Last week I had a realization: I'm never bored. Yeah, maybe being an entrepreneur has something to do with this, but even when my phone dies and I have to take the bus home without my favorite form of entertainment, I'm not bored. My cure all for boredom is engagement. There are so many different ways to be engaged, and I find engagement feeds a meaningful and fulfilling life, regardless of the task.
That "regardless of the task" thing is key. Our lives feel more full when we're all in, almost regardless of what we're actually doing. In fact, even being 100% in to not doing anything can be a form of engagement that brings us more joy in other areas of life.
I'm going to share some of the ways I keep engaged, regardless of circumstance. I've divided these into three key situations: when there's really nothing else to do, when the required task is repetitive and not-fun, and when the task at hand is to be not engaged. That last one sounds like an oxymoron, however I think it's actually the most key in terms of maintaining work-life balance.
Ways to be engaged when there's really nothing else to do:
- notice the world around you - what's beautiful right now? what's interesting or odd? Pretend your life is a murder mystery and you'll be able to solve whodunnit if you can notice something no one else does.
- be present - can you just "be" in this moment? If you have a meditation practice, can you try and quiet your mind even in this moment regardless of what's going on around you?
- play with your brain - maybe your mind won't quiet into meditation. Can you take what your brain is giving you and turn it into a game? Take a current earworm and change the lyrics to something relevant to what's going on right now. Pretend you lived in a vastly different time or place, what would be different about your life? Start planning your next vacation, but pretend you have millions of dollars to spend on it, what would you do? Make plans for other things in the future that are pure fantasy.
- observe your brain - sometimes our brain gets really stuck on some event of the day or something that's coming up in the future. Why is it stuck on that? Why does being stuck on that thing matter? Can you tell your brain that it's alright and it doesn't need to focus on that? can you give it something else to chew on?
Ways to be engaged with repetitive, not fun tasks:
- find joy in the task at hand - there are always mundane, repetitive tasks that we don't want to do. What can we do to enjoy the process? Try setting mini-goals, noticing what you like about the task, or fantasize about winning a prestigious national award in the mundane task you're doing. Write your acceptance speech in your head. Or, when did this task come into being? What was it like in a time where no one had to do this task because it didn't exist? Did they do something else instead?
- observe your brain - notice what your brain is telling you about the task at hand. It can be really fascinating what a brain will come up with. My brain is convinced that doing the dishes will cripple our body. So I lovingly tell myself, "discomfort isn't going to kill us, it will only make us stronger," and then I look for ways to shift how I'm standing while doing dishes that will make it feel less terrible and more athletic. What does your brain not like about the task at hand? Are there reasons it's a good task to do? What would be the consequence if you never did this task? Is there anything you could change that would make the task more enjoyable?
Ways to be engaged when our brain needs a break:
- In a healthy work-life balance there are some times when your brain needs to be tuned out, passively entertained, or focused on something that really doesn't matter. How can we be fully engaged in being not-engaged? My brain loves to zone out to TV, so I give it the time it needs to do that. Maybe your brain loves to get distracted day dreaming, or you go on an OCD cleaning detour. Whatever helps your brain chill, let it have some of that time, and don't let your brain undermine itself by shaming itself or feeling guilty for not being "productive." Giving your brain a break can be one of the most productive things to do!
Hopefully some of these ideas will give you something to do the next time you find yourself without a means of distraction. I'm sure there are many other tools and tricks, than these few that came to mind for me. What do you do to stay engaged, or purposefully be not-engaged?