What to do when it’s boring

“It’s so boring!”

We tend to see boring tasks as a problem. And when we see them as a problem, we let the feeling of boredom influence our behavior. We use it as a reason to check out, to have a negative attitude, or to procrastinate.

What does it mean that something is boring anyways? It means it is not entertaining or intellectually challenging. That our mind is not required to focus so much to perform a task, or it is not captured by something entertaining. It is free to wander to some extent. And our minds don’t usually go to very productive or pleasant thoughts when we let them wander unchecked, which can make the experience of boredom quite painful.

On top of this, if we are driven and ambitious people, and we identify with being smart, doing something boring almost seems to contradict our identity. We almost have a fear of missing out on learning something new, we feel like our time would better be spent doing something else. Doing a boring task goes against how we see ourselves, so we make it a bigger deal than it needs to be. We feel justified to have a negative attitude when doing something boring. 

So here the first question to ask: why am I doing this task? Would it actually make sense to delegate? Why does it even matter to get it done?

For example, toddlers can be very funny and entertaining, but playing with them for an extended period of time can be pretty dull: reading the same story ten times in a row, hearing the same song on repeat for half an hour. And yet, if the goal is to know our children, to build a strong relationship with them, to educate them to our values, we probably don’t want to delegate everything.

On the other hand, with other boring tasks there might be an opportunity to delegate, to simplify, even to eliminate the tasks altogether. One example is meetings. It’s definitely worth asking yourself why you are participating and how you are better off by attending. If you don’t see a point even if you actively look for it, then you might want to question attending in the first place.

Basically, decide if the end goal is worth it. If it’s not, then you have to do something about it. Don’t do boring things that are also pointless.

Once you have established that the end result is worth it, you have two antidotes to boring.

One is to occupy your mind differently. That’s why we listen to music or audiobooks when cleaning or driving. We seek to entertain or engage our mind in some other way. It basically eliminates boredom and it works.

But sometimes we can’t do that.

Then the antidote is a curious presence. I am not saying that then everything will magically become interesting, nor should it. But a curious presence will shift your experience. You might then find yourself enjoying cooking, when you focus on the textures and colors of the ingredients you are preparing. You might find yourself connecting more strongly with your child and noticing things that you didn’t before. You might find yourself contributing more positively to the meeting and learning something new. It takes an intentional effort, but there is no downside. 

Don’t use boring as an excuse to check out. The feeling is not a problem. It’s actually totally irrelevant. Make sure the end result is worth it, and then stay curious.