Productivity

20 Productive Things to Do When You’re Bored

by Intelligent Change — 13 min read

20 Productive Things to Do When You’re Bored

Boredom is one of the most common feelings every human experiences every once in a while. What’s much more important than asking yourself "Why am I bored?" is how you handle the feeling.

It's normal to be bored, and still, when it happens, we usually wonder: "How do I get out of a procrastination vortex?" Is there a button to push to reset the day and jump back into ultra-productive mode?

Well, perhaps there is.

In this article, we’ll give you 20 suggestions on what to do when you get bored and want to turn that low tide into a high tide. Whether you’re experiencing boredom at home or at work, we believe there’s something here for everyone.


1. Don’t Fight It—Enjoy the Wave

The first advice we’ll give you is probably the simplest, but also the most unconventional one: enjoy your boredom. As professor Gayatri Devi from the Pennsylvania State University says, "boredom is the last privilege of the free mind".

Here’s a hard question: what’s the antidote to boredom? Productivity? Work? Fun?

Being productive or working can be as boring as simply doing nothing. Fun is a completely different category, as sometimes you can completely waste your time on YouTube watching cat videos while still having fun.

According to professor Devi, the most precise boredom antidote—is thinking. A couple of centuries ago, Rene Descartes had something similar to say about it too. The story goes that he created the famous Cartesian coordinate system while lying on his bed, dead bored, watching a fly on his ceiling move around.

The bottom line is: when you’re bored, it’s okay to have unproductive days. You can embrace your boredom and spend time thinking about your life, your future, your goals. If just sitting around thinking is not working out for you, consider thinking with a pen (or a keyboard) in your hand—and start keeping a reflective journal.

Taking these types of breaks from everyday life can be extremely refreshing and helpful in transforming your boredom into inspiration.

2. Declutter Your Space

Decluttering your space helps achieve new home aesthetics.

What our space looks like is often a reflection of our inner world, but it also works vice versa. Inner chaos can be paralyzing and perceived as boredom, but the outside chaos can also paralyze our productivity and make us feel bored.

One way to get out of a productive slump is to clean up your “outside world”. Anxiety, depression, and clutter tend to create a vicious circle and the act of decluttering can be meaningful in several ways.

First of all, you’ll feel more productive—you’re actually cleaning, throwing out unnecessary stuff, and sorting out those that remain. You can also freshen up your space, fill it with new objects that bring you joy, and move around furniture. Products of your work are immediately visible, which is rewarding, boredom-breaking, and inspiring.

3. Read

Reading is not only a fun activity once you get into it, but it’s also very beneficial. Research shows it can improve our memory, empathy, make us feel more optimistic, and healthier. Reading also affects our real life: science reveals that people who read about characters doing some inspiring activity are more likely to engage in that same activity in reality. This means that if you’re reading a book about a guy giving up a mediocre job, or asking for a promotion—you’ll be more likely to do that as well.

This activity is also highly beneficial for your brain and mental health: it strengthens the existing neural pathways, promotes the creation of new synapses, and helps the brain remain elastic and active. It can help reduce perceived stress levels, meaning that it’s beneficial for your overall health as well.

It doesn’t have to be a book, you can pick an amazing comic, an academic article, or a useful blog post—just like this one.

4. Sort Out Your Email Inbox

Be honest. How many unread emails, unopened newsletters, or forgotten promotions are there in your inbox? 50? 200? 1456?

Whether it’s your personal or your work email inbox, use your bored hours to sort it out.

Research conducted at The McKinsey Global Institute discovered that an average employee spends 13 hours per week reading and responding to emails. Seems like too much, right?

That’s why decluttering your email inbox can turn into one of the most productive things you’ll do for yourself in a while.

Here’s how:

  • Read them: maybe you already did, but if there are unread emails in your inbox, it might not be all newsletters and promotions. Make sure you didn’t miss out on anything important.
  • Clear spam: check your spam folder, just in case something important ended up there. If not—delete.
  • Send those waiting drafts: as you don’t have anything else you’d rather be doing, check that drafts folder. Are there any pending emails for your clients you’ve never sent, but know you should? Now’s the time.
  • Organize your email inbox: perhaps you’d like to read some of the newsletters from your spam folder, but you just don’t want to do it right now. Organize your inbox through folders so you can browse through them later with ease.

    5. Declutter Your Computer

    While you’re at your email inbox, you might as well tidy up your hard disc.

    First of all, if you see more than 10 icons on your desktop—that’s clutter, and can be tidied. Also, who knows what’s inside folders that are inside folders, that are inside folders… maybe some old PDFs from your student days, old pictures, or diary entries? Aren’t you interested to find out?

