Before smartphones, it took careful planning to avoid boredom. Now, we never need to be bored. We turn to our phones to fill even the most fleeting instants of empty time.
The result is an enormous amount of “micro” context switching. Is there an opportunity for improvement here? How does all this micro context switching affect energy and mood?
As an experiment, I’ve recently tried to “lean in” to boredom during these moments. If I have to wait for a few minutes for something, I just wait. No smartphone. No scanning headlines, checking email, or sorting out my task list. In fact, I try to not think too deeply about anything at all.
I just wait. And maybe look at my surroundings.
Here are my observations:
All of my multi-tasking was ineffectual. I’m still just as up-to-date on the headlines, email, and task list as I was before. No noticeable drawbacks.
My brain benefits greatly from resting. When it’s time to focus, I am more eager to dive in, and more productive.
By avoiding the avoidable context switches, I have more patience for the unavoidable ones. My theory is that every context switch, big or small, causes some displeasure and consumes some energy. It increases for big interruptions, sure, but not proportionally.
Overall, I feel less rushed and – in a sense – “wealthier” for lack of a better word. Let me explain: We work hard to earn money to eventually retire and live a life of leisure. Why not claim a little bit of that leisure now, especially if it comes without a downside?
It’s okay – and even good – to be bored sometimes.