Digital Minimalism and Boredom

Salem Willows Park – Salem, NH (Source: Google Images)

I’ve been experimenting the past two weeks with digital minimalism.  In sum, I deleted most of the social media apps from my phone and restricted the remaining ones.  This past Monday, my wife and I planned a day away together at a park and I decided to try a little experiment.

 I didn’t want distractions from work or pretty much anyone else on my mobile while we were at the park.  Once we arrived there, I put the phone in my backpack with the ringer off.  I knew that when I took the phone out of my bag for the ride home, I wouldn’t want to see all of the emails I missed.  If that happened, I’d go from relaxed to tense in three seconds or less. So, I also turned off e-mail notifications. 

We walked around a bit and then settled on a bench overlooking a small bay.  We chatted a bit and then started to read books we’d brought with us.  We spent most of the day reading because the arcade and the ice cream shop we planned to visit were closed. 

Salem Willows Park – Salem, NH (Source: Google Images)

I realized that I read much more this past Monday than I have in a long time.  Typically, if I’m reading, I get a little bored after a bit and then will look at my phone for a while before returning to reading.   Ultimately, this leads to my getting little reading done.

This is a problem that many people have; they have lost their tolerance for a little boredom and seek novel stimulation most easily accessed through our phones.  Not having my phone at the ready meant that when I felt a desire for additional stimulation, my best option was to refocus myself on reading

I didn’t read the whole day.  There were times that I got really bored or sleepy.  We do need breaks from time to time.  In those cases, I took a walk around the park or we fed peanuts to the park’s squirrels. I strolled the small beach at low tide and found sea glass.  Then, I went back and picked up reading again for a half hour or forty minutes. 

There are a lot of times in life that we will be doing work that is a bit dull.  Work is not a constant flow state.  We need to be able to tolerate the boredom so we can focus on important tasks and turn out quality work whether it is for school, our job, or something else we value.

For more information: https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2009/02/04/have-we-lost-our-tolerance-for-a-little-boredom/

45 thoughts on “Digital Minimalism and Boredom

  1. imagesbytdashfield

    I still find it hard to turn off my phone at night because of the years when I had to be pretty much on call but I think I will at least put it on mute. I haven’t done much reading; maybe I should try a real and not digital book.

    Reply
    1. milfordstreet Post author

      I do use mostly e-books. I find that the phone has become like a pacifier and I find more creative and interesting things if I try a little harder. But sometimes, I also just want that pacifier. I’m just a big baby at heart.

      Reply
  2. China Dream

    this is something that I too have been making an effort to do… kudos. for giving it a go. I no longer read like I used to.. nor do I seem to want to read. today as I drove.. I realized that I was enjoying not having the radio on… its small steps.. but they are important ones. When with a friend, I turn off my phone, and do not read messages.. thankfully I never really got into doing that.. so this has been easy for me to maintain in my day to day. e-mails.. 98% of the time I only will read and address content when I am in the office at my desk. I do walk away from the technology. Friends do mutter about my habits.. but I feel it is very important to have ME time..

    Reply
  3. michnavs

    seemed like you had a great day out in the park with your wife. we need some time off from all of the chaos that our current technology has brought. i love to read books via ebook, but i still adore the physical book with the smell of the pages a flip through the pages…

    Reply
    1. milfordstreet Post author

      It was a great day, thank you. I miss physical books. I’m a big fan of our library but those are closed. You can reserve books and have them brought out to you but it’s difficult making a selection from the online catalog.

      Reply
      1. michnavs

        i used to work in the library for 3 years and it was the best job ever.. lol..i get to have access to all the new books and to all the limited edition items…

      2. milfordstreet Post author

        OMG Jealous. I worked in a bookstore my last year of grad school. I vaguely recall spending the entirety of my last paycheck on books before my employee discount ended.

  4. Sandra

    What a great day this turned out to be! Sounds like a slower pace and much more relaxing than being fully connected online always. I don’t think the techie giants like Facebook and Apple would want to hear you say this too loud. But I’m listening and I like what I’m hearing! Thanks for sharing your experience. Take good care Chris!