    Here are some tips on how to declutter your computer:

    • Clean your desktop: sort out files and folders, delete those that just “collect dust”;
    • Defragment your hard drive if it’s not happening automatically, so your computer speeds up;
    • Do an antivirus check-up;
    • Update your passwords (and don’t forget to note it somewhere, we recommend Dashlane);
    • Move photos, videos, and more valuable files to an external hard drive or the Cloud. If anything should happen to your computer, important files will always be saved;
    • Wipe and disinfect your keyboard and monitor.

      6. Plan Your Next Important Thing

      Planning your tasks ahead is a sure way of preventing the next episode of boredom. If a complicated day at work is right behind the corner, isn’t it better to have it all sorted out?

      Planning things ahead is not really the most exciting thing ever, especially if you use a boring blank notebook as your planner.

      However, there’s a way to make it more fun: by using a curated Productivity Planner.

      The Productivity Planner has very inspiring aesthetics.

      20 Productive Things to Do When You’re Bored

      It helps you plan your tasks by priority and it’s based on the Focus Time Technique, which keeps you in the anti-procrastination loop.

      In addition, each page of the Productivity Planner has a motivational quote in the header to remind you about all the great things you can achieve, followed by daily productivity self-assessment in the footer.

      Productivity Planner
      Productivity Planner $24.95 USD

      7. Pick Up a New Skill

      Whatever your profession is, or will be, there is always space for personal growth and professional improvement. Hard skills, soft skills, life hacks—there can never be too many.

      If you browse the Internet a little bit, you’ll find out how interesting and beneficial digital skills can be. Do you know how to build a website? Or how to make that website visible on Google search?

      Do you know any programming languages?

      No? Here’s your new skill.

      Just type Google digital garage, Google Academy, Udemy, or Coursera in your browser and discover the knowledge goldmine.

      Acquiring digital skills will not only make you more digitally literate, but it can also be beneficial for your work. Regardless of whether you’re a doctor or a baker, having your own website to promote your business and share your thoughts is a must-have. If you know how to build and maintain it yourself—you’ll save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

      Another set of skills worth mentioning are soft skills. These imply communicational, time management, problem-solving, critical thinking, or leadership skills.

      Luckily, we live in an era when everything is available online, so all you need to do is use your search engine efficiently. For instance, check out this website that offers some short and straightforward soft skills courses.

      8. Start Learning a New Language

      There’s an old French saying: The more languages you know, the more of a person you are.

      Do you agree?

      Learning a new language is perhaps the best way to cure boredom. It’s fun, challenging, rewarding, and you can never practice too much. Here’s a list of 30 online language courses you can tab over when you want to get out of a productivity slump.

      9. Watch Educational Videos

      These days, the Internet is everything. In case you sometimes contemplate how you should have been paying attention in your biology or math class, here’s a chance to make it up: use your ‘bored’ hours to compensate for the knowledge you missed out on in school.

      Or, perhaps you didn’t miss out on it—you just never had a chance to learn more about climate change, breathing exercises, astrophysics, or Arts history.

      We could say that watching educational videos is how responsible people procrastinate. “Hey I’m not wasting my time on cat videos, but here’s an interesting one—Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why”: How Great Leaders Inspire Action. Watch it here.

      Or this Youtube channel with short animated videos that explain the science behind some common things that happen in our everyday lives such as time perception, the pandemic, how to fall asleep in two minutes...or answer some intriguing questions: what if the world went vegetarian, what if you’d stop eating, etc.

      Ted Talks can also be an amazing source of knowledge. They are short, insightful and motivational, and Ted speakers are usually fun and interesting. Check out this list of must-see Ted Talk videos.

      If you’re looking for something more serious, go back to tip number 7, and check out Coursera’s, or Iversity’s educational courses. You’ll find everything: from neurolinguistics to astrophysics.

      10. Update Your CV

      When do you update and polish your CV? Do you do it regularly, every couple of months/years, or only when you need to send it somewhere ASAP? We assume—the latter.

      One thing we have to admit: writing a resume is boring. So while you’re bored already, use that time to audit your CV—change a photo, add new skills, delete some experiences you don’t need there anymore, etc. You’ll thank us later for this advice.

      11. Meditate or Do Yoga

      Meditate to fight boredom? Like, just sit there and do nothing? Yes!

      Boredom can help us enjoy the simplicity of meditation. Regardless of whether your boredom is caused by anxiety, fear, or simply not having anything better to do, meditation is a way to leverage your mind and focus on your inner self.

      Doing yoga is just the next level: practicing various poses that both strengthen and stretch your body while meditating. It’s a triple combo: breaks the boredom, gives you a straight mind, and a great body as well.

