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Last Updated on July 24, 2018

15 Productive Things to Do When Bored (So Time Is Not Wasted)

15 Productive Things to Do When Bored (So Time Is Not Wasted)

For most people, when they’re bored, they just sit there and don’t know what to do. They watch the clock ticks and the time passes by, and then several hours are gone.

But what if I tell you that when you really are feeling bored, there’re lots of things you can do to feel (and really be) productive?

Here are 15 productive things to do when bored based on the principles of elimination, consumption and work:

1. Eliminate clutter

One of the reasons why you’re not as prolific as you want may be that you have too much clutter.

Productive things to do when bored include tidying up your desk, removing books you’ll never read from your bookshelf and deleting the smartphone apps you never use.

Not only will you have done some housecleaning, the task might also give you energy to move on to the next, bigger task.

This guide will help you make decluttering easier:

How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

2. Eliminate distractions

Is there anything in particular that’s distracting you? If you’re looking for productive things to do when bored, zone in on what specifically is slowing down your productivity.

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Social media is a popular detractor, for example. Sign out of your social networks so you can focus on things that actually matter.

Take a look at these techniques to free yourself from social media distractions:

How Not To Let Social Media Control Your Body and Mind

3. Eliminate concerns

Are you worried about something? Is that concern getting in the way of your productivity?

Deal with the problems that are keeping you from spending your time as well as you should. Examples include tasks like double-checking your schedule and sending follow-up emails.

By removing all of your stressors, you’ll be a lot more prolific.

4. Eliminate the unnecessary

There are a lot of things in our lives that might be nice but are distractions to our productivity because they’re not necessary.

Find out what those things are and remove them from your place of work.

If you find everything around you necessary, then maybe you can try this:

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One Question to Help You Successfully Declutter Anything

5. Eliminate quick tasks

Even if you don’t have enough energy for a big task, you might have enough to do a small one.

Check off items on your to-do list that can be done quickly like making a phone call or sending off an email.

6. Consume knowledge

When you’re bored, it’s an opportune time to learn. One of the most productive things to do is to read how-to books or watch YouTube tutorials to learn something new.

Here’re some great resources for you:

24 Killer Websites that Make You Cleverer

7. Consume data (or maps)

Information isn’t the same as knowledge. Are there names, terms, dates, statistics, places or something similar you need to ingrain in your head?

Studying data or maps is one of the most productive things you can do when you feel bored.

8. Consume fiction

You have to be careful with this one; you can’t just watch an episode of your favorite TV show and call the time you spent productive. But you can pick some meaningful fictions and start reading:

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30 Books That Everyone Should Read At Least Once In Their Lives

9. Consume non-fiction

Reading a biography about someone in your profession or an account of historical events relevant to your career can be extremely productive things to do when bored. Time can be well-spent watching, reading or listening to something that inspires you:

Reading is good: 30 Inspiring Books You Have to Read

Ted Talks are nice: 20 Most Inspiring TED Talks of All Time That You Should Not Miss

Podcasts are inspiring too: You Are What You Listen To: 11 Podcasts To Inspire Yourself

10. Consume culture

By consuming culture not only are you enriching yourself, you’re also trying a new experience. Taking part in activities you haven’t done before can be very productive things to do when bored.

11. Work on your work

Work is probably the hardest thing to do when bored, but it’s still possible to muscle through the lethargy and get things done.

If you’re unmotivated, remind yourself that your time best spent is doing the work that pays your income. A cash incentive goes a long way towards productivity.

12. Work on your craft

If you don’t feel like doing something career-related, try something artistic!

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Creative activities like painting or creative writing could be the perfect productive things to do when bored.

13. Work on your physical health

If you don’t have a lot of energy to do something mental, hopefully you at least have the energy to partake in a physical activity.

Some productive things to do when you’re bored are running, walking, biking and lifting weights. Any kind of exercise is likely to free you from boredom.

14. Work on your emotional health

Is there a personal issue that’s making it hard for you to be interested in anything? If so, address it. You’ll find productivity a whole lot easier.

Become emotionally healthy by learning from the emotionally healthy ones:

15 Things Emotionally Healthy People Do

15. Work on your mental health

Boredom is often in reality something akin to anxiety or depression. Try doing mental exercises that help you focus on positive experiences and mindfulness to alleviate you of what you’re perceiving as boredom.

Practicing mindfulness and meditation can calm and relax you, you may want to take the advice from this professional counsellor and psychotherapist:

I’ve Tried Mindfulness Meditation, Here’s Why You Should Try it Too

A few simple steps towards improving your mental health can go a long way, not only towards productivity but your happiness in general.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

More by this author

Matt OKeefe

Matt is a marketer and writer who shares about lifestyle and productivity tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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