    Reply
  5. Prior...

    such a wonderful thing to do – to pull back and get that phone off – I will check out the link now – and I loved your photos here

    and my husband said he heard on a podcast that there was a story about doctors saying that when people wake up from Surrey they usually touch their genitals to make sure they are there — and in the last few years – people have been waking rom surgery – groggy and — get this — they look for their phone!!

    Reply
      1. Prior...

        I am not sure where he heard it – maybe a podcast – but your post here was important, Chris. Maybe a lot of folks need to do what you did and are doing
        I have been keeping my phone off – I know! – and in a certain area of the house – and try to really part ways with it more and more when I can

      2. Prior...

        oh Chris – you have to read a book called “irresistible” –
        I am going to post about it real quick like – but he addresses exactly what you noted.

        and when I mention my boundaries right now – I have grown into this – I had to

        and we all know that there are times when we ‘check” real quick nand we become edified or even lifted up

        For example, like with blogging – I have checked before going to bed and could not wipe a smile off my face from a few comments that came in….

        or at times the exchanges are just a huge gift. But I guess when folks are in the throws and do not “monitor” it – well they begin to maybe even become desensitized


        an analogy that comes to mind – my mom used to take my son to Panera when she’d visit. At first it was a treat – and then after the fifth day – he was throwing away half his food and just not valuing it anymore. She pulled back going and he appreciate it a lot more

      3. Prior...

        I am at a section right now where the author noted Freud and others were addicts to opium (cocaine) and he had a great section about the term “addict”

        please let me know if you get a chance to read it – I will be posting about it sometime this month and will try and link ya when i do

  6. Nancy

    Bravo my friend! I am so happy you had a refreshed day! Your mind got uncluttered, didn’t it?

    I started this probably a year ago… my phone is on mute ALL the time. If I am expecting a call or if there is some stress/crisis in the family then it’s on. I hate all the sounds for all the different things. It literally drives me crazy. I do periodically look at it to make sure I have not missed a call or a very important text. (Every few hours)
    My “me” time aka iPad/phone time is in the morning with coffee… where I get caught up on everything. Then… I’m free. Well sort of, Instagram is a sucker of time for me… so I have put limits on that for me as well now.

    Being retired makes it easier… work emails would drive me crazy.
    Good luck with the freeing of the mind… it’s good for us to connect with the “real” around us.

    Wonderful post Chris! Happy Weekend to you!

    Reply
    1. milfordstreet Post author

      It sounds like you have a good system, Nancy. I typically have my ringer off but get those notices that pop up when I get e-mails. I think having a routine like you do is key to managing one’s online time so that it’s not all online time.

      Reply
  7. Gail’s Snapshotsincursive

    I, too, keep my phone on MUTE all the time. I don’t use it for books or music. Perhaps that makes me a dinosaur. On the other hand, I enjoy cooking, taking snapshots, and traveling. It’s all about choices, and you get it, Chris. Blessings. 🌟✨💫

    Reply
  8. Sarah

    Well done for turning off the phone, Chris!! 😀 And very interesting post! Yes, it seems people have lost their tolerance towards boredom and the phone provides distraction far too easily. Funny – I’ve read more than twice as many books than usual last month, and at first also felt that impulse to grab the phone when the book failed to hold my attention. But I’ve quenched that impulse and read through and now it seems I can’t stop anymore. 😂 So glad you and your wife spend such a lovely day in the park – too bad about that ice cream parlour!

    Reply
  9. mindbeautysimplicity

    Good for you! I deleted all personal social media accounts in 2016, and only have them for blogging now as they are great for increasing traffic.
    Care to read about it? Check out my blog

    ~ Brittany (@mind.beauty.simplicityblog) / minimalist blogger

    Reply
  10. Safoorah

    It seems you had a great day! And I can relate so much to the part where you typed about books and mobile phone. Before I used to read so many books but now whenever I feel that plot of book is getting boring, I take my phone and start scrolling through my feed. : (

    Reply

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