“Your true traveller finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty – his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure. ”
My parents called me Honeybee as a child more often than they did Annabel because I was always buzzing round doing things, as busy as a bee.
I may have had a touch of Attention Deficit Disorder but it’s not so bad. I can easily concentrate on something for ten or twenty minutes at a time and, even as a child, I found strategies to force myself to concentrate.
During exams I’d study for 40 minutes then take a five minute break and repeat three times. I worked in the morning when I was fresh, only did a little revision in the afternoons then I’s spend 20 minutes at bedtime consolidating what I’d learnt. I also reward myself for sticking with something, either short or long term, as I concentrate better when I know I’ll get paid for it in some way.
Working in Internet marketing is terrible because there are endless distractions online. Hours can whizz by fast as I zip from one task to another like a woman possessed.
Checking emails regularly is a drug. When a new one comes in I get a little rush and immediately spring into action to delete or reply.
Writing blog posts and promoting them takes time, as does keeping up with other blogs and knowing what’s going on in Internet marketing right now.
So taking six weeks off from work over Christmas was hard for me. It’s hard for me to admit that too because I thought I was the queen of doing nothing. Really. I used to be able to loll on a tropical beach for months at a time doing nothing but swimming, reading and playing chess, backgammon, or whatever game is popular.
But most of the time when I was doing nothing like that I was also in party mode which dulls the mind and makes doing nothing easier. Desirable even. Those days are over.
So how did I cope with six weeks of no work while my kids were on their school holidays?
1. Listen harder
Inherently boring activities like jigsaw puzzles keep me distracted. I did three 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles with bucolic scenes of country wildlife or jungle animals.
Good boredom busters engage your brain 50% so your mind can still wander. I like crosswords too but you might prefer sudoku, tapestry or scrap-booking. Whatever works.
I remembered that I was enforcing this time off to break routines, remove expectations and recharge creativity. The best ideas come when you’re bored. They spring from doodles, notes and ideas which come to life when you have time to tackle them.
Creative people are forever seeking inspiration so they pursue novelty and struggle with admin and drudgery but this was a time for me to embrace boredom.
I started cooking more, baking up a storm with hot smoked salmon, goat cheese and sundried tomato biscuits and home-made artichoke and roasted red pepper dip gracing our table. I even roasted the red pepper myself when you can buy it ready-roasted in a jar. But it was good eating.
I rediscovered the joys of boogey-boarding, sliding onto the beach face down, pulling my bikini bottoms back up with the kids while other parents looked on with a vaguely amused look on their faces and I’m sure, a hint of jealousy.
We have free buses here from Boxing Day until January 6th so we walked to the bus stop and hopped on with the teenagers and old folk to get to the beach and back. The journey took longer but we had more time to talk, more things to talk about and more people to eavesdrop on.
I walk so much because it negates the unhealthy lifestyle of someone who spends too much time sitting down at a computer and staves off boredom like nothing else. There’s always something to think about, something to see and you even make a few nodding acquaintances if you exercise regularly at the same place with other boredom beaters.
I started a new blog series 52 exercises to make sure exercise itself didn’t become boring because you need to mix it up to stay interested.
I live in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast in Australia so it’s not hard to find beauty near me but even when you live by a beautiful beach you can become blasé. Taking photos helped me look for natural beauty and appreciate it daily.
Without work to distract you it’s easier to tune into other people and find out what they’re thinking about. Apparently many families hardly ever eat meals together but now the kids are out of school we eat supper AND lunch together ever day.
Half the time the kids talk nonsense and taunt each other. Often I have to leave the table early because they eat so much and spend so much time there I physically cannot sit any longer.
But sometimes I can just enjoy listening to their gabble and hear important things I’d have otherwise missed.
2. Hang out with younger people
Maybe my love of reading springs from my inner boredom because even as a child I found books were the perfect escape from the real world to a place where time flowed effortlessly. That’s why I had 17 recommended reads to share at the end of the holiday.
But I read blogs and magazines galore too. There’s a lot of time for reading in six weeks.
My kids are constantly having fun and laughing. I love having a teenager to spend time with who’s got a wry sense of humour Max aged 11 likes to play pranks on me so I prank him back and Kiara aged 8 speaks nonsense which is a great way to pass time. Here’s an example of her story-telling:
“Mrs. G, my teacher says pets can use the Internet too and I said to her “But how will they be able to log on? They don’t know our password.”
If you don’t have any kids, or you’re fed up with your own children, borrow some for the day. Animals are great for keeping you grounded and in the moment too.
3. Clear out the old
Slowly but surely I’ve been decluttering. Get your stuff cleaned up so you’re ready when the next big thing comes along because it will. Clean out your fridge, wardrobe and pantry. Clear your desk and shelves of unneeded papers. Delete useless cell phone contacts and apps.
Now you can start again with a clean slate when the time comes. Boredom can flip to creativity in an instant and if everything else in your life is semi-organised you’ll be able to run with it when something exciting comes along.
Workaholics and people who constantly fill their lives with busy activity run from boredom when they need it more than anyone else. Reframe boredom as relaxation with time to do whatever you need.
Have you ever been told: Only boring people get bored? It’s a lie.
Even the most interesting people in the world get bored from time to time but they know boredom is part of life, that the greatest journeys have equal parts of problems, adventure and boredom. Albert Camus wrote:
“Any country where I am not bored is a country that teaches me nothing.”
So I’m learning to understand that boredom sows the seeds for greater learning and creativity. I’m learning to stop buzzing round like a bee and channel my inner sloth.
Being bored is a luxury: everything you need is there for you and there are no crises to be attended to. Next time boredom hits I won’t just cope with it. I’m going to bask in it like a warm bath.