I have a friend who gets bored easily. I was bored once for about five minutes in 2011. I remember it well. I was home alone, and for a minute I felt a feeling I couldn’t identify. By the time I did figure out it was boredom it was almost gone. Of course, if you have kids around, they tend to get bored easily, so this list works for them, too (except for #5).
1. Go outside and play. Go for a walk or run, lie in the grass and watch the clouds, dig a hole, pick flowers and weeds, sit and think about the nature of reality.
2. Dig deeper into something you’re curious about. Ever had a question about something? Wondered who was the first to do something? Or wanted to know more about an artist, a writer, a scientist, a planet, a philosophy, a mystery, a musician, a problem? Try to figure it out until there is nothing left but confident certainty. That should take you at least a few hours—and perhaps a lifetime.
3. Watch an interesting movie or TV show. Lately, my favorite show has been Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. This is worth hours of fun and laughter with absolutely nothing of consequence to worry about. Two movies I’ve seen this year that are about boredom, and of course transcend it, are both foreign films, which can excel in the subtle slowness that it takes to learn to love what other people call boredom: Fusi (Otherwise called Virgin Mountain) is an Icelandic film I watched on a plane, where I was not bored; and then Tracks, about a woman in Australia who was bored and decided to cross the desert with camels. It’s a true story.
4. Send a letter. Reconnect with someone you think about sometimes. Write someone a goofy letter or a thank-you note, go buy stamps, and put it in the mail. EVERYONE loves to get a real letter, or what is known in our house as “good mail.”
5. Have sex. With someone you love—even it that means doing it by yourself.
6. Decide to do something you’ve never done before. If you don’t know what to do, make a list of all the things you’ve always kind of wanted to do or have been curious about, and then start making plans to do them or, at the very least, to research one of them. Every summer, I try to get to at least one new park I’ve never been to or drive down a road I’ve never driven down…filling in that cognitive map!
7. Read a magazine. I’m not just saying this because I’m in the industry, but there is nothing quite as good as a magazine to fill time when you’re bored—and then inspire you to do something new, whether it’s travel to a new place, eat at a new restaurant, or try a new technique. Just looking at the pictures can give you lots of ideas of things to do that are not boring. I like to rip out the pages of things that interest me and put them in a pile for later use.
8. Clean something. Clean out a drawer. “KonMari” a category in your house (shirts, for instance), or just clean something that’s dirty, such as your car. If your house and car and yard are spotless, grab a garbage bag and go for a walk and clean up the world.
9. Fix something. Take those broken things someplace to get them fixed, or set up a fixing station with glue, nails, or whatever you need. Or if you personally are broken, try and fix that. Just don’t try to fix anyone else. That never seems to work.
10. Invent something. Lie around and try to think of all the things that could be improved in the world (there are lots) and hone in on the one or two that interest you the most, and try to think up something totally new and different that could radically improve things. Maybe it’s a new recipe. Maybe it’s a new form of transportation. Maybe it’s a new outfit. Maybe it’s a new political system (that one will take you at least a few weeks to figure out).
And when in doubt, sit on a rock. Or reach out to friends. It’s possible they are bored, too.