Have you noticed how we never get bored any more? We always multitask, rarely doing just the one thing. Last week I came across a number of articles about boredom and how useful – and highly unusual, nowadays – it is. I guess that is because of the summer. People find themselves with more free time, and even manage to get bored on occasion, hence the unusual increase of articles on this extraordinary feeling . Or, maybe, I just need to remember that sweet feeling.
The latest article I read on this was on Edutopia, but I remember seeing at least another one (being me, I obviously can’t remember where) about how parents should let their children get bored –and how handing them an ipad to keep them occupied is not always the answer. There was even an article on The Economist about helicopter parents who are fussing too much about their kids and who should just relax; part of the argument was that parents should let their children frolic and discover the world on their own, including getting bored from time to time.
Why am I wondering about boredom? Because I never let myself get bored any more. I usually have a ton of things to do – work or writing related. But even when all this is finished, I will read something, go out with friends, watch a film, walk the dog. There is always something to do. When driving to a client, I will make a few phone calls, both to occupy myself and to clear some of my to-do list. When cooking, I will pause to read an article on a magazine or a few pages off a book while waiting for the onions to sizzle or the water to boil. I multitask every single moment of my life. Were it not for outlets like prayer, Tai Chi and meditation, I would have burned out long ago.
My rare moments of complete boredom are habitually on the beach –thank God for Greek summers – where we go with my wife. She swims a lot (and I do mean, A LOT), while I prefer to lie back and admire the view (she has the cutest smile. Why, what did you think I was going to say?). That’s a rare moment when I will allow myself to get bored – until the cell rings. Which is great, because otherwise I start feeling guilty for not doing something productive, like reading a book, answering emails or coming up with plot twists for my epic fantasy series, Pearseus.
My generation and – I think – those after mine have been constantly lectured not to waste our time. We were taught that time is precious and we should all use it in productive ways; the word ‘boredom’ has such pejorative connotations, that it’s something nobody should end up doing. It points to missed opportunities and idle hands that should be doing something more creative. Or (lowering voice here) they work for the devil. We don’t want that now, do we?
In fact, our entire life has been organized so that we don’t lose time: school, university, job are all tightly sequenced so that we don’t fall behind. Our “prime directive” is to squeeze everything into the limited time we have, cramming everything together. We drive while talking on the cell, listening to the radio and typing an SMS. Time is money, as they say, and we abhor wasting, spending or killing it.
And yet, boredom is conducive to creativity. Research has shown that when the mind meanders, the creative process is much more productive afterwards. Doing nothing now is contributing to doing something amazing later on. Our brains are not meant to function 24/7 in high capacity. They require lazy time for respite; they demand a moment of lull to recoup; they ask for pure idleness to enjoy life. We should allow ourselves the privilege of boredom. The pleasure of shifting our minds to neutral, watching life go by for a while.
Ironically enough, this is something that I need to teach myself, because it doesn’t come naturally any more. I have been conditioned to do things a certain way; not multitasking just feels abnormal. Heck, doing anything one thing at a time is a forgotten art. When is the last time you did one thing – and only that? No music, radio or TV in the background, no multitasking, no distractions. Just the one thing.
Therefore, when my wife asked me the other day whether I would take my laptop during our holidays, nominally starting today, my first reaction was, “Of course. What if a client needs something? What if I need to check my emails?” Then, I thought back to all the posts on the benefits of boredom and I realized that what I want – no, need – is for a whole week to get bored. Do nothing but stare at salty sea drops sliding off Electra as she comes out of the water. Gaze at the light filtering through the umbrella. Listen to the sound of waves crashing at my feet. And, just for a few days, ignore the accusatory whisper in the back of my head.
I’ll let you know if I succeed in leaving that little slave-driver behind…
You probably don’t get bored because you learned as a child how to relieve it. These days many children do not get the chance to “chill” never mind get bored and then, when they are adults, they do not know how to relax and smell the roses.
Thanks for the comment and welcome! 🙂
I’d never thought of it that way. You’re probably right, in the sense that I have no siblings and I grew up in a pretty remote place of Athens, so I learned from a very early age to use my imagination to relieve my boredom. However, I still have trouble relaxing and smelling the roses. There’s always so much to do! 🙂
It is true what you say, basically that the mind needs to be still sometimes, that’s why meditation is important daily, and as a popular saying goes, if you are busy, then you need to meditate more. I remember you wrote in a post or interview that you practice this everyday and I bet that’s what keeps you sane. As for what you said, having to try just living in the moment on your next holiday, I am going internet-cold-turkey next week for just over a week, for the first time since becoming an indie author. My worry is people on Twitter will think I don’t care to follow them back, or that this super-duper, mega-important email will arrive just as I get out the door. But it’s just irrational fears really, perhaps it’s the ego playing tricks on me, whispering in my ear that I’mTHAT important. Deep down I know, that if I don’t do this, if I don’t detox completely during my only holidays for the whole year, I won’t have the stamina or mental capacity to go through the brutal daily schedule for another year. I’ll let you know how it goes, but I bet it’ll be heavenly to let my mind wander again after so long. I’ve really come to miss that.
I’ve been trying to convince myself to do the same, starting tomorrow and for a week. Ah, the pitfalls of our supercharged egos! 🙂
I’d like to have a day where I can be bored!
