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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self


I picked up Manoush Zomorodi's Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self at Book Expo last year (2017), and I read through the intro immediately. It was different than I was expecting -- I was hoping for a treatise on the boredom research -- but it was interesting nonetheless. I put it aside for a while, and I picked it back up recently in the wake of my family's discussion of how we can be better about electronics. 

Westerners are spending more time on their electronic devices than ever. We are also reporting that it is negatively impacting our lives and our relationships -- so why can't we just put the damned things down? Zomorodi wondered the same thing, so she set out to challenge both herself and her listeners with the Bored and Brilliant challenge to get people off of their phones, get them bored, and bring back their brilliance. 

I began the challenge by downloading the Moment app and tracking my usage for a couple of days. I was surprised that, by the fourth day, that I clocked in less than two hours of phone time a day. However, I ended up with 25+ pick ups, which is an interesting ratio. I think that this usage is less than my usual, as I was already working to become aware of how often I was using my phone and making an effort to cut that usage down, at least at home with my family. Unfortunate, I found that it made me more aware of my husband’s phone usage, but that’s for him to fix. I just get to be exasperated with him. 

The second challenge, putting away my phone while I commute, was both easy and hard. I am a bookworm (obviously — this is, after all, a book blog), so staying off my electronics wasn’t terribly hard. However, I do often use 20 or so minutes of that commute to respond to emails and — here’s the irony — blog. It helps me keep my phone away at home to take care of little things on the train. So I modified the challenge. I could only use my phone and catch up on emails and such after I read at least one chapter in my book.

The third challenge, not taking a single picture during the day, wasn't too hard. Because we run an Instagram page for our family to see pictures of our son, it was important that a picture still go up, so I made sure to assign my husband to picture duty. I have found myself not taking pictures of the boy on days before, so this wasn't as hard as it seems. I made the decision several trips ago to avoid taking photos all the time and to just enjoy my experiences, which oddly coincided with me getting a smart phone. The first six months of my child's life was an exception, but otherwise, this was a good use of my restraint skills.

The fourth challenge, deleting an app that is a time suck, was one that I skipped, not because I couldn't bring myself to do it, but rather because just becoming more cognizant of my phone use on a regular basis meant that I was spending less (and sometimes significantly less) than two hours a day on my phone, and that included work time. Facebook may have been the one I would have chosen, and I found myself gravitating away from it anyway, which I find super interesting.

Then we get to challenges five (take a fakecation), six (stop and smell the roses), and seven (bored and brilliant), and I have to admit that I didn't do them. After reading the earlier chapters, I felt as though I was on the right track. And retrospectively, I can confirm this. I not only find myself on my phone less often, but I also find myself forgetting to bring my phone from room to room and, when I do notice, I tend to not care that I don't know where it is. That might change when my husband starts back up at work and we are on opposite schedules again, but right now it's working super well. So well, in fact, my husband has been annoyed with me when he can't get hold of me because I just don't have my phone around. Ha. Whoops! Sorry not sorry?

I will definitely do the bored and brilliant challenge sometime in the near future -- I think it's a good one. And I'm not deleting the Moment app from my phone so that if I do ever notice it becoming a problem again, I can refocus and get back to the deliberate use that I am working on now. I use my phone while putting my baby to bed because I have a book on my Kindle app that I'm reading. I check it while I'm out to see if my husband and/or child needs me. But otherwise, it's just not that important, and it feels like a great place to be.

During the challenge, which took me more than a week because I wanted to make this a change in how I use my phone regularly not just challenge myself for a week, my husband and I went on a date. While we were at the bar, right in the middle of our conversation about our family, he notices a film crew and asks if I had heard of the show. I said no, and while I proceed to pick back up the conversation, he immediately pulls out his phone to look it up. I became more than a little pissy, and I laid into him about how we were having a conversation and his addiction to his device just broke it up. Rather than filing it in the back of his mind, or work on continually observing, he had to go down an electronic rabbit hole and fill a void that previously had not existed. I told him that I needed him to start tracking his phone time because it was getting ridiculous. He has since started to do so, and next I'll have him read this book. 

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