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

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 November 15, 2019

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems, why?

What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

The Biology

Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

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The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

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The Psychology

Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

1. Identify Your Habits

As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

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It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

3. Apply Logic

You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

4. Choose an Alternative

As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

5. Remove Triggers

Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

6. Visualize Change

Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

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For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

Final Thoughts

Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

More About Changing Habits

Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

Reference

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