In Defense of Boredom

Have you noticed how difficult it is to be bored anymore?

(Insert joke about reading this blog here).

But seriously, it is really hard to find yourself in a boring situation these days.

The boredom traditionally associated with things like waiting in the doctor’s office, going to the DMV, or sitting in a lengthy meeting have largely been mitigated by technology. The second any trace of boredom hits, we reach for our pocket and check Instagram or catch Pokemon for a few seconds.

Which, in many ways, is pretty awesome.

When I was a kid, I used to love going to my grandmothers house, but the car ride was excruciating. My sister and I would try to play games like I Spy, but usually ended up fighting with each other or wailing in misery in the backseat. I would have given up my entire pogs collection for just one hour with a Kindle.

These days, its pretty easy to plug a kid into a tablet and ride in near perfect harmony and bliss. On a recent six hour car ride to the beach, my daughter had the time of her life, enjoying more screen time than we normally let her watch in a month. She barely complained at all.

But of course, there is a huge potential downside.

Being bored has some great benefits. It gives your mind time to rest and generate ideas. (This is why you get awesome ideas in the shower). It helps build your attention span and, I believe, being comfortable with boredom helps you more readily get into a flow state

I am sure this sounds a bit like the old guy yelling at kids to get off his lawn. Every generation in the history of generations thinks the one after them is too soft. That’s not what this is. My generation is just as guilty of this. 

It’s time we all do something about it.

The practice

I have recently forced myself to embrace boredom for 

I leave my phone at home when I walk the dog. I have installed a social media blocker on my computer. When I find myself waiting in line, I force myself to leave my phone in my pocket. I look around me. I talk to strangers. I rest. 

I’d like to challenge you to do the same. Turn your phone off more. Go on long walks. Experiment with one work day per week where you (gasp) force yourself to leave your phone at home entirely.

Trust me though, the key word here is force. This was not natural for me and it won’t be for you. But after a few weeks I noticed that I did much better work when I sat down for a focused session. All of the little mini-boredom tests I forced upon myself added up to make me much more comfortable when working and my mind produced more and better ideas with less effort.

So give it a shot. It won’t always be fun, but I promise this boredom stuff is actually pretty exciting.