Overcoming Boredom: How to Best Spend Your Spare Time
Are you making the most of your spare time? One of the most common paradoxes that humans encounter is wishing for more spare time, but we don’t know how to use that extra time when we get it. I previously spoke about dealing with boredom from activities that you don’t find engaging, known as active boredom. The other type of boredom that we experience is passive boredom. Passive boredom occurs when you have spare time but you’re unsure how to spend it.
Examples of this include:
Waiting in a queue
Commuting to work
Contemplating what to do at the weekend
Being in an office but having no work to do because it’s so quiet
Passive boredom varies in length; it can last all day or last for five minutes. Either way, this accumulates into a significant amount of time over the years. If you spent five minutes feeling like this, every day for a year, that amounts to 30 hours over the year. But that’s just five minutes a day; a lot of people spend hours of their day not knowing what to do with themselves. So if you were to spend two hours a day feeling bored like this, that amounts to over 30 days over an entire year. So if you did that every day for a decade, that amounts to over 300 days.
That’s a lot of time to be spending doing meaningless activities or figuring out what to do with your time. So while boredom isn’t a particularly toxic emotion, it wastes a lot of your time unnecessarily. But fortunately, the solution to fixing boredom is much easier to implement than for other emotions.
Always Have Something to Be Working On
If you experience passive boredom, this indicates that there’s a lack of direction in your life. If you don’t have specific goals you’re working towards, you don’t know how to spend your spare time optimally. Since you don’t know what else to do, you’ll end up doing activities that aren’t adding any value to your life.
When you have clear goals, you know precisely what to work towards in your spare time. There will always be something more you can do to move towards your goals. When you think about an entrepreneur setting up a business, there’s never a point when they don’t have something to be working towards.
You should adopt this entrepreneurial mindset in your own life. An entrepreneurial mindset doesn’t require you to be working every minute possible; it just ensures that you never run out of things to do. Not all of your goals have to be work-related, either. You can have goals related to your hobbies and interests, so the activities you do in your spare time are enjoyable.
If you don’t have any direction for your life, you’ll naturally pick the easiest or most comfortable activity. This activity is usually unresourceful, like checking your phone or eating to escape boredom.
What Is the Biggest Project You’re Working On?
An excellent way of eliminating boredom is to start planning your life into projects. You should always have a project that you’re working on completing. If you have some medium or long-term goals to work on, you’ll quickly identify what you can spend your spare time doing. Ambitious people rarely get bored because they always have goals they’re working towards.
Let’s say you have a spare five minutes while you’re waiting in a queue to get coffee. If you’ve recently been developing a gym habit, then you could spend that time researching new gym techniques.
A project could be anything from organising your email inbox to investing in property. A project could be work-related, school-related, health-and-fitness-related, finance-related, personal-growth-related, or anything else. Anything that is moving you closer towards a goal can be considered a project.
A project is something that you become more invested in as you continue to pursue it. You develop a desire to see it through to the end and achieve the intended result. As you become more invested, you’ll enjoy working on it in your spare time. When you have a meaningful project that you’re working on, you’ve solved the passive boredom problem because you already know how to spend your spare time.
How Working Towards Your Goals Alleviates Boredom
This doesn’t mean you have to spend every minute of your spare time working on projects. There’s nothing wrong with activities that entertain you, like checking social media and browsing the internet. However, it becomes an issue if you spend all of your spare time doing this.
The main concern isn’t that this makes you unproductive, although that is a factor too. The main issue is that these activities perpetuate your boredom. If you check your social media feed and browse through the internet in the morning, it entertains you when you first do it. But when you do the same thing, five or ten times, it doesn’t satisfy your boredom in the same way it did the first time. This “lowers our tolerance” for boredom, which leaves us feeling even more bored in the end.
So you end up repeating this activity over again, hoping for a different result. You become increasingly bored because the activity you’re doing to relieve your boredom is less engaging each time. This boredom leaves you frustrated because it feels like nothing can make you feel engaged. However, this isn’t the case that nothing will engage you; you’re just picking the wrong activities.
The least bored people are those who are motivated, disciplined and hard-working. Throughout the day, they are focused on working towards their goals. They have a clear direction of what they’re trying to achieve. When they get any spare time in their day, they use it wisely. They’re not looking for a quick hit of stimulation to relieve their boredom.
How Spending Patterns Are Related to Boredom
Imagine two people with completely different spending patterns. The first person has no concept of a budget; they purchase material items whenever they want. They don’t think about how much money it will leave them with or whether there’s anything they need to save up for in future. They’re not looking to invest any of their money.
The second person is very particular about what they choose to purchase. If they want to buy something, they decide to save up or budget for that item separately from their other expenses. They carefully consider how to allocate their money best. They have money in investments, and they carefully plan for how they will want to use their money a few years from now.
Both people are purchasing the same car. The first person has spontaneously decided that they want to buy this car. The second person has been planning for the past year and has been budgeting accordingly. When each person gets the keys to the car, who do you think will value it more? The person who frivolously spends their money without thinking about it, or the person who has a specific reason for wanting the item?
The person who has a specific reason for purchasing the item is going to enjoy it more. They’ll be more appreciative of the car because they had to make some sacrifices to get it. They don’t often purchase things for themselves, so it feels exciting when they do.
For the other person, acquiring this car doesn’t mean much to them; it’s just one item out of the hundreds they’ve purchased. They might enjoy it momentarily, but the novelty will soon wear off, and they’ll want something else.
How to Apply This to Your Spare Time
If you’re spending your time frivolously, then your spare time is meaningless to you. If you spend most of your day on your phone, browsing the internet, or watching films, there’s no separation between that and your spare time. When you get some free time, you’ve already done the activities that you would want to do to relax in your spare time, so it leaves you feeling bored.
Whereas if you’re more selective about what you do throughout the day, this completely changes how you perceive your spare time. There is a separation between your time spent working on your goals and your spare time. You’ll appreciate the spare time you have because you realise it’s precious and you’ll get more fulfilment from the activities you do in your spare time.
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