Productivity Prompter: Find Time for Boredom to the Glory of God

In the past two years, there has been a revenge war on technology, with many seeking to divest themselves from it, or at least minimize their reliance upon it. Some see it as the antithesis of a productive and meaningful society. Personally, I find great joy in leveraging technology for my benefit. However, I am also one who embraces the use of fountain pens and handwritten notes. Both have their advantages and disadvantages and the answer is not the complete acceptance or complete rejection of one over the other. The last two years have seen the continued critical assessment of technology, particularly its ability to destroy attention and focus. In essence, it has stolen our opportunity to be bored.
Boredom is not merely the absence of anything to do, because certainly the internet has filled that potential void. Instead, it is the absence of something meaningful or fulfilling. While technology does not have the burden of providing fulfillment in our lives, it has misappropriated our attention, generating an inability to focus. Therefore, not only does technology deny the opportunity to be bored by filling our time, but it also takes away meaning by promoting inattention (1).

Now having the experience as an adult, I miss being able to utter the phrase “I’m bored.” First, like many people, there is so little downtime that there are no more moments of boredom. Second, as an adult, I now better understand both the importance of boredom and how to be productively bored. In fact, it is possible to be bored for God’s glory.

Productive Boredom
Times of boredom do not have to be meaningless or valueless. Instead, those moments can be the fulfillment of greater life purposes, both individually and for the sake of glorifying God. Consider how such occasions can contribute to the following:

  • Conversation: In those seeming meaningless moments, there are opportunities to have conversations with those around you (known or unknown). Those conversations can spur godliness and godly intentions, either for ourselves or others.
  • Contemplation: They can be thinking moments. I arise from my desk several times a day and walk around outside. While it appears purposeless, I do so for the sake of thinking productively. This is an opportunity to generate ideas, to consider life lessons, or meditate upon Scripture.
  • Rejuvenation: Finally, it is in these moments that we can be rejuvenated or revitalized. Without taking it to the extreme (laziness) the moments of boredom can be moments of necessary rest.

Our times of boredom then are actually opportunities to contribute to productivity and even more they can be utilized to glorify God (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:31).

Prompting Boredom
As a child, I certainly did not understand the benefits of being bored. It was simply an unacceptable circumstance to be avoided. However, there are things that can be done to prompt productive boredom. For some, it may be simply grabbing a cup of coffee or tea. Others may enjoy the ambiance of a good walk. Take a puzzle down out of the closet and work on it during those moments of boredom. For every person, what can prompt a productive boredom may be different. However, there are several key adjustments beneficial for all people in order to be productively bored:

  • Find a comfortable place
  • Learn how to think productively (this one is not as straightforward as many suggest)
  • Put phones and tablets out of reach . . . or even out of the room

Like many things, consider ideas that will work to aid you.

Because of the importance of boredom, there is the need to be cautious so that we do not surrender it to the mechanisms that are seeking to deny us those opportunities. Instead, those moments can be used for our growth and for God’s glory if they are rightly stewarded.

(1) At this point, I am making my case with the assumption that most have read or understand recent thoughts about technology’s impact upon the propensity to be distracted and impact our focus. There has been much published on this topic already. However, if you would like to be more informed on the subject, I would recommend beginning with Tony Reinke’s book, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash