If you ever talk to someone who is bored then they’re bound to be a little upset about it. They might even whine or maybe they’ll just stare blankly at you. Maybe they’ll ask you if you know what you want to do. There’s a lot of possibilities to entertain when we think of someone bring boring, how entertaining is that?
But boredom isn’t always something to be upset about or make a fuss about. It’s something to be embraced and to learn from. Boredom can certainly be an unpleasant sensation but it doesn’t needed to be treated with hostility or like it’s always the enemy of functionality. There’s a difference between temporary and situational boredom and long-term, sustained and emotional boredom which may stem from certain things in your life. The former can often be rectified while the latter may be more serious and difficult to grapple with.
In general however, boredom as most people experience isn’t as big of an ordeal as most people act like it is. It can be great chance to strike out and do something new. It can be a way to just think to yourself for a while and reflect on what you have done. Thinking about what you’ve already done might be a great way to keep going once you’re out of your stupor or however you experience boredom. That way you can say something like, “Well I did X, Y and Z yesterday but still needed to do A, B and C so I guess that’s what I need to do now!”.
This isn’t how it always works since not everyone uses a to-do list (though I do and I recommend it!) and not everyone is very easily organized. There’s also the issue of boredom mixed with depression which might make, “just do it” a somewhat worthless bit of advice. Add to that that some people have such an issue with organization skills that organizing the to-do list to begin with and organizing that on a daily basis would be a struggle for them. And maybe such a struggle just wouldn’t be worth their time and so they’re left disorganized. That’s fair enough but even without a to-do list it can be a good idea to try to just focus on your goals or past actions.
If you focus on your goals, as opposed to what you did yesterday then you can think: What would get me closest to my goals right now? What is doable for me and what isn’t? Is there some room for experimentation?
And sometimes you could even just say: Well I’m partially bored because I’ve already done so much today. Maybe I’ll just reward myself with something?
The reward could be anything. It could be a quick five minute Youtube video, maybe going out for a walk to your favorite pond, playing guitar for an hour to your favorite songs and just messing around, etc. It could be having the nearest chocolate bar that you’ve been dying to get your hands on all day.
Whatever it is, you shouldn’t see boredom as the enemy.
Long-time supporter and friend of the site, Outcide Catt linked me this piece on boredom called, “Why Boredom is an Important Part of Learning” by Idzie Desmarais.
Desmarais makes a lot of the arguments I make above and argues for them quite well:
While persistent, hard to fix boredom — the kind that weighs you down and impacts your life in a negative way — can definitely be a sign that something is wrong (frustration with the way your life is going, feeling a lack of control or a lack of direction, etc.), it is just one of many human emotions, and it is part of the learning process. It is not something to be feared or corrected.
It’s through boredom, that restless frustration of having nothing immediately obvious to do, that I’ve ended up breaking routine and doing something I wouldn’t have otherwise done. Picking up my neglected guitar to try and learn a new song; pulling out a book from my shelf that I’ve been wanting to read for a while but just haven’t gotten to; opening up a biology course on Khan Academy; sitting down to do some journalling; thinking about the next post or article I want to write, and starting to construct it in my head… (emphasis hers)
The first passage there is exactly what I was talking about earlier. I know someone who hates boredom and when they get bored it causes them physical pain or some sort of psycho-sommatic pain, I don’t remember which. But regardless, if you have that sort of boredom as opposed to the boredom most of us get which results in mild frustration then yeah, seeing that as some sort of enemy makes sense. But let’s also keep in mind that boredom isn’t often experienced in such an extreme way and can usually be handled rather well through the techniques Desmarais discusses.
Desmarais also makes a great point similar to what I did that boredom is sometimes your ticket to a new experience instead of just rehashing old patterns. While most of my suggestions were in line with your already established routines (such as your goals or things that may be in line with what you did the day before, etc.) Desmarais likes to use boredom as an excuse to change up her day. Neither of these things are inherently better than the other. But one may work better for you.
For me, I’m fairly routine orientated. I like the solace I get out from having my day organized and knowing what’s (roughly) going to happen and how i may do it. It doesn’t need to be perfect (my to-do list is usually more of a suggestion list that I can override if I really feel I have to) but I like having a ballpark estimate of what I want to get accomplished in a given day. And usually if I have, say, five things on there and get three done I feel like I’ve done a good job for the day.
It depends on the things in question though. If the first two were really small things and the third one was bigger (like writing a blog post for instance) then I may not feel as accomplished if I’m already due to go to sleep or wind down for the night.
Desmarais also explains to us how to take boredom itself as a valuable thing. We don’t need to only valuable for it taking us to new places or some place better but just the space of boredom itself can be good for us:
Or not. As important as the productivity that boredom can lead to, equally important is simply the space of boredom itself. The time for us to get past the initial restlessness or discomfort of not being busy, not doing, and settle into reflection, observation, stillness. We need the time to process and digest our learning, our experiences, and sometimes boredom can be a part of that.
Again, boredom isn’t lovely. It can still be annoying and uncomfortable but not everything that is one or even both of those things is inherently bad or something you can’t get something out of that’ll benefit you.
I think anti-work folks should definitely investigate the role of boredom in their own life and how it affects their activity. Does boredom help you or hinder you? How do you think of boredom? Do you think of it differently now?
For myself, when I’m bored I usually explore my options pretty quickly. One thing I might try to do from here on out is let the boredom subsume me in some important sense and see what happens. Do I still feel the need to keep within my patterns of usual behavior or do I feel the urge to break out and do something different?
I hope this post has proved useful to y’all and as always, happy slacking!