      12. Exercise Your Brain

      As you probably know already, in order to keep your body healthy and fit, you need to exercise, and there’s a bare minimum of daily physical activity that keeps your body strong and healthy.

      Your brain is no different—use it or lose it. Do you remember how challenging it was to master new skills as a kid? Computing, geometry, grammar, multiplication, puzzles… Each of these activities was a peculiar brain exercise, making your mind more flexible and quick. As you grew up, you probably stopped engaging in such activities and exchanged them for familiar, patterned work-related tasks.

      Well, now that you have some time to spare, why not spend it on brain-exercise activities?

      Cognitive scientists are not yet on the same page regarding the benefits of these brain tasks, but a couple of things are certain—they don’t do any harm, they “stretch your mind”, they’re fun, and they do help create new neural pathways. Will they turn you into a super-human? Probably not, but they will help you gain some clarity.

      Here are some recommendations:

      • Hand-draw a map of your city or neighborhood: finding the supermarket or the doctor's office in your neighborhood is easy when you’re behind the wheel. However, things change completely when you take the bird’s perspective and try to draw a map of the area.
      • Practice using your non-dominant hand: neurobiologist Lorenz Katz recommends using your opposite hand in simple tasks like controlling the computer mouse, eating, or writing. This activity strengthens the existing neural connections and helps grow new ones.
      • Brain training games: these can be helpful for improving your memory, focus, logical skills, and response time. We recommend sudoku—online or pen-and-paper, Lumosity program, crosswords, or Happy Neuron games.

        13. Engage in Self-Care

        20 Things to do when You are Bored

        If someone would ask you whether you take care of yourself, you’d probably say—“of course I do!”

        But what would you say if the question was how do you take care of yourself? That’s where things get tricky.

        Self-care is not just about taking vitamins and daily supplements or exercising to stay healthy. Of course, it can be, but there’s so much more to it.

        For many people, the so-called “me time” usually comes last on their list of priorities. What’s even worse is that we sometimes feel guilty for taking time for self-care. Don’t you think there’s something wrong with this kind of thinking? How can we be good for others, if we don’t take care of ourselves?

        You can change that attitude by prioritizing yourself and your emotional well-being.

        Self-care is a super-productive way to get out of a productivity slump. When you’re bored and stuck in judging yourself over how unproductive you are, engaging in self-care can reverse that attitude.

        But what exactly should you do? Here’s some advice:

        Keep a Gratitude Journal

        Take some time to yourself, and write down all the things you’re grateful for. When bored, we often think there’s nothing to do, and how our life may be empty, but we forget all the amazing things, small and big, that make it marvellous.

        The Five Minute Journal can help you remember all these things, and gear your mind into a state of positivity.

        Although filling out this journal doesn’t take long, it might inspire you further (psst: check out our next tip!).

        The Five Minute Journal
        The Five Minute Journal $24.95 USD

        Do Something that Makes You Happy

        Does dancing, engaging in creative activities, or watching a season of That Seventies Show for the 14th time make you happy? Or maybe taking a bubble bath with headphones on?

        Whatever it is, you can use your hours of boredom to do something nice for yourself. Whatever is the cause of your boredom, it can never be harmful to gratify yourself with something you enjoy.

        Prepare a Nice and Healthy Meal

        What’s more soul-soothing than eating a delicious meal? A delicious meal you prepared yourself, of course.

        If you’re feeling bored, why not spend some time enhancing your cooking skills?

        Socialize

        We find spending time with people you love is the best cure for boredom. Whether it’s your family or friends, taking care of yourself can also mean to love and feel loved by people you care about.

        If you’re spending more time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and can’t go out to grab a coffee with your best friend, mom, or sister, try switching to Zoom, or Skype. We know, it’s not the same as live contact, but it’s worth giving it a shot.


        14. Volunteer or Help a Friend

        Take a look at the people around you. There’s probably someone—a colleague from work, a good friend, or a family member, to whom your attention and a helping hand would mean a lot. If you’re not sure what to do with yourself, perhaps there’s someone around you who could use your presence.

        Another way to be useful to society is to engage in volunteer work. Either way—making yourself useful to others and to society is an excellent way to get out of a productive slump.

        15. Write Reviews for Your Favorite Products

        Writing positive reviews for amazing products you’ve recently purchased or delightful customer service you've received can be empowering for those who delivered them to you.

        Regardless of whether it’s a T-shirt you’ve purchased from a designer who’s just starting their career or a great tool that has helped you work more efficiently, leaving a positive review (with suggestions for improvement, if there are any) is like an inspiring token of appreciation for them.

        Furthermore, writing positive reviews can make you feel more positive as well, as it requires you to think why you like that specific product so much, or how it has improved your life.

