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Last Updated on February 17, 2021

I’m Feeling Bored: 10 Ways to Conquer Boredom (and Busyness)

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I’m Feeling Bored: 10 Ways to Conquer Boredom (and Busyness)

If you’re saying “I’m feeling bored,” it’s important to realize that boredom and feeling too busy are the same problem. Some people claim I’m being too ambitious trying to strike down chronic boredom and busyness at the same time. I’d argue that the only way to take them out is simultaneously.

The problem stems from how you manage your attention. Both boredom and busyness stem from feeling there is a lack of quality in how you focus your attention.

Boredom is feeling that there are too few high-quality ways to spend attention. Busyness is forced boredom. This means that you feel there are high quality ways to spend attention, but your attention is being stolen from you before you can use it.

I’m Feeling Bored: It’s in Your Mind

Feelings of boredom and busyness are subjective. You can’t look out in the world and claim it is busy or boring. To say these feelings are subjective is obvious, but that misses a key point. The real problem is quality.

Being engaged, neither busy or bored, happens when your attention is focused on high-quality activities.

You can probably remember times when you were completely engaged. This could have been working on a project you were passionate about, spending time with your family, sky diving or vacationing under the sun. Why were you engaged in these moments and not in others?

A likely reason was because those experiences had a higher quality. They allowed you to enter into an immersive flow state, in which your entire consciousness was devoted to the activity.[1]

In the best cases your entire reality revolves around what you are doing. You’ll understand what I mean if you’ve read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (which, I must admit, inspired most of these ideas).

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Improving the Quality of Your Activities

So how do you improve quality in your experiences when you’re saying “I’m feeling bored”? I believe there are two major ways you can do it: externally and internally. If you are chronically busy (and actively disliking the busyness) or bored, then you’ll need to tackle external and internal factors that contribute to these negative feelings.

Here are some ways to consider improving quality in your experiences:

Externally

1. Plan Ahead

Schedule your life to ensure there aren’t huge gaps or work overflows later. This can mean scheduling high-quality experiences if you find yourself frequently bored. It can also mean dividing large projects if you find yourself chronically busy.

  • Plan weekend activities for next month now. This not only gives you something to look forward to, but it also forces you to stay productive instead of just busy.
  • Map out what is placing demands on your time. Can you consolidate all your “busy work” (such as responding to emails) into one block of time instead of allowing it to cause constant interruptions in your day?

2. Win-Win

If you must perform an activity you think has low quality, you’re going to feel bored. Find ways to reorganize your life so that jobs, chores, and duties can become interesting, high-quality experiences.

Turn mind-numbing chores into opportunities for growth and learning. For example, listen to an audio book or lecture on the commute to work or while you’re cleaning your house.

3. Prioritize

If you don’t manage time, you’ll never have enough of it. There are always more things to do than you have time for. Get your values straight so that the highest priorities are handled first and your life doesn’t get overtaken by the unimportant.

Set a vision for your life, and determine how everything you do either contributes or detracts from that vision. Chances are, the things that don’t align with your vision are some of the same things that bore you. After you identify low-priority activities, you can try to make them more meaningful, or you can find ways to eliminate them.

To help you prioritize your everyday tasks easier, get yourself the free workbook Create More Time Out Of A Busy Schedule. With this workbook, you can plan out your day-to-day schedule effectively and end busyness. Get your free workbook here.

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4. Put Quality of Experience First

It is easy to get caught up in external goals that don’t fulfill their promises. Focus on goals that will give you a greater quality, not just a bigger paycheck or more status to brag about.

Set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals that align with your life’s vision.[2]

5. Escape the Motions

Habits are a part of your life, but don’t let them become the only thing. Break out of your patterns if they aren’t giving you what you need. Instead of staying in, go out and meet new people on a Friday night. Just do something to get away from doing the same old thing.

Schedule times to break from your routines. I thrive on having a routine most days, but I also give myself opportunities to break from sameness.

Say “yes” to trying something new. Nothing spices up your day like trying something new.

Internally

Most of the ways to improve your quality of experience and conquer boredom are internal. Remember, it’s not just what you do, but also how you do it.

1. Build an Inner World

I’m not suggesting you create a complete rift between yourself and reality when you find yourself thinking “I’m feeling bored,” but also realize that if you can’t find quality in your immediate surroundings, you can find it within yourself.

Solving internal problems, reviewing knowledge, coming up with new ideas, creating stories, or even planning for the future are all areas you can explore in the mind without any external stimuli.

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Use “boring” moments as opportunities to brainstorm. It’s a lot easier to cope with a humdrum reality if you’re able to use the time to explore possibilities within your mind.

If you’re really at a loss, you can imagine a story about 2-3 of the people and objects in your vicinity. This is a great way to exercise your creativity and sharpen your observation skills.

2. Seek Quality in the Now

Try starting small with some simple questions. What are you doing right now? What can you find that has value for you? Seeking quality right now allows you to find it even if your environment is bare or overloaded.

