52 Things to Do When You’re Bored Out of Your Gourd
Oh no, another listicle on random things to do! I know, but this one’s pretty great.
Yes, I wrote this because it’s top-of-mind for me and my clients during this coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic, with some people in quarantine or self-quarantining. But it’s applicable to boredom in general. As someone who’s been working from home for a while, 90% of this comes from my own idle ponderings.
So, you want some ideas on how to reframe your boredom when you’re stuck at home? Let’s go!
Take care of your body
Do 1,000 pushups or situps. I mean over time, obviously, but set a challenge about how long it will take you to complete 1,000.
Search YouTube and have a dance workout. It’s easy to get a 15-minute sweat in. Prepare to be embarrassed, in a fun way.
Same idea to do some yoga or stretching. There are a ton of great, free guided sessions on YouTube. Challenge yourself to do one every morning this week.
Do planks or wall sits, anything that can be timed. See how long you can hold it (with good form) and try to set and beat your personal record.
Cut out meats and sweets for a week. Or some other kind of diet, but one that’s actually healthy while still challenging. It’s a no-regrets move to cut out fried food, alcohol, etc. for a week.
Set a sleep routine. Do some research on what healthy sleep is and what routines will work for you. Write it down and try it. Iterate and improve on what works.
Exercise your mind
Get into a rhythm and practice meditation, prayer, or reflection. One of the best articles on meditation is here by Sílvia Bastos. I use the Headspace app. Also, check out my friends at Hallow, who are bringing the same approach to prayer.
Learn a language on Busuu. Ah yes, the number-one most touted skill to learn when bored and the least followed-through on. I love Busuu because it’s an awesome app and because it lets you set a plan based on your goals. It rocks.
Read a book in one day. I’m sure you have one in mind that’s been collecting dust. Can you read through it today? Challenge accepted.
Learn how to memorize a deck of cards. It’s a great way to get started on flexing the memory skill. Here’s a video to get you going.
Sign up for and do the crossword from New York Times. It’s super easy to do on a tablet. I recently got into it, and it’s surprisingly how fast you can improve.
Master chess (or at least get better at it). I’ll leave it to you to find the best app or site, but Chess.com is what I like.
Become ambidextrous. When I was younger I made up something called Wacky Wednesdays where I would only use my left hand for things that day. Try that (put a mitten on your dominant hand if you’re really committed), or just practice writing with your off hand for a while.
Take something apart, then put it back together. What better way to practice the engineer side of your brain than to tear apart old electronics? Get the kids involved! This could get messy or expensive, I take no responsibility.
Set daily affirmations. This is a quick way to get yourself into a more positive headspace. Look into 35 Affirmations That Will Change Your Life for ideas.
Become a better you
Take a course that grows you, like this rave-reviewed online course on happiness and well being. You can even pay $49 for a certificate from Yale.
Take any online course, actually. You can find dozens of options at Coursera and Udemy. Choose something that’s really interesting to you or, better yet, something you know nothing about or aren’t really interested in.
Draw something, anything. Set an hour aside, sit down with a paper and pencil, and just draw something you notice. If you feel inspired, look online for how to draw better. Same idea for painting.
Cook a completely new dish. I’d encourage you to find something that looks a bit too complex for your skill level. Then just give it a shot, and try again the next day if it doesn’t go to plan.
Learn more about a random topic than 99% of people know. This is similar to the course idea, but just involves your own research. Challenge: choose a topic through this random generator.
Challenge yourself to memorize all of the countries in the world on Sporcle. You can go continent by continent to work your way up.
Learn an instrument. This is another skill cliché, but for good reason. If you’ve been putting off learning the guitar or piano, find some courses and just set a time each day or each week to go for it. If you don’t have an instrument, try singing or download a digital audio workstation to mix your own beats.
Write a song or a poem. Especially if you haven’t before. Listen to music to get inspired, and just free write for a bit to see what comes up.
Finally learn to speed read. Because why not? Here’s an amazingly simple video by Tim Ferriss as a starting point.
Get a coach. Of course I’m biased, but what a great time to invest into your own growth! Read an article on what coaching is and what it’s for: Do You Need an Executive Coach? Read This
Look from the past to where you are
Do a life map to take stock of where you’ve come from. Great way to reflect and appreciate. Here’s an article about what I mean: Building Self-Awareness and Deeper Connections with Life Maps
Take time to sort through your old photos. I mean the old, old photos, on your external hard drive and printed. Great chance to organize and great opportunity to reflect. #TBT
Make a list of ten old friends and reach out to them. Better to just ponder and write versus scrolling through Facebook. Who had real meaning in your life? Bonus points if it’s been more than a decade.
