When I’m sitting at home completely bored, I usually just turn to Lauren and say, “Wanna go on a walk?” It’s not exactly “productive” in the sense of getting work done, but it burns calories and gives us a chance to connect. To me, that makes it a positive action — something I’m legitimately glad I did when it’s over.

Think about your default response to boredom. When you’re bored, do you just kinda switch between the same three social media apps on your phone for an hour and a half? Or maybe you turn on the TV and mindlessly binge a Netflix series or watch the news. I’m definitely guilty. But when you do that stuff, how do you feel afterward?

If you can change your default “boredom responses” to things that incrementally improve your life rather than just passing the time, you’ll automatically start inching closer to long-term happiness and success. It has a pretty strong tendency to make you richer and healthier over a long period of time, too.

Fight Boredom Forever with Repeatable Actions

The allure of your Instagram feed is that it’s always there for you. That’s why it’s such an easy crutch for a boring day at home. If you’re gonna change your go-to activities, you need to come up with some options that are ready to go at all times.

I already mentioned one of my own default actions: exercise. It fits the bill of being available 24/7, and most importantly, I can honestly say that I have never, ever regretted exercising after I was done. Sometimes it’s hard to start, but the feeling afterward is consistently great. It doesn’t have to be a hardcore gym session every time, either. You can just go for a walk or a bike ride. If you need something you can do anywhere without any equipment, I highly recommend the 8-minute workout, which you can repeat any number of times.

If you’re not feeling energized enough to move your body, just sit down and learn something. When I was a teenager, I taught myself photography techniques by endlessly reading blogs and experimenting with my own camera at home. Actually, I still have a lot of those dumb practice shots of chairs and doorknobs that I used to perfect lighting and focus. The same learning process happened for personal finance, computer programming, and a bunch of other topics. All those hours spent reading and experimenting were more interesting than scrolling a newsfeed, and every single one of them translated into legit skills that improved my life — and career — in the long run.

One of my “default actions” that stemmed from learning photography was the ability to create something. Whatever creative gift you have (or hone), you can probably use it almost any time, anywhere. Nowadays, when I find myself with nothing to do, I’ll consult our giant list of article ideas for this website and start writing one. I have friends who make music, dance, paint, draw, or film YouTube videos. Any of those things could easily turn into a side hustle that makes income over time too, if that’s something you feel like pursuing.

Photo of Lauren leaping
When we’re bored, sometimes we’ll just do an impromptu photoshoot. It’s fun and creative, and it gives us something interesting to share on our photography business accounts, which isn’t bad for marketing, either.

Speaking of business, another go-to positive action could be anything that lets you make money. If your job allows you to take on extra projects or extra hours for additional pay, consider throwing your excess time into that. Working overtime is a great way to reach financial independence faster, as long as you don’t go overboard and get burned out.

Obvious choices for extra work hours include driving for Uber/Lyft, or just picking up shifts at a part-time job. One of our friends liked working for Domino’s because she pretty much got paid to just drive around listening to music all night. But if you give some thought to your own unique skill set, you can probably come up with a business idea that pays way better than any of that.

This doesn’t necessarily apply to every person, but if you share your life with somebody, you can always work on shared goals with that person. Aside from getting you closer to whatever those goals are, the very act of working cooperatively on something will almost definitely improve your relationship. And meaningful relationships are some of your most important investments.

When You’re Bored, Consult “The List”

As much as all of the above is stuff you could do every day, you’re not necessarily gonna want to. That’s why it’s smart to keep a to-do list perpetually stocked with one-off tasks that you eventually want to get done. When you find yourself bored and about to waste some time, bust out the list instead.

I highly recommend a digital list that’s accessible from all your devices, so that you’re more likely to add to it constantly. Personally, we use Trello for a lot of stuff like that, especially projects we collaborate on, like this blog. Google Keep also makes a decent to-do list. Use whatever works for you.

Once you’ve got a place to keep your list, start populating it with everything you ever want to get done, from things that absolutely have to be finished this week to “maybe one day” tasks. Here are a few general ideas to help you get it going — I recommend converting these into more specific action items for yourself that can be “crossed off” one by one.

Fun Should Be Guilt-Free

I tend to procrastinate. A lot. That means I always have something imminently due, and I’m always feeling guilty about it. That guilt sometimes prevents me from cutting loose and having fun when the opportunity arises. It’s miserable.

So, aside from just being more productive, there’s another benefit to changing your default settings. When you’re constantly getting stuff done in your off hours, you’ll notice yourself getting ahead of schedule a lot of the time. When you’re ahead of schedule, you won’t experience any guilt or inhibitions when friends ask you to do something fun. You’ll start to say “yes” a lot more.

That brings me to my final point: Don’t get the wrong idea from this article. I’m not saying that you’re wasting your life any time you’re not being productive. You should unapologetically have totally unproductive fun whenever possible, and you should kick back, relax, and watch a movie when that’s what makes you feel good.

But when you find yourself laying around on the couch, not actively enjoying yourself and not getting anything useful done either, that’s a recipe for regret. You’ll end up going to bed at night thinking, “What was even the point of today?” So stop yourself before it comes to that, and do something that makes your life better.

— Steven

* If you’re feeling really, really bored right this second, and you need something to do, take five minutes and check off some of the easy ways you can support this site. We’d appreciate it, and it doesn’t have to cost you any money!

Share this and start a conversation: