We have been staying home since last March and don’t expect to be back at school anytime soon. Living in a city with some of the highest covid cases, being home can get hard. We are always looking for new ways to cope with boredom.
When we’re not meaningfully engaged with the world, boredom sets in. With all the limitations during the pandemic and lack of freedom, boredom seems inevitable. If we’re not bored, we’re overwhelmed and anxious with so much going on trying to work, take care of the home and manage home-schooling.
But really – what is boredom?
It’s that state when you’re tired and unhappy from lack of interest. It’s not when you have nothing to do, but when your options are not appealing so you’re feeling unsatisfied, underwhelmed.
Boredom is a useful tool
As an Indicator
Boredom can be useful when it’s working correctly. It’s like an emotion, it can tell us something is wrong, alerting us to that problem and motivating us to take steps to stop it. With boredom we feel tired, sluggish, and just disinterested, because we hate that feeling, we know we need to find something more interesting.
“Boredom is both a warning that we are not doing what we want to be doing and a ‘push’ that motivates us to switch goals and projects.”Andreas Elpidorou researcher and Philosophy Professor at the University of Louisville
Instant vs Long-Term Gratification
When we’re bored and we don’t take the time to understand why, we often try to do something, anything, even though we know it’s not good like overeating, gambling, drinking and substance abuse… Scrolling through social media may keep you entertained for the time being, but it’s really desensitizing us to that painfully bored feeling, disconnecting us with what’s truly pressing on our mind. We need to treat the true cause of boredom rather than doing things that will just make those bad feelings go away.
Letting yourself be bored allows you to think about your purpose in life, what you really want to do. It’s essential for goal-setting. If you’re always filling your time with meaningless stimuli (like your phone or watching tv), you’ll rarely think about the bigger picture and set long-term goals for yourself and consider how to achieve them. As long as you have a chance to do something about it, boredom can get you to make changes that would be positive for your life.
If you can let your mind wander, boredom can be a useful tool for creativity. Sometimes you’re working a problem so long and hard that you’ve lost focus and can’t come up with any new ideas.
Take a step back and give yourself a break. Take a walk, meditate or even read the phonebook, something that will allow you to pull yourself away so you can gain a new perspective. I’ve often thought about a problem just before I went to bed and by morning I have a new idea on how to solve it.
Passionate successful people overcome boredom in the workplace all the time to achieve great results, then repeat the process in the pursuit of progress.
Breaking the boredom
“You Need to Pay Attention” – I don’t know how many times I heard this growing up, but just because someone tells you to do it, doesn’t mean you will. After all, what’s the real problem? If paying attention breaks boredom, why can’t we pay attention? It usually boils down to the knowledge and the significance or meaning in the task at hand.
Focus on that knowledge sweet spot
Subjects need to hit that perfect point where we are truly interested enough for us to pay attention. If the material is too hard for us to understand, the gap between what we know and what we need to know is too great. We have to believe we can understand the topic to reach engagement. How many times have you listened to someone using technical terms or theories and phased out into boredom?
Then there’s those times when we’re the experts and know quite a lot, but the task we’re doing is not doing it for us because it’s just too easy. Doing the tedious, repetitive, or mundane would definitely bring on the boredom, but sometimes it must be done like homework… So how do we stay focused long enough to get the job done?
Finding the WHY
There has to be a purpose. They call this your WHY or the reason for doing things. Your purpose is where talents, skills, values and passions come together.
He who has a why can endure any how.Frederick Nietzsche, German philosopher
How can you apply what you’re learning to your own life? Remind yourself why you’re doing something. Reframing and giving your dreary task meaning can often change how you feel and help you get over that boredom speed bump.
The double whammy
Then there are those times when you are doing work that you don’t care for AND you don’t understand…. But it’s required for your job. How do you close the gap? Find a video, a blog, or a person that can explain the topic in a way that you CAN understand. Knowledge is power.
When in doubt, get into a rhythm
Being engaged in a routine can make you feel productive to help stave off boredom. Creating order gives us meaning. Use the monotony of the pandemic to your benefit, when the days are all the same it’s easier to create new habits. Get a habit tracker like James Clear, author of the New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits, recommends… to get that buzz of accomplishment.
Things to think about during your boredom
Is there something you’ve always wanted to try or do? We’ve never had so much time on our hands and once things start opening up again, we may never have this much time again. I’ve taken my pandemic time to finally start this blog. I’ve been putting it off way too long.
When we reach that breaking point, boredom used correctly can get us to make things happen. The key is to step away from the screens, get in that quiet moment where you can truly marinate in your thoughts. Start with a few minutes a day and let it grow from there. Whatever it takes to get your imagination going.