        16. Start a Personal Blog

        20 things to do when you are bored

        Starting a personal blog can be enlightening. Regardless of whether you choose to write on topics that are related to your work, or important to you personally, it’s somehow liberating to release your thoughts.

        Personal blogs are great because you never know who will become your audience. If you keep a blog that’s related to your work, this hobby might become an addition to your resume, or connect you with other people from your branch.

        Besides being a hobby that helps you fight boredom, keeping a personal blog can help you improve your confidence and build an online identity. As Seth Godin explains it, putting your words out there is a great way to leave the comfort zone, fight the lizard brain and achieve a growth mindset.

        17. Explore Local Nature

        Exploring mother nature is an activity that never gets old. If you’re bored, do yourself a favor, and go for a stroll around the nearest park. If it's the weekend, take a drive to a hiking place, beach or forest you’ve always wanted to visit and revitalize your mind and body with some fresh air.

        18. Keep a Plant Alive

        Keeping a houseplant is not only about making your living space look more cozy. It’s also about health.

        When we breathe, we absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Plants, on the other hand, do exactly the opposite. That’s why having them in your apartment can be extremely beneficial.

        Research conducted by NASA revealed that plants can clear air and water for indoor environments. They can remove up to 87% of toxins within 24 hours.

        If you live in a polluted environment, like most big cities are, an indoor plant is definitely a must-have. However, even if you live in a non-polluted area, you can still benefit from having plants in your home.

        For example, studies have shown that indoor plants improve memory and concentration, while flowers generate happiness.

        However, keeping a plant is not just about putting a seed in the ground and watering it from time to time. You need to pick an adequate flower pot and soil, get a good fertilizer, arrange your plants in a way that allows them to get enough light and water every day, and if necessary, cut their leaves and branches from time to time, or put small fences around, to control the direction of their growth.

        As you can see, indoor plants require a lot of attention, so if you’re feeling bored, consider making your own plant sanctuary.

        19. Engage in Creative Activities

        You can create an affirmation card, a collage poster or a new Spotify playlist. Maybe, you had an idea of creating a magazine–why not to start right now by exploring the tools you can use and deciding on content and layout ideas? Maybe you want to make your own jewellery or build a home photo studio. Discover an artist inside you, get those creative juices and imagination flowing and engage in creative projects.

        20. Preserve Family Memories

        Did your grandparents tell you stories about their childhood? Or about your parents’ childhood? Maybe your parents told you something about their lives as well?

        When we’re young, we easily can forget them. We take them for granted and move along—someone will repeat them at the next family gathering.

        However, as we grow older, our family experiences change. Somebody moves into another country or another city. Older family members pass away. What’s left are our memories and family photos. So why not preserve them?

        Your children, or grandchildren, might want to find out more about their ancestors. They’ll listen to your stories, just like you listened to your parents and grandparents, but wouldn’t it be great to leave physical evidence behind with preserved family memories for yourself and future generations?

        But, how exactly do you preserve family memories?

        Here’s some advice:

        • Make a family tree. Ask your mom, dad, your grandparents if they’re still alive, and your broader relatives, to tell you about people from your family. Try to discover when and where they were born, how many times did they marry, how many children they have, did they migrate, and so on. Use pen and paper for catching notes, but afterward, you can put all that data into a software that helps you build a precise family tree, called genogram.
        • Collect interesting stories from your family members. Perhaps somebody’s been through a war or has memories of some historically remarkable periods. Try to preserve these stories as accurately as possible. The stories worth preserving are not only those that refer to historically important events. Case-specific stories are also of great importance: how did your (grand)parents meet? Why did they fall in love? Where did they work? Why did they move from one place to another? How do they remember their childhoods, and so on? An interesting thing that could happen on this journey, is that you hear different storylines, from different family members, regarding the same event! That perfectly illustrates the subjectivity of memory, and is definitely worth preserving!
        • Save family photos: do we need to explain this one? Simply ask different members to give you their photos. Make copies, and put them in an album. On the back of each photo write the date when it was taken, along with names of the people in it. Thank us later!

          Wrapping It Up

          20 things to do when you are bored

          We hope you found our article on how to get out of a productive slump interesting and useful. We recommend keeping this text somewhere in your bookmarks, and the next time you fall into a procrastination vortex, you’re only a few clicks away from remembering there’s something exciting, creative and upbeat you can do to make yourself feel better.

          Depending on your mood at the very moment you’re experiencing boredom, you might decide to just embrace it and think about your life, go for a walk in the nearest park, or work on improving your digital skills. Perhaps this article inspired you to get out and explore your neighbourhood, tap into self-care, engage in creative activities or get a new plant.

          Whenever you feel like there’s nothing to do—great! Because that’s the perfect timing to do something.

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