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Last Updated on November 4, 2022

How to Not Be Bored (According to Science)

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How to Not Be Bored (According to Science)

If you find yourself constantly 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.

What is boredom?

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 before you can use it.

In this article, we will be sharing some tips to overcome the feeling of boredom, so if you want to learn how not to be bored, read this article till the end.

Feeling Bored? Here’s How to Not be Bored

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

Being engaged, neither busy nor bored happens when your attention is focused on high-quality activities. Low-quality activities make us feel bored because they are uninteresting, unenjoyable, unimportant, too easy, or difficult for us.[1]

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 that 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.[2]

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).

Improving the Quality of Your Activities

I believe there are two major ways you can do it: externally and internally. If you are chronically busy (and actively dislike the busyness) or bored, you’ll need to tackle external and internal factors contributing to these negative feelings.

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Here are some ways you should consider improving the quality of 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.[3]

4. Put Quality of Experience First

Getting caught up in external goals that don’t fulfill their promises is easy. 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.[4]

Here are 20 SMART goal examples.

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.

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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 your mind without any external stimuli.

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

If you’re really at a loss, you can imagine a story about two to three people and objects in your vicinity. This is a great way to exercise 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 halfway. Either 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.

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

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.

Here are 7 best meditation apps recommended by a wellness coach to help you get started.

Take up a gratitude practice. Whenever you’re feeling too bored or 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.

On the Other Hand, Boredom Can Be Good For You

We think of boredom as purely a negative thing, but in reality, there is a positive side to boredom as well. Here are a few benefits one can get from being bored:

1. Being Bored Turns Your Mind Inward and Encourages Reflection

When you’re rushing about, there’s no time to think. When you’re bored, there’s nothing else to do but think. The fashion today may be to admire action heroes and denigrate the power of the mind, but fashion never made anything right. With time to consider what you’re doing and why, you may just come up with some useful questions about the direction you’re headed in.

We may be living in an age full of self-regard, but that doesn’t mean people spend much time in introspection. It’s more like they keep looking at themselves in a mental mirror, seeing how they look on the surface. They don’t go any deeper.

2. It’s Essential to Creativity

It isn’t true that creativity is mostly sparked by having a specific problem to be solved. It’s far more likely to arise because the person is bored with how something has been done a thousand times before and wants to try something new.

That’s why new movements in technology, the arts, and even public life usually start when there are still plenty of people polishing and refining the current approach.

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They don’t begin because what is being done now is totally played out; they begin because a few people decide that it’s boring and start playing around with how to change it.[5]

3. Boredom Stimulates the Search for Better Ways to Do Things

How many improvements in processes and ways of producing things have come about because the people doing the job are so damn bored with going over the same thing again and again? My guess is that it’s the biggest spur to working smarter, far exceeding cost-cutting or abstract ideas of constant improvement.

It’s become a truism that vast amounts of creativity and improvement are available from simply asking those who do some job how they might do it better. Those dull places where processes never change, and people spend their working days with minds numbed by boredom, relieved only by gossip, get that way because the people in charge are control freaks who can’t stand that anyone might have an independent idea.

4. It’s an Essential Step for Rest

Watch almost any animal. If they’re stuck somewhere with nothing to do, they go to sleep. It’s the natural thing to do. We do it too. People usually can’t sleep because their minds are too active.

They’re thinking about what they will do tomorrow, worrying about what they did today, or mad because they ought to be asleep and aren’t, and lying here wide awake is so boring.

If they would only give in to being bored — relish how dull everything was and how there was nothing to do or think about — they’d be asleep in a matter of moments. But their minds are trained to seek constant stimulation. Even when they fall asleep, those minds fill the night with dreams of frantic activity. No wonder they wake up feeling tired.

How to Not Be Bored (According to Science)

Tips on How to Curb Boredom

4 Actions
How to Not Be Bored (According to Science)
Plan ahead: Plan for the coming days and fill them with plenty of high-quality activities that will keep you active and productive. 
How to Not Be Bored (According to Science)
Set priorities: Prioritize your work and eliminate the low-priority work from your daily life, as these are the works that usually make us feel bored.
How to Not Be Bored (According to Science)
Evaluate current goals: See if your goals are taking you in the right direction; if not, make new and better ones and try to do things differently by stepping out of your comfort zone.
How to Not Be Bored (According to Science)
Discover yourself: If you’re bored, talk to yourself and see where you stand in your life and what your vision is for the future.

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.

But even if you still feel bored, there is no need to run away from it, as being bored can still give you many benefits that one can’t get by being active and productive.

Featured photo credit: Siddharth Bhogra via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Brian Lee

Ex-chief of product management at Lifehack

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