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Last Updated on February 7, 2018

People Who Can Endure Boredom Are More Productive

People Who Can Endure Boredom Are More Productive

It seems today that we are on a constant war with boredom. We are almost afraid of it, indeed, almost all of us carry around devices in our pockets that we use expressly to combat boredom. Think about it, what do you do when you’re on a boring journey or are waiting for something? You use your smartphone or something. If this makes you bored you’ll do something else.

I remember on one hour long train journey, I read for a bit, listened to music, played a video game… the reason I kept changing was because I didn’t want to feel bored for a second.

This is made worse by the fact that we now have more forms of stimulation than ever before. Therefore we seek different and more exciting ways to fight of boredom.

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Human brain hates to be bored

The brain is hardwired to look for stimulants. Every time we enjoy a new experience, neurons in our brain fire off and we experience pleasure, or a brief respite from boredom.[1] However, after a while, the same experience cease to have such an effect, and as such we get bored. The cycle continues as we look for other things to fight off boredom.

The thing is, even though our brain seeks these experiences out, we don’t need them. We have no need to be stimulated all the time, and frankly, looking for stimulants all the time can have a negative impact on us and our productivity.

Work we find difficult often makes us bored, so when we are faced with having to work on a difficult task for a while, we become easily distracted, our minds beg for stimulation. Lack of interest in something, and a desire for change or novelty are key causes of boredom.

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Distraction is a boredom remedy

When faced with boredom, we immediately feel we need to get rid of it. We switch tasks to something that will make us less bored, or we will become distracted easily.

This can be a huge problem if the task you need to complete is of great importance. Imagine this scenario, you’re writing a report for your job that needs to be finished by the following morning. While writing it, you get bored and decide to browse Youtube for a while. Switching like this can be disastrous, creating a risk that you fail the task or even if you complete it, they will be at a poorer quality than they would have been were you fully invested.

These are only some of the dangers we face every day by submitting to boredom.

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Master your boredom

This isn’t an article about how to eliminate boredom. Instead this is an article about how to control it, gain mastery of it.

Firstly, you should assume that you’re going to get bored. It’s totally natural and often is unavoidable. Instead of battling this and getting distracted, embrace it. All you need to do is: make time.

Schedule time for distractions

Consider specifically making time for your moments of boredom and distraction, and reconsidering them as breaks. Doing this means that during your set work hours, you are more likely to be focused on your work rather than battling boredom or becoming distracted.

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That’s not all, in fact research has shown that taking semi regular breaks during your work can actually boost your productivity and keep you from burning out. Consider working for roughly 52 minutes then resting for 17.[2]

Train up your tolerance for boredom

You may even find that this will improve your ability to focus, and setting aside time can almost work as a form of mental training. For example, if you’ve set aside some time for a break in thirty minutes, the next thirty minutes of work will be an exercise in concentration. Not only will your productivity increase, so will your concentration and ability to work will improve.

A day of work will also be a day of concentration training. Eventually you might even find that your concentration will be such that you won’t get bored so often.

Next time you get bored at work, don’t punish yourself so much, accept it as natural. It’s easy to become frustrated with yourself if you get distracted. But with the above suggestion, you might master your boredom, change it, and turn it into a tool to improve your productivity and make work more enjoyable.

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 17, 2018

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

How bad really is multitasking?

It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

So what to do about it?

Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

Now, forget about how to multitask!

Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

1. Get enough rest

When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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2. Plan your day

When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

4. When at your desk, do work

We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

5. Learn to say no

Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

6. Turn off notifications on your computer

For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

The bottom line

Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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