Do you remember what it feels like to genuinely be bored? Not like being bored at work and trying to get the hours to pass faster. But the kind of boredom you experienced as a child in the waiting room of the dentist’s office — where there were no toys, you had already read the only issue of Highlights magazine cover-to-cover, and there was nothing else to do.
Your mind wandered. Maybe you invented a new game, or got an idea for a story. While it probably wasn’t fun in the moment, think about how nice it would be to be able to give your brain that kind of space right now. Or even just have some time to do whatever you actually feel like doing, rather than what you have to do. That’s the idea behind scheduling some boredom time each week. Here’s what to know.
Why schedule boredom time?
There have been multiple studies demonstrating that contrary to popular belief, boredom can actually make you more productive and more creative. Others have focused on daydreaming — often the byproduct of boredom — and found that allowing your mind to wander can help make you more goal-oriented.
Boredom can also make us more self-aware, according to Andreas Elpidorou, philosophy professor and researcher at the University of Louisville, who writes that “boredom is both a warning sign that we are not doing what we want to be doing and a ‘push’ that motivates us to switch goals and projects.”
How to schedule boredom time
Boredom time can take different forms, but according to Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire and author of The Upside of Downtime: Why Boredom Is Good, it should involve an activity that requires little or no concentration. These can include things like walking on a familiar route, or sitting down with your eyes closed, without listening to music or a podcast — just letting your mind wander.
“A complete boredom day is unstructured playtime, like you would give yourself when you were a child,” Hana Jung, former marketing director and current mindset coach told the Well+Good Podcast. “I make no plans with anybody. I wake up when I want. I feel into what I’m craving that day — just like you would [during] vacation.”
Though Jung blocks off entire days for boredom, that’s not realistic for many people. But don’t let that dissuade you — just start smaller, scheduling an hour, or even a half hour of boredom time, once a week. It won’t suddenly solve all your problems, but even knowing you have that time on your calendar to take a step back from everything gives you something to look forward to.
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