How Boredom Boosted My Productivity to Sky
1. The Day Like No One Before
I live in a beautiful small town called Williamsburg on east coast. All my neighbors are so nice that each time I see them I have to run alway from them. They are very kind people, giving me delicious cookies, showing me beautiful art, and then teaching me Bible wisdom for ALL DAY LONG. And that is how I get converted. While I do love Jesus and I do love my kindly neighbors, it become a big problem to me. My neighbors are retired grandams and grandpas having the whole day, one after another, to spend. But I don’t. I am holding a full time research job at day time and part time job at evening. So, what I do? I run away. I have to. Every time I see my kindly neighbors approaching me, I will say hello loudly “Hi Tom, have a great evening. I got to run. My boss is waiting my phone call”.
One day I was running away from my neighbors again and locking myself into my home office where tons of work are waiting for me on my desk, an idea suddenly stroke to my mind. It came from totally unrelated corner of my life and merged into something really exciting and it became my life changing moment. By that idea, my life was forever changed and what happened later was beyond my wildest imagination.
2. My long time problem of distraction
Just like many young people, I have been struggling for a long time on the productivity problem. I struggle to stay focus on any work. Living in a digital era is not easy. All pictures, videos, news, social media get me hooked so easier. They make my brain excited whenever I see them and make my brain feel sad, bored whenever I do anything else. The internet becomes more important than water and air that I feel like I can never live without it. It makes other activities, like reading, which I used to enjoy so much, become so boring. It makes doing any work become a cost you have to pay before going back to the internet. If I allow myself to check news for every 60 minutes during work, soon, it will become every 45 minutes, 30 minutes, 15 minutes, and 5 minutes. The struggle between working and internet is a war I can not afford to lose but I can never win.
3. The Sin in Digital Era
On that day, I locked myself into my home office and sit on the carpet and fall into deep though about my problem with a strong emotion merging from my heart. I feel ashamed and I knew why. By locking myself in the home office, I refused to spend anytime with my kindest neighbors who even help me to clean the snow of my parking place. I refused to spend extra time with my family who already scarified so much to make a way for me. I refused to go to gym and give my body a treat who has already been tutored in all the possible ways. But, I spend tons of time on this meaningless news and social media in the name of work. There must be a solution. There got to be a solution. When God shuts the door, there got to be a window somewhere. I deliberately need a way out. And I do find one.
4. The Way Out and Why It Work
I was asking a simple question to me: why my neighbors can be the kindest people in this world doing all the good stuff to help all kinds of people (like me) all day long all year long without even one stop? Sure, they are good people, they are faithful disciples of Jesus. But one strange idea came to my mind. Maybe they just feel bored for doing nothing and helping other people is the most interesting and meaningful thing of their life. I may be very mean to think that way but I think it is at least partially true. Our brain and our soul are always searching for more interesting and meaningful things naturally, like, Youtube Vs. A book; News Vs. Work; Movie Vs. Research paper; Helping people Vs. Doing nothing. Which one will win? The most interesting thing will always win. And it takes great effort to pick the opposite one. The brain is simply just feeling bored and looking for interesting thing. There is nothing wrong with it. We are hardcoded that way. The problem is how are are going to use it or how we are going to be used by it.
5. The solution
With that simple idea that boredom is the driven power for most micro-choices we made everyday, the solution can’t be more straightforward. Just the make the importing things, like reading, working, exercising, the most interesting thing of you life.
With this simple idea, I started to take actions.
When I go to restroom, I took a book and leave my cellphone out. I do give my brain choices: you can bear the boredom of doing nothing or read a couple of pages of the book.
I sold my TV, throw all my movies, and banned Youtube from any worked related device. Yes, I can watch Youtube, but only on a very slow out-of-date device and only at a specific uncomfortable seat at a corner. All my fancy high-tech gadgets are dedicated for working, reading, or learning.
And the most expensive high-tech fancy chair and desk are banned from accessing any news and social media. Music is allowed and super expensive headphone is facilitated. But if you want news and social media, go the uncomfortable corner.
And I flood my desk, my living room, my bed room, by restroom with books, all kinds books and nothing else.
And I bought very expensive gym membership. I will really feel bad if I did not to go there often enough.
6. The Results
It is very interesting to observe how the brain reacts to all these changes. It is exactly like a child crying out at its highest tune. It obeys all the rules as it is forced to do but it refuses to work or do anything useful for work.
I did spend a lot of time siting at the desk and doing nothing.
But the heart eventually calmed down and I can hear my own breath and heart beat. The world is so quite without news and social media.
I spend a whole lot of time with my family. I enjoyed my family time for the brain won’t do any work anyway.
I went to my neighbors’ home and spent a whole lot of time with them. I enjoyed the time since my brain won’t work anyway.
I want to gym to build up my strength and made a lot of new friends there. I enjoyed the gym time. Well, my brain won’t do work anyway.
I took my family to the beautiful parks that I don’t even know they are just so close to my home since my brain won’t do work anyway. My family and me enjoyed the parks very much.
Suddenly, my brain cried out again, loudly and sincerely, “I WANT TO WORK!”. I was totally surprised at beginning. I say, Really, you want to work now, and you don’t want Youtube or news anymore?
The brain swallow its tears and nodded. I say, actually, you still can see Youtube and news, just on the old device you don’t like too much. The brain was thrilled and we made a deal.
7. The Days After
The life without news, youtube, and social media are actually quite enjoyable. Since all boundaries are cleared defined, the brain is totally free of any struggles of choices and has its full power of focus, logic, imagination on productive things.
Within years, most books on my shelf are marked as “read through” with summary attached.
Within years, I completed hundreds classes online. I learned design UI, testing UX, and social marketing from zero experience. I learned how to draw a portrait from zero drawing experience. I learned how to write a story. I learned iOS programming in the middle of my thirty from zero experience while many programmers think 35 may be the end of programming career. I learned how to draft a patent and became an experienced patent law practitioner.
Beyond all of above, I still feel bored a lot time. So, I think I should do something really time consuming. I spend 3 years coding an app using my freshly learned coding skill and had my baby — Mindful ready for sell in the Apple app store. Yes, it is a Williamsburg made high-end app only targeting the ones who want to change their life.
I named my company as David’s Digital Sling. Because every one has a David inside and everyone has a Goliath to defeat, like the distraction of digital age. I want to give the best tool to inspire your spirit, to build your strength, and to become the way God created you to be.
(Note: 2017 We moved from Virginia to Silicon Valley.)