Show notes

As a podcast for busy accountant moms, you might think the topic of boredom would be irrelevant since you are probably living a hectic life and trying to balance your career with being a mom, but I promise you that this will be of interest to you.  No matter how frantic your life may seem, boredom is something that you need to understand better in order to have the balanced life you desire.

To be honest, I had other topics lined up to discuss, but decided that this is the perfect time of the year to discuss boredom with accountants.  Since tax season is finally over and there’s a small respite before you kick back into full gear again, this is often when boredom can sneak in, especially if you had a very stressful year both personally and professionally.

While you might welcome having less on your calendar right now and be happy to see more free time available on nights and weekends, I want to warn you of the sneaky way that boredom can show up in your life.  On the one hand, having less to do seems like a dream come true, but on the other hand, you have a human brain that is always looking for a reward in some form or another.

If you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend the Netflix documentary, “The Social Dilemma”.  It is an incredibly well done, cautionary tale of how the technology we use on a daily basis, that we believe connects us, eerily also controls, manipulates and distracts us.  

The documentary is told through the experience and expertise of the tech developers and designers who helped to create all the forms of social media that we and our children are now reliant on.  Basically, the genius minds that understand how your human brain works, developed a way to capture and harness your attention, offering you the ability to never be bored.

The issue is that we are so bad at handling boredom and judging ourselves when we’re bored, that we will look for anything to try to escape it by buffering with food, social media, the news, or Candy Crush.  We live in such a reward-saturated environment, which honestly the human brain has never experienced in its evolution, that it’s become prone to avoiding boredom at all costs.     

You may have experienced a good amount of stress up to this point, with the pandemic challenging you both as an accountant and as a mother, and might be looking forward to a chance to be bored.  However, I want to warn you that coming down off the anxiety filled year you’ve just had, will also create the need for hits of dopamine, the feel good hormone your body produces to keep you energized.

Whether you realize it or not, your relationship with boredom is something you should take a look at, especially as a mother.  Knowing how to deal with boredom will not only benefit you, but will also benefit your children as their developing brains are incredibly susceptible to issues with boredom and the instant gratification world they live in. 

This week I’m going to discuss what boredom actually is, whether it is a problem or not, and how you can handle it.

What boredom actually is

It might seem strange to discuss what boredom actually is, but I assure you that it really is interesting because we all tend to get it wrong.  Most often we believe boredom has to do with what is or isn’t happening, and equate it with things outside of us.

For example, you might see a golf tournament on TV and find yourself bored, wanting to switch to something more interesting.  In this example, you would equate your boredom to the golf tournament or to anything that isn’t capturing your attention.

But the truth is that boredom isn’t just happening to you; you’re actually creating it for yourself with your thoughts. If this wasn’t the case then we’d all be bored at the same time, in the same circumstances, while doing the same things.

Obviously that’s not the case because while you might be bored watching a golf tournament, your spouse or someone else might be thrilled and engaged with the same tournament.  The reason that happens is because boredom is created by your thoughts, not by circumstances.

Your thought about the golf tournament might be “This is so boring” or “Why would anyone want to watch this?”, while someone else’s thought about the same exact golf tournament might be “I love this!  I can’t wait to see who wins.”

The key to understanding boredom is in knowing that nothing is intrinsically boring, you just experience the feeling of boredom because of the thoughts your unique brain is thinking about various circumstances in your life.  Basically, your feeling of boredom is based on what you make things mean.

So here’s the bad and good news when it comes to boredom – on the one hand it’s a feeling you are creating with your thoughts and has nothing to do with what is or isn’t happening in the moment, but on the other hand, since you are the one creating it, you also have the power to manage it.

While the dictionary defines boredom as the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest, I think in this technology driven world we live in, boredom is much more powerful than that definition would have us believe.  Not only can you see it with yourself, but I’m sure you can also see it with your children as well.

Our children are growing up in a time where boredom is quickly rectified with a video game or an app.  Just look around the dinner table at home or a table at any family restaurant, and you will see both children and adults glued to their smartphones, not being able to be bored while there is a lull in the action.

The crazy thing is that your brain is wired for social connection, with social media actually giving you the illusion of connecting to other people.  This need for connection, when combined with boredom and the need for stimulation, then makes us all appear to be like zombies, mesmerized by what’s on the screen rather than interacting with the living, breathing version of people right in front of us.  

Whether boredom is a problem or not

Did you know that you can actually be okay with being bored and that there’s nothing wrong with it?  Unfortunately, in the mentally challenging and busy world of accounting, it can often seem like there’s a problem if you are bored, as if you’re not doing your job well, or maybe you’re slacking so you better find something to keep you busy.

It doesn’t matter whether you are an accounting employee or an entrepreneur, boredom is frowned upon inside the productive, ever-changing, and efficient accounting profession.  And don’t even think about being bored as a mother, with all the responsibilities and expectations you have taking care of your family. 

The funny thing is that the profession of accounting is often described as one of the most boring professions, making accounting professionals described as boring by association.  But it’s not just the public’s perception of accounting being boring; a study surveyed 1,300 accountants and found that 66% were bored with their work, ranking fifth in the roundup of the most boring jobs.   

