Experiment with Boredom

Experiment with Boredom
October 2nd, 2017 / Dan Cooper

By abolishing any chance of being bored we have also lost the time we used to have to think and process.

Greg McKeown – Essentialism

When is the last time you’ve been bored? Bored … meaning that you were sitting mostly alone, still, in silence, with nothing specific taking your minds attention, and you began to wander around in your head.

When I asked myself that the other day I could only think of one time where I’m totally unoccupied … the shower… I’m pretty sure my mind has been totally occupied for at least a month in every other scenario.

[Note: this does not include family time. I’m actually pretty good at putting it away. It’s the moments in between where I’m only responsible for myself where I’m terrible.]

I decided to create an experiment for myself.

For one week, I would become aware of times where I could be free from being occupied by something. The 2nd week I would embrace every opportunity “to be bored” and see what I learned.

Week 1:
Where and how occupied was my mind? This was not a day by day but themes I found to be true over the week.

·      Wake up: Immediately check weather on phone – sometimes email, then jump in shower

·      Shower: be alone in thought for 3-5 minutes (I’m a dude and bald … not much to do)

·      Mowing lawn/leaves: Listen to podcast

·      Running/workout: Listen to book

·      Driving in car: listen to sports, sports talk, podcast, books

·      Waiting in line at bank: Social media/check email

·      Lunch alone: Sit in front of computer, Surf web, social media, check email

·      Bathroom (I know … but it’s true): social media, email, play game on phone

·      Wife leaves restaurant table to go to the bathroom: Look at social media/check email

·      Waiting to meet buddy for happy hour: text someone else, answer email, social media

·      Waiting for kids practice to end: phone, phone, phone phone …

·      On hold with cable provider: surf internet

·      Sitting next to wife after kids go to bed: watch tv

·      Watching TV show I don’t care about: pick something from above

What I learned:

  1. Holy  cow, my phone is too big a part of my life
  2. I’ve forgotten how to “be” and just “do,” So I just “do” all the time.

Week 2:
Be intentional about being “bored”

·      Wake up: Quiet time for 30 minutes with silence/prayer and short reading.  Had to wake up 30 minutes earlier to accomplish this.

·      Shower: be alone in thought for 3-5 minutes – one place I was already doing this

·      Mowing lawn/leaves: outside alone with my brain

·      Running/workout: see above

·      Driving in car: drive in silence

·      Waiting in line at bank: just stand there and wait patiently

·      Lunch alone: Didn’t have lunch alone. Ate with other humans. This was actually awesome. I will now have 2-3 lunches with other humans a week. Especially with those I need to catch up with but don’t have time to do so.

·      Bathroom: reduced total bathroom time by many minutes (as stated by my wife)

·      Wife leaves restaurant table to go to the bathroom: chill and notice ambience, strike up conversation with server

·      Waiting to meet buddy for happy hour: same as above

·      Waiting for kids practice to end: Present and watched all of practice. This was great as I had good open ended questions to pepper the kids with about practice. It enhanced our conversations.

·      On hold with cable provider: talked with kids

·      Sitting next to wife after kids go to bed: Talked. This was funny as it was a bit stifled at first. It was like we had to retrain ourselves to get back into mode of talking consistently … then it just took off. Turns out there is a reason we married each other. My wife is funny. Great to be reminded of that daily.

·      Watching TV show I don’t care about: read a physical book

What I learned:

  1. Reducing phone/screen time, increases human contact
    Yes, that’s obvious but I didn’t realize how much I stopped doing that. The world is really only about people. Our life is really only about people. Why are we so obsessed about not interacting with real people?
  2. Clarity in thought:
    When I’d have a 20 minute drive in silence I’d arrive to a meeting or home in a better place than if I crammed more information into my brain
  3. Less tired:
    This was the weird one. Because my mind had time to recharge, I had more mental energy which translated to physical as well.
  4. Focus:
    Because of the above, I could focus more and for longer periods.

Boredom gives me time to process issues challenges, opportunities, ideas, create new ideas (like this blog!), small moments to recharge for the larger picture, the ability to focus for longer, spend less (but better) time on email, spend less (but better) time on social media, and reconnect to the real point of life – other people.

Where do you need to embrace boredom?

Dan Cooper

Dan is a Partner and Growth Catalyst for Acumen, a mastermind community that exists to sharpen, challenge, and inspire CEOs and Owners through affinity-centric advisory teams, executive coaching, and leadership acceleration workshops.