Advertising

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
Advertising

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?

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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?

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

Trending in Productivity

1 5 Values of an Effective Leader 2 How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them 3 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work) 4 30 Practical Ideas to Create Your Best Morning Routine 5 Is People Management the Right Career Path for You?

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
Advertising

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

Advertising

From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

Advertising

The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

Advertising

But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

Advertising

Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

Read Next