Repair a broken relationship. If you reflect on your family or old friends, you might notice someone that you’ve broken ties with. Maybe for good reason, maybe for reasons you can’t even remember. If it’s more the latter, I challenge you: be brave and reach out.
Appreciate more and practice gratitude by making a list of 101 things you’re grateful for. It gets pretty hard midway through, but that’s also when it gets rewarding.
Take an assessment like the CliftonStrengths 34 (formerly StrengthsFinder). I do this a lot with my clients since I respect the research and approach more than other assessments. If you did one few years back, get a refreshed version. Notice what’s changed.
Prepare for the future
Do a “who am I?” exercise to take stock of where you want to go. This helps you get to the real core of your values. Surprise, surprise, here’s an article on that, too: One Powerful Tool to Clarify Who You Really Are
Get thoughtful and set a plan for the year. What would you love to accomplish? Professionally? Personally? It’s great to have a few goals to guide us, just don’t go overboard. Or do, it’s your plan.
Build out your bucket list. I love doing this, especially with my partner. I’d suggest brainstorming on your own first, but there are a ton of resources online to hunt for good ideas, such as this one.
Create a vision board. If you haven’t done one before, check out How To Create The Perfect Vision Board. If you have, maybe it’s time for a refresh.
Now’s your chance to start to network. Planting seeds of connection early, when you don’t need them, is a lot easier and more genuine than when you do. Hop on LinkedIn, beef up your profile, and find people that would be great mutual connections!
Call your friends or send a few texts. It can be easy to leave some of our connections loose, tighten them up and ask how people are! Challenge: 20 people.
Get out some paper and write a letter. It doesn’t matter who you write to, it could even be a letter to yourself. But it’s a great chance to communicate in a different way and flex a different writing style.
Have a conversation with your family for at least half an hour. If you can’t make it to 30 minutes, work up to it. If you already have long conversations with your family, what’s something else you could work on to build closer bonds?
If you’re staying indoors, have a FaceTime date with a friend. See what it’s like to cook something together or watch a show together. What a time to be alive.
Join an online community like a virtual mastermind group. Good way to expand your perspective and be social without going out. You can find some on Meetup.
Go on a virtual museum tour with Google Arts & Culture. Free content from over 1,200 leading museums and archives. You can keep close to your humanity without leaving your couch!
Build a music playlist on Spotify. Search for new genres and indie artists to expand your range. Music is something every culture shares, and it’s a great thing to share with others. It’s the 2020 version of a mixtape.
Organize your closets. This is a chance to purge some of the old clothes and get things clean and tidy! Here’s an idea on a way to get started.
Go ahead, buy some new clothes online. Dangerous idea in contrast with organizing your closets. But take a bit of time to be deliberate about what you need and what you want your look to be. Challenge: donate something old for anything new you get.
Go for a walk. A little fresh air can change the perspective. If you can’t go outside right now, open up the window and look at the birds or people watch.
Start a skin-care routine. I’m not going to post any links here, because it’s just too personalized. You can find what you need. But take this boredom as an opportunity to build a good routine.
Take a one-day tech detox. Just one day without any screens, without any social media. Cautionary note: maybe text your loved ones ahead of time so they don’t file a missing persons report.
Take a bubble bath. You can even make your own! Lean into boredom and just relax for a bit. If you don’t have a tub, take a relaxing shower. If you don’t have a shower, heat some water and steam your face.
Go get a plant. It’ll give you something to care for and brighten up your space. Just don’t water it out of boredom, that’s how I kill most of my plants.
Or better yet, foster a pet. So many doggos and kitties need someone to love and look after them. What a nice chance to be a foster parent for a little while! Check your city for good resources first.
Watch some funny videos, especially of doggos and kitties. If you can’t bring a real animal into your life right now, it doesn’t mean you can’t fawn over them. This flies in the face of a tech detox, but animals are cute.
There are a ton of resources out there, almost too many. Here are some good ones:
Anything by Danny Forest
Outside of Medium
If you’re home with a roommate or partner, think about which ideas you can do together. Better yet, put your favorite ideas on pieces of paper and pick one out of a hat. You could do this lucky dip each day on long stretches at home.
Last things first, maintain the rituals
If this boredom is at a new level of intensity — maybe because of working from home for the first time or recovering from a surgery — before trying new things, anchor in on the old. We need to be grounded more than we need to be distracted.
I didn’t touch on a lot of this, but try to set a routine that matches how you know you work or live best. If mornings are your time, set an alarm and wake up early. If evenings are your time, block them out on the calendar. Get dressed, have a routine, have your rituals.
There are a bunch of good resources on being at or working from home. Try this article by Sheryl Garratt or this article by Stephen Moore.I hope you got a few good ideas from this list, I know I did by making it. Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments!
Stay safe, sane, and healthy. “Clean hands, open hearts.”
Originally published in The Reframe