But no matter what you do for a living or whether you like what you do, the biggest problem with boredom is that we have become so intolerant of it.  After watching “The Social Dilemma”, my husband and I realized how often when one person goes to the kitchen to get something, the person waiting in the living room will pick up their phone for the 60 seconds it takes for the person to return from the kitchen, not allowing ourselves to be bored for one minute.

If you think about it, before computers and smartphones, you had to be okay with not having something to capture your attention every few seconds.  However, because of technology, our attention spans are getting much shorter, making our intolerance of boredom much stronger.

One of the interesting things that I’ve learned is that the upside to boredom is it’s really the gateway to your thoughts, but most of the time we don’t want to be alone with our thoughts.  Basically, boredom turns up the volume on some of those 60,000 thoughts you have in a day, and very often those thoughts are negative and about you.

About 15 years ago, the first weekend my two children were with their dad after we had ended our marriage and separated, I remember crying to a friend that I was bored and didn’t know what to do with myself.  What she pointed out at the time was that the thing I was most worried about was being bored with my own thoughts; and she was totally right.

Without the constant action required for my role as mother and the distraction of my children, I was going to have to be alone with my crappy thoughts.  With boredom came the space to really be alone with my negative thoughts about myself, my situation, my lack of self-confidence,  and my fears for my future.

What I’ve discovered is that with my hectic, working mom life, I might have relished the idea of having so little to do that I could experience boredom, but that temporary relief can quickly change to uncomfortability because our brains are just so used to being occupied.  In order to deal with boredom, we have to learn to be okay with it because it will offer us so many opportunities to be more present in our lives and to live more intentionally.    

When you can make peace with boredom and not make it into a problem, you’ll be surprised at how much it has to show you.  Before you jump to fill up the white space in your life, try being okay with boredom and the secrets it might have to share with you.

How you can handle boredom

If you want to have a balanced life as an accountant and a mom, you have to be willing to look at your relationship with boredom.  You have to start looking at boredom as only a problem when you make it one by resisting it or avoiding it.

When you use stimulation in the form of overworking, overeating, overdrinking, or overusing technology, you need to ask yourself why you are rushing to get out of boredom.  What’s wrong with being alone with your thoughts?  What are you afraid of?

Unfortunately we think that taking action and keeping busy is how we feel better, especially when we are bored, but it doesn’t work that way.  Changing your circumstances or taking action doesn’t change how you feel; the only thing that can ever create your feelings are your thoughts, which means if you want to change how you feel, you have to change how you think.

The amazing thing about learning how to deal with boredom instead of resisting or avoiding it, is that you get to live a more intentional life.  You get to be present while waiting in a line, you get to really notice and appreciate the person sitting across from you in the restaurant, and more importantly you get to improve your relationship with yourself.

When you allow your brain to have unstimulated time, your goals are easier to set, your dreams are easier to dream, and your future becomes easier to design.  In the absence of stimulation, you allow space for discovery, desire and growth.

To handle boredom, you have to honestly be willing to be bored.  You might be uncomfortable at first, but you have to allow yourself to have the urge to distract yourself, without acting on that urge.

You’ll probably want to reach for your phone, check the news feed, or grab the TV remote, and that’s okay.  But to handle boredom you have to let the urge to do something come up and then pass; sit where you are, stare out the window, let your mind wander, and allow boredom to just be there.

When my husband and I realized we were picking up our phones as soon as the other person walked out of the room, we decided at first to leave our phones in another room and turn off phone notifications, helping to reduce the temptation.  I also decided that I would look at our dogs instead of my phone, giving them the opportunity to have the undivided attention I would have automatically given to my work email or social media app.

Another way to handle boredom is to ask yourself what you notice about yourself, your surroundings or anything else and why.  Before I started writing the notes for this podcast I was sitting in a hotel room, allowing myself to be bored, noticing the various pieces of furniture and art in the room, what I did and didn’t like about them and why; honestly it was really fascinating.

When I’m in line somewhere, I have begun to look at various people or objects and question why those things captured my attention.  When driving in the car, I will try to turn off all music and playfully notice the ticker tape of thoughts that run through my mind, giving myself time and space to just be, getting to peak behind the curtain at the wizard who is running my life most of the time.

Whether it’s you or your children that are having an issue dealing with boredom, just know that it’s completely normal and manageable, even in this crazy world of distractions that we live in.  Give boredom a try – you just might like what’s on the other side.

Summary  

  • No matter how frantic your life may seem, boredom is something that you need to understand better in order to have the balanced life you desire.
  • Knowing how to deal with boredom will not only benefit you, but will also benefit your children as their developing brains are incredibly susceptible to issues with boredom and the instant gratification world they live in. 
  • The key to understanding boredom is in knowing that nothing is intrinsically boring, you just experience the feeling of boredom because of the thoughts your unique brain is thinking about various circumstances in your life.
  • But no matter what you do for a living or whether you like what you do, the biggest problem with boredom is that we have become so intolerant of it. 
  • When you allow your brain to have unstimulated time, your goals are easier to set, your dreams are easier to dream, and your future becomes easier to design.