Activities like waiting in line can be turned into moments of self-reflection or times to remind yourself of your vision.

3. Don’t Resist

Busyness and boredom could also be described as symptoms of resisting what is. Fully accepting whatever situation you are in and making the most of it is one way to conquer feeling bored.

Resistance is something that can’t be done half-way. Either completely push away and seek quality elsewhere, or accept your surroundings and find it here.

4. Unchain Yourself

A lot of mental unease is caused because you feel forced to do something. You have to go to work, study for your test, do this or that. Realize that you don’t have to do anything, just accept different results. Freedom is in your mind.

Weigh whether the activity causing your discomfort is essential or expendable. For example, paying your bills is non-negotiable, but you can opt to live a more modest lifestyle or actively search for a job you enjoy.

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Use a mantra to remind yourself of your freedom. “I am free” and “I have the power to change my circumstances” can reinforce the notion that you have choices.

5. Stop

Boredom and feeling overloaded are both patterns. They are mental spirals you run on yourself that loop back on each other. If you just interrupt yourself for a few minutes and think more deeply about the problem, you can often come up with a good answer independent of these suggestions.

Meditate your way out of boredom. Sometimes boredom and busyness are caused by feeling disconnected from what you are doing. Use meditation to ground yourself in the present.

You can learn how to meditate here.

Take up a gratitude practice. Whenever you’re feeling too bored or too busy, stop to think about all the things that are going well. Being able to simply say, “I got out of bed this morning,” and “I have food to eat,” help you take stock of your blessings.

The Bottom Line

As boredom and busyness arise from the same source, the same strategies can be used to tackle them and find a sweet spot of a balanced mindset. Find high-quality activities when you start saying “I’m feeling bored,” and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can turn things around.

More Tips on Tackling Boredom

Featured photo credit: Siddharth Bhogra via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Published on October 22, 2021

The Flowtime Technique: A Pomodoro Alternative

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The Flowtime Technique: A Pomodoro Alternative

Today, there are countless productivity techniques that claim to help you work at peak efficiency. Among them, few are more widely known and widely used than the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a time management system that suggests that you break down your work tasks into 25-minute chunks and take breaks in between them.

The idea revolves around the notion that most people begin to lose focus after 25 minutes of continuous work and will need a reset to remain productive. But there’s a problem with that idea: no two tasks are the same. And for that matter, neither are any two people! That means a one-size-fits-all productivity system can’t possibly be the best fit for everyone.

But there’s an alternative that provides more flexibility and allows you to customize it for your specific use cases. It’s called the Flowtime Technique, and here’s everything you need to know to use it and start getting more done.

What Is the Flowtime Technique?

The Flowtime Technique, while not as well-known as the Pomodoro Technique, has been around for some time. In many ways, it’s a direct descendent of Pomodoro. It’s the brainchild of Zoe Read-Bivens, and she thought it up as a means of dealing with some of the shortcomings she experienced while using the Pomodoro technique.[1]

She found that sticking to 25-minute work segments often interrupted her flow—the feeling of being immersed in a particular task—and ended up harming her productivity rather than enhancing it. To fix the problem, she sought to create a system that retained the beneficial aspects of the Pomodoro Technique while allowing her to get into a positive flow and stay there.

The Basics of the Flowtime Technique

To start using the Flowtime Technique, the first thing you’ll need to do is create a timesheet to help you manage your daily activities. You can do this with a spreadsheet or by hand, whichever you find most convenient. At the heading of your timesheet, include the following column headings:

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  • Task Name
  • Start Time
  • End Time
  • Interruptions
  • Work Time
  • Break Time

Your timesheet will be the primary way you track your daily tasks and establish a flow that works best for you. Once you have it set up, here’s how to use it:

1. Choose a Task

To get started, choose a task you wish to get done. It should be specific, and something you can reasonably complete in the amount of time you have. In other words, don’t choose a task like “paint my house.” Choose something like “paint the front door of my house.” If you select a task that’s too broad, you’ll have difficulty sticking with the work. So, try and break down what you’re doing into the smallest manageable pieces.

2. Begin Working on Your Task

The next step is to start working on your task. Begin by listing the task you’re going to work on in the appropriate field of your timesheet. Then, list the time you’re starting work. Once you’ve gotten started on your task, the only rule you must observe is that there is no multitasking allowed. This will help you to focus on what you need to get done and minimize any self-imposed distractions.

3. Work Until You Need a Break

You may then keep working on your listed task for as long as you like. If you feel yourself getting fatigued after 15 minutes, take a break. If you get into a productive groove, lose track of the time, and end up working for an hour straight, that’s fine, too.

The idea is to get to know your own patterns and work in segments that fit you best. If you don’t focus well on certain tasks, work on them for shorter durations. If you get absorbed in other types of tasks, maximize your output by working for as long as you feel capable of staying focused.

