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Why Being Bored Will Actually Get Your Attention Back

I’m incredibly busy working on an undergraduate degree in biochemistry but I’m also passionate about constructing a career with writing and creative enterprise.

The biggest problem I face is that I never seem to have enough time for both…

The age-old question plagues me,

Where does the time go..?

The modern answer I’ve concluded is:

Our time is being taken from us.

The Gold Rush happened because massive new sources of the untapped resource were discovered.

People flocked from all over to claim a piece of the golden pie.

A similar situation is going on today but with a new resource: Our Attention.

Our Attention.

The more addictive and compelling media companies like Facebook, Google, Instagram, and Snapchat are, the more money they stand to make.

Our attention is being ‘mined’… largely for ad revenue.

These constant distractions put the average person at a disadvantage:

There appears to be less time in a day to use for living life and achieving goals.

Cal Newport says in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World,

“The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”

And,

“To simply wait and be bored has become a novel experience in modern life, but from the perspective of concentration training, it’s incredibly valuable.”

So, where does this insight leave me — the young, aspiring scientist/writer/entrepreneur?

With this:

Get Comfortable Being Bored.

If you’re anything like me (human) then you’ve probably had the feeling sitting at a desk, doing a task and sensing the boredom creeping in…

Maybe you’re reading a book, or at work. Maybe you’re on the toilet or the bus? Maybe you’re driving a car and you hastily grasp for the phone to distract yourself from the boring solitude of a double lane highway…

Personally, the more often I have this looming feeling of boredom the more frustrated I get with myself and the media today.

Why do you have to make your product so damn compelling?!!

Am I too weak to resist the urge of news-feed or the latest ‘top article’?!

My advice and my own methodology for moving through this creeping feeling and emerging victorious is to get comfortable being bored.

Seek. It. Out.

Leave the phone, iPod, book, ‘thing’ at home, in a drawer, and consider the day a success if it was absolutely boring. Because let’s be honest, being a writer, being a chemist, being a successful investment guru or entrepreneur is inherently boring.

These things — this hustle — cannot compete with the instant gratification of a news-feed article or the latest Netflix show.

These distractions are designed to be addicting and entertaining. Designed to take time away from what’s important and let your eyes glaze over on the screen … This is their objective.

The most effective way I’ve found for combating the ‘Instant Gratification Monkey’ is to alter my thinking and make boredom the goal.

Boring = Good

Boredom = Movement in the right direction

Bored = Rebellion against instant gratification

With 60+ hours of homework, classes, readings, and labs a week, being boring is the fastest route to my academic success.

Since adopting this method I’ve managed to increase both my workload and (somewhat surprisingly) my life satisfaction.

Now, when someone asks me, “What did you get up to yesterday?”

I can answer with pride, “I woke up, went to class, then did homework and reading all afternoon, went to the gym in the evening. Made dinner and was in bed by 9:30 reading Sherlock Holmes stories”

What most would consider a mundane and totally boring day, I consider a success because I did exactly what I intended to do.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve become a robot — That I have no fun, never socialize and live under a rock.

What changed is that I’m entertained when I intend to be, not just when my brain feels like it.

A successful day for me is one where I didn’t spend excessive time on my phone. Netflix stayed off. I had a boring lunch of rice, beans, and chicken. I didn’t spend money on the doughnut I was craving, instead, I spent an hour on the phone with my Mom or my Grandma.

This week, by setting my intention on achieving a state of boredom I was able to increase my attention span and focus more deeply on the task at hand.

Now, when I feel that familiar and uncomfortable feeling – the fear of boredom creeping into my conscious… I think, “Wow! I must be doing something right!”