Exactly! I miss those days… 🙁
Ahh, the luxury to have time to be bored. I remember those days . . .vaguely. Yes, multi-tasking is quite the norm. Writing, publishing, marketing, blogging, social media, emails, barely time to make proper meals and enjoy the finer moments in life. My take on taking a laptop on vacay- it’s nice to think I can leave the world behind and catch my breath, but I would be having anxiety at the number of things I would come back to in a back log and so I’m forced to travel with laptop. Have you thought about the backlash of leaving it behind?
I, too, have vague memories of such days… I miss them! 😀
And yes, I have thought about the backlog waiting for me, but I’m mostly stressed about one of my clients calling me up with some terrible disaster that has befallen their website that I could solve in 5′ were I at the office, but now they have to wait a whole week with their system down. Okay, maybe that hasn’t happened, but similar mini-crises do happen *every* time I leave for a vacation, usually within an hour of hopping into the car to leave… 😀
I hear you. “Murphy” loves to find me at those times. Given your client situation, I don’t blame you for choosing the lesser of the evils. 🙂
Reblogged this on The BiaLog and commented:
Relaxation is a lost art anymore. I’m so grateful for the ability to shut off my brain and enjoy the world around me.
Great piece! This is one of the things I’m grateful to my dad for teaching me. He never minded if I wasted time, so long as it didn’t cut into me mowing the grass or other chores. I have to admit I do look at them the same way in that without being bored, I never would’ve learned how to shut off my mind and relax. It took a while, but I finally figured it out. lol
Parenting done right! I envy you – and welcome you to the blog. Thanks for commenting! 🙂
Thanks! My pleasure. Glad to be aboard. 🙂
Reblogged this on Dr. Shay West and commented:
Very thought provoking blog by Nicholas Rossis. I’m one of the lucky few that doesn’t feel guilty by simply relaxing and not having this urge to always be doing something. What about you?
I think Auntie hit it 🙂 I am rarely bored but have no guilt at all about relaxing LOL Quite often I find myself just happily watching episode after episode of Doctor Who, sometimes for hours. Now, I don’t do this all the time but I have learned to listen to my body and mind and if it is insisting on NOT thinking about class lectures or the new class I’m teaching the following semester or the new WIP, then I happily oblige. Snuggle time with kitties and a few hours with my favorite TV shows or a great book keeps my tank running on full.
Auntie is the best 🙂
Next time you count your blessings, be sure to include the ability to listen to your body and mind. I’m like Charles; I only stop outlining/writing/promoting when I sleep.
And even then you probably plot in your dreams! LOL
Don’t you know it! My best ideas always are the dreamed ones – which is why I keep a notebook on my nightstand. 😀
Me too! 😀
I’m completely focused on reading this while eating breakfast and listening to Sat. “Morning Edition” on NPR. I don’t know what you’re talking about, Nicholas!
Lol – I think that’s the best comment so far! 😀
“We drive while talking on the cell,” Really. We get a hefty ticket here for doing that.
I’ve been retired eight years. Let me get bored. Please. I need to veg out but can’t seem to ‘find the time’. 😀 😀 😀 True story.
I know, right? We need our vegetative time! 😀
Oh, it’s the same here, but I always use a bluetooth hands-free. A friend had to live without a licence for a month, though.
🙂 🙂 When you get long in the tooth like me, everything is distracting when driving. Must concentrate on the driving. 🙂
I don’t think I get bored so much as anxious because I think there’s ‘something’ to do when I’m just sitting around. Still, I don’t think of reading or even watching TV as bad things when it comes to clearing boredom. Though that could be because just the word has negative connotations. We really have been raised to feel like even been remotely idle is a problem. I hear a lot of people saying ‘you can rest when you’re dead’ or ‘fun can wait for retirement’. So maybe it isn’t so much as allowing boredom, but not doing things simply for the sake of staying busy.
Note: This comes from someone who hasn’t taken a real break from writing/editing/outlining in years. Not unless you count a few bouts of stomach flu.
Same here. Even worse, I hear people say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”. Now, I don’t know about you, but I love my sleep with a passion usually reserved for desserts! 🙂
Same here, but I’m really bad at sleeping. I get woken up too easily. Never understood that phrase. I know people call it a dirt nap, but sleeping still involves dreams and the eventuality of waking up. Such a silly saying.
Lol – you could be talking about me. Maybe it’s an author thing. 😀
I have to agree with that guess. 🙂
That’s all very well, but I think you are confusing boredom with relaxation, or focusing on one thing. I’m never ruddy bored, but I do try and do one thing at a time, with the radio off, (and I try and avoid the television as much as possible) for me, boredom means not when you have chosen to do nothing, but you just can’t think of anything to do, or nothing takes your fancy, or you are stuck doing something that you really don’t want to do… (Like watching the ruddy television)
My dear Auntie, I see that the afterworld has made you wise. That’s a very good point you are raising. I am, indeed, talking about more than just boredom. The main point I’m making is that I’ve missed all of them: doing one thing at a time, relaxing and being bored.
We had a problem with our antenna a couple a months ago, and we never bothered fixing it, so we can’t even vegetate in front of the TV, I’m afraid! 🙂