You’ll likely find that the longest period you’ll be able to sustain is around 90 minutes or so. This corresponds to your Ultradian Rhythm, which are the alternating periods of alertness and rest that our brains experience throughout the day.[2]

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There are plenty of case studies that demonstrate how taking regular breaks improves productivity. It’s one of the reasons that mandatory breaks are a part of the Pomodoro Technique. But there’s evidence that the less-structured Flowtime approach to breaks works just as well. One technology company that recently directed its employees to take breaks every hour as they saw fit saw productivity levels rise by 23%—with no mandate required.[3]

4. Take an Appropriate-Length Break

When you decide you need to take a break, go ahead and do so. Just make sure to write down your stop time on your timesheet in the right place. You can take a break that’s as long or short as you like, but don’t abuse the privilege. Otherwise, it won’t be long until your breaks eat up the majority of your time.

As a general rule of thumb, try taking a five-minute break for each 25-minute work period, and increase your break time proportionally for longer work periods. You should use a timer to make sure you get back to your task in the right amount of time. And when your break ends, don’t forget to record the time you’ve resumed work and list the length of the break you took.

5. Record Distractions as They Happen

While you’re working, there are always going to be times when you’ll get distracted. It may come in the form of a phone call, an urgent email, or even the urge to use the bathroom. When these things happen, record the occurrence in the interruption column on your timesheet. Do your best to keep distractions short, but don’t try and block them out.

The reason is that you’re unlikely to succeed and sometimes, the things that distract you will be a higher priority than what you’re working on. So, it’s important to deal with distractions as you see fit instead of trying to simply work through them.

6. Repeat Until Your Work Is Complete

All you have to do next is to repeat the steps above until the tasks you’re working on are complete. As you complete each task, be sure to record your final stop time. If you wish, you can calculate your total work time (and fill it in) when you finish a task, or you can do all of the math at once at the end of the day.

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All that matters is that you don’t leave any gaps in your time tracking. Your timesheets, once complete, will become an asset that improves your ability to create a work schedule that maximizes your daily output.

What to Do With Your Timesheets

Although the act of recording your work periods and break times will help you remain on-task each day, there’s another important reason you’re doing it. It’s that your timesheets will gradually begin to reveal to you how to craft an ideal daily schedule for yourself.

So, at the end of each week, take some time to compare your timesheets. You may see that certain patterns begin to emerge. For example, you might notice that your longest work periods typically occur before lunch or that there are specific parts of your day that tend to be filled with distractions. You can use this information to plan subsequent days more effectively.

In general, you’ll want to cluster your most important tasks at your most productive times. So, if you are reviewing detailed property records, for example, you can set aside time to do it when you know you’ll be able to focus without interruption.

Conversely, you should schedule less critical work at the times when you’re most likely to be interrupted while working. So if you need time to respond to emails or return phone calls, you’ll know just when to do it. This will not only make you more productive but will also eliminate mistakes in your work.

Key Similarities Between Flowtime and Pomodoro

If you’re familiar with how the Pomodoro Technique works, you may have noticed some similarities with the Flowtime Technique. As we’ve discussed earlier, this is intentional. The Flowtime Technique is specifically designed to retain three critical features of the Pomodoro Technique, which are:

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1. Precise Time Tracking

One of the reasons that the Pomodoro Technique is so effective for many people is that it creates a rigid system to facilitate time tracking. By having to split your work tasks into 25-minute segments, you become acutely aware of the tasks you have in front of you and how you’re using your time. That alone helps you to avoid wasting precious work time because you have to account for every minute. The Flowtime Technique provides this benefit, too.

2. Eliminating Multitasking

With the Pomodoro Technique, you have to choose a task to work on and use a 25-minute timer to measure each work period. This does an excellent job of keeping you on-task because you know from the moment you set the timer what you’re trying to accomplish, and you’re therefore not likely to stray onto another task.

Even though you don’t need to use a timer with the Flowtime Technique, the very act of writing down your task accomplishes the same task. Because you know you’ll be tracking your time spent working on a particular thing, you’ll tend to stick with your task until it’s complete or time for a break.

3. Facilitating Breaks

One of the biggest killers of productivity is exhaustion, and there’s plenty of data to prove that taking breaks is essential to maintaining peak work performance. That’s the real secret to the Pomodoro Technique’s successful reputation—it makes breaks mandatory and unavoidable.

The Flowtime Technique, by comparison, also insists you take breaks. It just doesn’t force them upon you until you’re ready to take one. In that way, some additional self-discipline is required to succeed using the Flowtime Technique. But if you can obey a timer, there’s no reason you can’t learn to obey the signals your body sends you when it needs a time out.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, you may find success using the Pomodoro Technique. There’s a reason it’s so popular, after all. But if you’ve been using it for some time and find yourself straining against its rigid structures, you’re not alone. So, consider giving the Flowtime Technique a try for at least a week or two. You may find it’s a much better fit for your work style and that you get even more done than you ever have before.

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Featured photo credit: Fakurian Design via unsplash.com

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