Hi there. Nice to see you again.
Tell me, do you ever get bored?
My dad always told us there was no reason to be bored. As an only child until the age of eight, growing up in the country, I was well-versed in self-entertainment. But the boredom bug hit once in a while. On those rare occasions, I would complain to my dad, exasperated, “I don’t know what to do!” His response was always one of astonishment laced with a slight tinge of vinegar, “What do you mean?! How can you be bored?! There’s so much to do! Go read a book, or play outside, or draw, or play library!” (Those four things comprised about 90% of my activities.)
My father couldn’t wrap his head around boredom. And, now, neither can I. Hearing someone say they’re bored makes my arm hair bristle. It’s like nails on a chalkboard.
I thought I was right on target here with my whole “the world is your oyster” framework, with my constant encouragement to everyone around me to take action and fill days with passion and meaning. I’m kind of a taskmaster: I’m only bored about five minutes every year, and it always leaves a sour taste in mouth. I've even been known to judge people who tell me they're bored. I own that, and you might judge me for it. That's okay. We all judge sometimes, and often because it makes us feel better about our own decisions. We do what we have to do, right?
But, you know, sometimes so much doing leaves less space for being.
I tend to avoid social media. I used to use it a lot more – share my daily happenings, check out other people’s daily happenings, spread messages of hope and humor and inspiration. But now, not so much. I catch up on family posts about once a week, but it’s a quick overview – and usually just Instagram. Facebook is a time-eating rabbit hole that I almost always regret entering.
Still, part of me feels like I’m missing out. Sure, sure...I’m busy living, right? I don’t have time to post on Facebook! But then I end up missing stories from family members and friends. And it's no fun to have everyone else around you talking about so-and-so's amazing news and be the schlump who missed the amazing news and, as such, not congratulate said person.
I suppose that this is the crux of my dilemma here: I feel like I shouldn’t have to miss out on the lives of those closest to me if I don’t look on Facebook.
I get it. We don’t have time to connect individually. We don’t have time to share stories over the phone, or in person. Why? In part, because we kind of have co-dependent relationships with our phones.
Well, call me selfish, or out of touch, but I want eye contact, conversations out loud, and more than 140 characters worth of space to say what I want to say.
In this world we live in today, we either have to be constantly plugged into technology...or live in the dark. I really don’t mind living in the dark, except when it makes me feel like Gollum, guarding tech-free time like a precious ring.
The irony of my conscious choice is that I still do anything to not be bored. I still check email 20 million times a day (but only on work days), keep 27 to-do lists, and am pretty much forced to switch computer tasks constantly.
Did you know that the average person switches computer tasks 566 times per day?! That blows my mind. You try to multitask, too, right? We all do, even though we know it doesn’t work. I just met someone who got a huge computer screen so that he could have six windows open at once. He was thrilled, but it sounded horrible. Having two computer screens so that I can have three necessary documents open at the same time is my least favorite part of my job.
External interruptions train us to self-distract, which we do every 3.5 minutes. Our minds are constantly switching, and it takes a long time to get us back on track. When we’re stressed, we shift our attention even more rapidly. When we get less sleep, we check Facebook even more. In other words, our days – including mine, with its lack of social media – are filled with constant distractions.
We are constantly distracted both internally and externally.
Decades after an anti-boredom mindset was instilled in me, I realize that, actually, it’s okay to be bored. In fact, boredom is beneficial. That's right. That just came from me:
It's time to get bored.
And here, very briefly, are a few reasons why (because, based on statistics, you've already tuned out for half of this blog post):
#1: Our minds want time for boredom.
Studies show that we “mind wander” 50% of our day. We don’t focus nonstop! We reflect on the past, we think about the future, and we wander through time rather than staying present. But we don’t necessarily do this consciously. It’s as if our minds know they need freedom to roam around, freedom from attention and stimulation. And allowing ourselves time to feel bored helps our minds wander in helpful ways.
#2: Boredom increases creativity.
When we daydream, we choose to let our minds wander. We choose spontaneous musings. And these daydreams often connect us to creativity. Do you ever get annoyed because your "great idea" strikes you at the least opportune time, and never when you're trying to figure it out?
We need more patience for creativity. We need space between all of the doing and focusing and filling. So many of are always chasing time, which is rather fruitless because constantly doing can’t give us more time!
#3: Boredom helps us be.
That's it. Not be something, just be. Boredom allows space for doing less. In order to feel bored, you have to stop doing, and distracting, and filling time ceaselessly. Boredom motivates you to spend time doing something that you really want to do.
Now, yes, this might sound rather idealistic. Maybe boredom drives you to spend hours on social media...It's not a perfect equation, and I will always be somewhat of an idealist. But bear with me here.
I’m not saying to do nothing. I’m not saying to disengage from social media. Social media is fantastic, and it’s a way to keep in daily connection with people you wouldn’t otherwise connect with. And I’m not saying that boredom is wrong, or right, or good, or bad.
I’m saying that maybe there’s a place for boredom – if for no other reason than it helps us simply be, in the moment, rather than constantly filling our time with stuff.
Maybe, like single-tasking, and putting our phones away during meals, and doing all of those things that help us slow down and stay present and do less and connect more with ourselves and with others...boredom is a valuable tool for mindfulness, or whatever you want to call it.
That’s it. That’s all I’m saying today. Boredom offers time, creativity, and space to do less.
What do you think? Do you ever get bored? What do you when that happens? How can you use it in your favor?
Thanks for stopping by. And keep sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.