Boredom seems like a minor problem, but it's really more important than you might think because boredom is a miserable, debilitating state somewhat similar to depression. And because it is negative and unpleasant, it is probably not good for your health or your relationships.
Beyond that, trying to avoid boredom often causes people to do all manner of stupid, self-defeating, counterproductive things just to relieve the unpleasant experience of boredom. Trying to make 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. Below are some high quality ideas you can try right away to start making your chores more enjoyable.
1. Make the task more challenging. Sometimes you can simply speed up, and it makes the task more challenging (and take 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.
Moving more quickly is just one possible way of increasing the challenge. Doing a better job, or doing the task more efficiently (less wasted movement, organizing your activities more), 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 is true.
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 comparison 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!
Learn more about making comparison reframes.
3. Make a game out of your task. To make a game, you need rules and goals. For example, let's say you're grocery shopping, which you normally 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.
At 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.
There 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.
Next time you're doing a common and boring task, think about how you could make it into some kind of game. Can you compete with someone or with something? Can you add a goal or a rule that would make it more challenging? Think of something and try it out.
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.
When you feel you are going somewhere, and when you feel your goal is important, your important purpose casts a new and vibrant feel onto a lot more moments of your life.
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 gets lost in the day-to-day effort to accomplish the many steps you need to accomplish, 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.
And if you don't have a purpose that is important to you, 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 about the boring tasks. 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 have 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.
However, 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. Next time you're feeling grumbly about a routine, boring chore, think about this one. Acknowledge the truth: You really don't HAVE to do it. Think about what would happen if you didn't. Think about what you would choose to do if you had to choose (taking into account the consequences you prefer).
If you choose to do the boring task, it will feel less boring now that you realize you want to do it.
6. Meditate every day. Meditation is a mental-training exercise. While it has been associated with some religions, the exercise itself is not religious and needs no religious associations to do it perfectly.
An enormous 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 well-being. (Read more about that.)
But for our purposes here, meditation can make your everyday boring tasks significantly less boring. For one thing, meditating calms the inner agitation — the inner feeling of impatience that is at the heart of the experience of boredom.
Another 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. Much less of your life will seem boring.
Those are my top six 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 Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.