Common responses to boredom often cause people to do all manner of stupid, self-defeating, counterproductive things. Making boring tasks less boring is a worthy goal.
Most people in most situations
don't have to be stuck feeling bored, even if they are doing things
they find boring. There are quite a few things a person can try to make
their tasks more enjoyable. This is my list of things I've found
1. Make the task more challenging. Sometimes
I can simply speed up, and it makes the task more challenging (and
takes less time). You can't do this with all things, but it's great for
the kind of physical tasks that don't require careful movements.
more quickly is just one possible way of increasing the challenge.
Doing a better job, or doing the task more efficiently (less wasted
movement, more organized), or listening to a lecture on CD while working
— all of these can add a more challenging element to a dull task.
2. Use a comparison reframe. The human mind naturally and quite automatically compares our circumstances to something else —
usually something better. In other words, "This task is boring compared
to going out to dinner with my spouse or watching a great movie." Which
But it is ALSO true that this task is really
FUN compared to starving to death, running for your life in terror, or
dying of some horrible disease.
Yes, you may be saying, that's certainly true, but...
And I say, "But nothing.
It is true. And it is equally valid (and more justifiable) to compare
your task to something much worse than to compare it with something
better. And when you do, instantly the task is less irksome.
You can make a comparision reframe
any time you wish, and it always works, never wears out, and
(unfortunately) never lasts for long. But then again, a good meal
doesn't last long either and that never stopped us from eating!
3. Make a game out of your task. Set
up some kind of target. For example, let's say you're grocery shopping,
which normally you find boring. This time, however, you make a game out
of finding bargains. You try to get everything on your shopping list
while at the same time trying to beat your record of saving money.
the bottom of the receipt, let's say it says, "You saved $29.50."
That's your best record so far. Your game is to try to beat that record.
Automatically a task is less boring when it has become a game.
is nothing inherently fascinating about running back and forth or
putting a ball into a circular piece of metal. But add some rules and
goals, and basketball can be very fun and not at all boring. Why?
Because those rules and goals make it a game. Set some goals and
boundaries for your task and see if you can make it into a game.
4. Have a strong purpose in life. With a clear, important purpose, everything in your life is less boring, including what most people consider boring chores.
you feel you are going somewhere, and when you feel your goal is
important, it casts a new and vibrant feel onto a lot more moments of
You may already have an important mission
but have forgotten it, or maybe you have just not thought about it in
awhile. It is very common to get bogged down in (boring) details after
pursuing a goal for awhile. The significance of the goal is lost in the
day-to-day effort to accomplish the many steps that need to be
accomplished, as well as all the other mundane but necessary tasks of
maintenance and survival.
Fairly often, it is important to step back and remember what you're doing and WHY. Remember its importance. It makes a difference.
if you don't feel you have an important purpose, finding one should now
become your most important purpose, and you should pursue it with commitment. It will transform the quality of your life. No kidding.
5. Recognize your choice in the matter. Almost
everything you do is actually optional. And yet almost everything you
do FEELS like something you HAVE to do. And there is a huge difference
emotionally between doing the exact same thing, but knowing you WANT to
do it, versus feeling you HAVE to do it.
But you and
the rest of our culture have done a very good job of convincing you of
all the things you HAVE to have, do, or be. Yet almost none of them are
really a MUST.
On the other hand, most of them are
something you really would CHOOSE to do if you had to choose them over
again. For example, I feel like I "have to" exercise. But I really
don't. That one is pretty obvious. But I also feel like I have to own a
car, so I have to maintain the car and pay the insurance, etc.
But I really don't HAVE TO have a car. I really don't. And neither do you.
I really WANT to have a car, and while I am thinking of it this way,
the maintenance on the car doesn't seem quite so distasteful and I feel
less grumbly about doing it.
This one is not a cure-all, but it helps, and it is the truth.
6. Meditate every day. Meditation
is a mental-training exercise that has been associated with some
religions, but the exercise itself is not religious and needs no
religious associations to do it perfectly.
amount of research has been done on meditation and it is, without a
doubt, one of the best things you can do for your health and sense of
But for our purposes here, it is something
that can make your everyday boring tasks significantly less boring. For
one thing, it calms the inner agitation, the inner feeling of impatience
that is at the heart of the experience of boredom.
important side-effect of meditation is the simple contrast between
meditation and normal everyday boring tasks. What is normally considered
a boring task is much more interesting than the unbelievably boring
task of sitting there with your eyes closed repeating a single word over
and over. The contrast between the two is vivid. After meditating, even
very boring tasks are not boring at all.
But you also get a kind of psychological training when you meditate —
the process trains you to find even this ultimate boring task endlessly
fascinating and challenging. And that training spills over into the
rest of your life.
THOSE ARE MY top five suggestions. I
also suggest you choose the one that most appeals to you at the moment
and really give it a good try.
Adam Khan is the author of Self-Help Stuff That Works and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.