Boredom for Motivation
If you want to work out more, you should consider being bored more.
Have you noticed that even when many things are ‘shut down’, and you can’t visit other people, you still have plenty of stuff to do?
That time is in short supply.
That you still feel tired all the time.
That you aren’t motivated to get things done (like work out).
Strange as it sounds, the ingredient you are probably missing is boredom.
In our hyper-connected world, designed by companies incentivized to keep you online as long as possible, boredom is becoming a limited resource.
In days past, the time that used to fill in between actual activities are filled themselves with scrolling, texting, getting work/chores done, and games. There is no more just standing in line, just waiting to arrive at your destination, or just waiting for the show to start or the friend to come over.
Even if you aren’t clicking over to social media 3,781 times per day, our obsession with productivity makes it feel like we are forgetting something or should be doing something, every time we have a few seconds to think. The anxiety envelops us like the smell of microwaved broccoli or constricts like an ill fitting too-small onesie.
How to Be Bored
As with most bad habits, the first thing you should do is take note of how often you are doing the habit you’d like to eliminate. Then, step back and notice what events, environments, or thoughts, are triggering the bad habit.
The goal is to recognize the triggers before the urge is too strong or before you start engaging with the habit without even thinking.
Use this extra attention to the trigger to redirect your behavior.
- Switching between projects makes you always check Facebook/Insta for updates? Get up and go for a walk around the house/office instead.
- Standing in line? Look at your surroundings or just focus on breathing.
- Waiting for a phone call or a meeting to start? Get up and do some stretching and mobility.
- Laying on the couch scrolling social media or reading articles, procrastinating getting a chore or a project done? Put down the phone and stare at the wall for 2 minutes (or more).
These extra moments of inactivity will give your brain (and your motivation) time to keep up with the other stuff you need to think about or get done. The black hole of scrolling takes away from your rest time and is a task that will never be complete. Learn to be bored in these moments as opposed to distracting yourself with a beast that will never be fed.
As you start to accumulate more boredom throughout the day, you’ll be more comfortable not scheduling every moment, taking on too many responsibilities, or grabbing your phone, every time you have a quiet minute or two.
You will be surprised how much easier it is to get off the couch and go for a walk, do some stretching, get to the gym, or do a workout in the garage, once the alternative is to stare at the wall or listen to the refrigerator turn on and off.
Schedule Time to be Bored
An alternative that works in conjunction with accumulating boredom is to schedule it.
Set days or hours of the day where you are not allowed to check social media, YouTube, or do any work stuff. Sundays and certain weeknights are a great day to stay off of social media for example.
This is different than scheduling workout time. You aren’t forcing yourself to workout.
You are setting time aside for a small list of things that are ‘allowed’. Sitting quietly. Journaling on paper. Focusing on breathing. Stretching/mobility. Exercise… Maybe a few other things that are mundane and easily avoided.
For most people, it takes a few tries to make it a full 30 minutes or an hour without going off and doing something else that is ‘off-list’. But after some practice, it will become easier and easier to stick to the list. You will start to look forward to this down-time.
Generally, you’ll find that after a few minutes of boredom, a workout will look more and more enticing (even if you really didn’t feel like you had the time/energy/motivation to work out today).
Boredom isn’t Toxic
Stop trying to be productive or distracted every minute of every day.
Stop avoiding boredom.
Start using it strategically to help you have more motivation to do the things you have been avoiding.