Eliminate Boredom With These 2 Proven Techniques

Why do we get bored? Boredom arises when we feel “temporarily confined to a situation or activity” that we don’t value. There are a variety of reasons why we might not value a situation or activity. An activity could be too difficult, too easy, or it could be unaligned with our interests.

There’s another type of boredom that I’ll discuss in a future post, but this post will focus on boredom that arises from undesirable activities. Boredom is a type of resistance to your current situation. You want to swap your current activity for something less overwhelming, more stimulating, or more aligned with your interests. 

These situations occur regularly. Instead of being at work, you’d rather be hanging out with your friends. Instead of studying for a test, you’d rather be playing video games. In a lot of cases, you can alleviate dissatisfaction by distracting yourself. You might do this by listening to music, or checking your phone, or eating some food. Food is one of the most popular methods of dealing with boredom. But these are temporary fixes; they're not getting to the root of the problem.

There will be many times that you experience boredom, and you can’t use one of these quick fixes to overcome it. So it makes sense to find a strategy for overcoming boredom that you can use in any situation. 


Doing Tasks That You’re Not Interested In

We often become bored if we’re doing a task that doesn’t appeal to our interests. Examples of these tasks are:

Doing house chores

Completing reports for your boss

Organising your email inbox

Checking your bank statements

Doing a school or university assignment that you’re not interested in

When you assume a task will be tedious, it usually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your energy and body language is going to be unenthusiastic, and you’ll experience as much boredom as you anticipated.


Reward Systems

It's important to realise that no task is inherently boring. This task might not be one of your greatest passions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reframe it in your mind. Our minds work in conjunction with reward systems, so you can eliminate boredom if you create a worthwhile reward. Why is it the case that so many of us can spend numerous hours each week working out or running, putting our bodies through immense pain? It’s because of the associated reward.

Whether it be aesthetics, strength, the feeling of released endorphins or any other reason, we have created a reward system.  We have a reason to be doing that task. Not only do we want that associated reward, we positively associate the pain with that reward.

So when you’re working out and feel that burn, that feels good because you know that the burn will lead to the results you want. If you don’t feel the burn, you’re not content with the workout because you believe it will lead to subpar results.

For all of these tasks that you find boring, you haven’t created a reward system for them. So, when you encounter a task that you find boring, the first step is to create a list of possible rewards from completing it. For example, if you need to do house chores, you can compile a list of benefits like this:

You can tick them off your to-do list.

Getting them out the way will make you feel productive.

The people you live with will appreciate it.

It will save the house chores building up to an even more extensive list next week.

It will make your place look tidier.

You can use this time to listen to music or a podcast.

You will always be able to find a reward from doing something that you perceive to be boring. However, you can still use the principle of delayed gratification. You can achieve instant satisfaction from doing a task that is psychologically challenging to do. 

Once you’ve compiled the list, pick the one that is most meaningful to you. If you hold this benefit in your mind, you’ll be able to overcome the boredom. Your mind automatically labels some activities as boring, so it’s your job to reframe them using the reward system technique.


What Happens When a Task Is Too Difficult?

We also become bored if we’re doing a task that is too challenging or easy. A task needs to be hard enough to be stimulating, but it can become overwhelming if it’s too difficult. When you find a task too difficult, you’re overwhelmed because of how complex or confusing it is. You lose interest since you don’t have a clear direction of the steps to take. 

When a task is too challenging, you have no idea where to start. One of the main reasons people quit something is because they’re thinking about how far the finishing line is. They get discouraged because of how far away they are from completing the task.

When you break a task down into small steps, your brain can concentrate on a specific area. Let’s say you are given two weeks to complete a 6000-word assignment. If you look at the 6000 words in their entirety, it can seem overwhelming. You probably don’t know where to start. As you begin writing, it can feel boring because you know that you’ve got so many words left to write, and you have to endure a lot of emotional labour. 

Even once you make some progress, it will seem insignificant compared to the assignment’s total word count. You might interpret this as a lack of progress, causing you to get bored quickly.

Instead of looking at this assignment as 6000 words, you can break it up into sets of 60 words. Once you can forget about the overall word count, you can focus on writing each set of 60 words as well as possible. When focusing on the individual steps, you become engaged in the activity rather than thinking about the finish line.

By taking this approach, you are integrating a reward system into the task. Each set of 60 words that you complete is like a mini-goal that you’ve accomplished. 

Creating mini-goals is crucial in any project like building a business, building infrastructure or inventing something. Some of these projects take decades to complete. It’s very challenging not to get bored if you have to wait for decades to see the end result. It’s also crucial for small projects like a 6000-word assignment to sustain your enthusiasm through to completion.


What Happens When a Task Is Too Easy?

Similarly, when a task is too easy, you’re not immersed in the activity because it requires minimal effort or concentration to complete it. It’s hard to motivate yourself if a task doesn’t need your entire focus. Your mind begins to wander because it isn’t challenging enough to require your full attention.

Oddly, the solution is the same for overcoming boredom with tasks that are too difficult and too easy. The answer is to break the task down into small steps

When a task is too easy, you oversimplify it, and you’re only thinking about the end result. You’re not engaged in the activity; you’re only interested in finishing it. If you’re not fully immersed in an activity, this creates resistance because your mind wants to do something else while you’re doing it. Your mind is like a dog on a lead that is pulling you away from the activity. You have to exert a lot of energy to remain focused. 

To make the task less boring, you have to make it more challenging for yourself. The method for doing this is to break it down into smaller steps and complete each step as well as possible. For example, imagine that you are a professional runner and you’re running 5 miles with one of your friends. This person is not an experienced runner, so you’re going at a pace that is slow enough for them. 

Rather than being bored by the slow pace you’re running at, find a way to break it down into small challenges. You could spend 5 minutes focusing on your breathing, 5 minutes focusing on your posture, 5 minutes concentrating on your stride and so on. Focusing on these mini-goals provides a solution to the boredom that emerges from not being challenged.

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