing something, but it’s usually a distraction and the behavior does not provide true value to our lives. Ask yourself, “Is my behavior productive? What am I trying to accomplish through this task?” Productive behavior will always be in service to an end goal.

Figure out why you are bored

Now it’s time to get to the root cause of the feeling. What is causing the boredom? Perhaps you don’t know what you want to do or accomplish. Or maybe you do have an idea, but your current job or circumstance doesn’t allow you the time or ability, and your boredom stems from that frustration. It could also be the task at hand that could be causing your boredom. Tasks that are repetitive, too easy, or out of your control can sometimes feel dull! Whatever the reason, label it and move on.

Move toward valued action and novelty

Now that you know what is causing your boredom, you can do something about it and become productive again. What do you need to change about your current environment, circumstance or mindset that will allow you to engage in behavior that will feel valuable to you? If you find yourself bored at your current job, what type of career would make you feel excited and motivated to go to work every day? What actions could you take right now to make that switch?

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Twist the boring part to add spice to it

If it’s a particular task that has you feeling bored (like data entry or another small office nuisance), what could you add to the process to make it feel more fun or enjoyable? Perhaps you could make the task into a game. In this example, you could challenge yourself to complete 100 entries within the next hour. Attach small rewards (like a 10 minute walk or a sweet treat) to the outcome of the game. Track your progress and then try to beat your own personal records. This turns uninspired, boring actions into bursts of productivity. Try to find ways to make the circumstance feel new and different to you. This will heighten your engagement, and relieve feelings of boredom.

Some Apps Actually Help

Remove the impulse to revert back to the boredom-triggered “busy work”. There are tons of apps and programs (such as Freedom) that can block Facebook, Reddit, or other distracting websites that you might find yourself visiting to escape the boredom. It’s a habit that you’ll have to break, so don’t be too hard on yourself if your impulse is to engage in the distraction at first. Productivity is a muscle that you will need to flex again and again in order to gain strength.

Turn to the more boring tasks

Try reverting back to an old tip from childhood: remember when you were a kid and you would run up to your mom or dad and complain about being bored? And what was the first thing they would always say? “I have some chores for you to do!” And, as if it were magic, you would run off and find something else to do – it was an automatic cure for boredom! You can use this trick as an adult too. What is the one thing that you’ve been putting off for awhile? Perhaps it’s doing laundry or cleaning the restroom. Start tackling some of those not-so-fun chores. Either A) You will complete them and feel a sense of relief and productivity now that you’ve finished them, or B) You will have a better idea of what you would prefer to do instead.

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Look for your genuine motivation

Still don’t know what you want to do? That’s okay. Everyone deserves a break every once in awhile! But if you do desire to be more productive, you’ll have to tap into your hidden source of motivation in order to take action. Try to make a list of the benefits: Who would be proud of you if you took action? Who could you be if you left boredom behind and became productive? Paint that picture in your mind. How would you feel? Jot down these ideas in as much detail as possible, and see if they motivate you enough to take deliberate action.

By using your boredom as a springboard towards productive action, you’ll gain a sense of clarity around how you want to spend your time. We all only have a limited amount of time on earth. To feel bored is to recognize that we are not spending our time in a way that feels fulfilling and connected to our passions. Doing this work will align your actions with your goals and will give you a sense of control over your time and life. Boredom often comes from the nagging feeling that we are wasting our time here on earth. Moving towards more productive thought patterns and behavior will help relieve that pressure.

Reference

More by this author

Brittany Ritcher

Founder + Qualitative Researcher at Soultiply

Boredom Can Make You More Productive Only When You Learn These 8 Tricks

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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