Take the ‘Bored and Brilliant Challenge’

By Tracey Dowdy

When was the last time you were bored?

Journalist and host of the “Note to Self” podcast, Manoush Zomorodi asks the following questions in her TED Talk: “What actually happens to us when we get bored? Or, more importantly: What happens to us if we never get bored? And what could happen if we got rid of this human emotion entirely?”

Prior to the birth of her son, Zomorodi had worked as a journalist, traveling extensively and reporting from war zones and disaster sites. Her son was a colicky baby who refused to sleep, and could only be soothed by riding in a moving stroller. Because it was the pre-smartphone era, Zomorodi had nothing to distract her on these endless walks, and initially found those first weeks mind-numbingly boring. But, by the third month of “pounding the pavement,” she experienced a shift, and suddenly her mind wandered as freely as her feet and she began to day dream and imagine like never before.

Fast-forward months later. Back to work with a smartphone in hand and her free time was now spent on Pinterest, Facebook and the like. Her creativity had taken a hit. “I started to think back: When was the last time I actually had a good idea? Yeah, it was when I was pushing that damn stroller. Now all the cracks in my day were filled with phone time.”

The realization inspired her to talk to neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists. They explained that when we get bored, our brains switch to “default mode.” Think of it like auto-pilot. It’s where you go when you do “mindless” tasks like weeding the garden or household chores.

Zomorodi says, “I learned that in the default mode is when we connect disparate ideas, we solve some of our most nagging problems and we do something called “autobiographical planning.”

Before smartphones and laptops, we’d spend our downtime setting long term goals, sifting through memories and problem solving. Now, we read email, tweet, scroll though Facebook and Instagram or play Sudoku on our phones. Our brains are constantly engaged and stimulated.

“A decade ago, we shifted our attention at work every three minutes. Now we do it every 45 seconds and we do it all day long. The average person checks email 74 times a day and switches tasks on their computer 566 times a day,” says Zomorodi.

Former Google designer Tristan Harris explained why so many of us are addicted to our devices. “If I’m Facebook or I’m Netflix or I’m Snapchat, I have literally a thousand engineers whose job is to get more attention from you. I’m very good at this and I don’t want you to ever stop. And you know, the CEO of Netflix recently said, ‘Our biggest competitors are Facebook, YouTube and sleep.’”

To put it more bluntly, as Zamorodi says, “As one UX designer told me, the only people who refer to their customers as “users” are drug dealers and technologists.”

Former Facebook product manager and author Antonio García Martínez says, “The saying is, if any product is free then you’re the product; your attention is the product. But what is your attention worth?”

As an experiment, Zomorodi challenged her listeners to break the cycle and take back the attention that we’d surrendered to our devices. She called the challenge “Bored and Brilliant” and utilized specific apps to measure how much time users spent on their phones. Part of the challenge included deleting the one app that was the biggest time-waster, e.g. Twitter, Facebook, or even Candy Crush.

At the beginning of the experiment, users spent an average of 120 minutes on their phones. After? An average of 114. Six minutes may not seem like much, but the impact wasn’t so much measured in time but in the stories themselves. Participants stated they no longer felt like their phone was an extension of themselves but a tool they had control over.

Zamorodi concludes with, “So the next time you go to check your phone, remember that if you don’t decide how you’re going to use the technology, the platforms will decide for you…It might feel weird and uncomfortable at first but boredom truly can lead to brilliance.”

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.


  1. Magnificent goods from you, man. I have remember your stuff previous to
    and you are simply extremely magnificent. I really like what you’ve acquired right here, certainly like
    what you are saying and the way in which through which you say it.
    You make it entertaining and you still care
    for to keep it sensible. I can’t wait to read far
    more from you. This is really a wonderful web site.

  2. Excellent way of describing, and good post to obtain data concerning my presentation focus,
    which i am going to deliver in college.

  3. I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your web site.
    Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility issues?

    A few of my blog audience have complained about
    my website not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Safari.
    Do you have any ideas to help fix this issue?

  4. Its like you learn my mind! You appear to understand so much approximately this,
    such as you wrote the e-book in it or something.
    I think that you just can do with some p.c.
    to power the message home a little bit, but instead
    of that, that is wonderful blog. A fantastic read.
    I’ll certainly be back.

  5. Thanks for your marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it,
    you might be a great author.I will remember to
    bookmark your blog and definitely will come back later in life.
    I want to encourage you continue your great posts, have a nice day!

  6. Nice post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed!
    Extremely helpful info particularly the last part 🙂 I care for such info much.
    I was seeking this particular information for a very long time.
    Thank you and good luck.

  7. Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old
    daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and screamed.

    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her
    ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic
    but I had to tell someone!

  8. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an very long comment but after
    I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr…

    well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

  9. Hello! I’ve been reading your site for a long time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from
    Porter Texas! Just wanted to tell you keep up the fantastic work!

  10. Nice blog here! Also your site loads up very fast! What web host are you using?
    Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  11. Hello, yeah this paragraph is really pleasant and I have learned lot of things from it concerning blogging.

  12. Great article! That is the type of information that are meant to be shared around the internet.
    Shame on the search engines for not positioning
    this publish higher! Come on over and discuss with my web site .
    Thank you =)

  13. When some one searches for his required thing, thus he/she wishes to be
    available that in detail, so that thing is maintained over here.

  14. Great blog right here! Also your website a lot up very fast!
    What host are you the usage of? Can I am getting your associate hyperlink in your host?
    I desire my website loaded up as fast as yours lol

  15. Hola! I’ve been following your blog for a long time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from New Caney Tx!
    Just wanted to tell you keep up the great job!

  16. When some one searches for his vital thing, so he/she wants to
    be available that in detail, thus that thing is maintained over here.

  17. I think that is among the most important info for me.
    And i am glad reading your article. However want to statement on few normal
    issues, The web site taste is great, the articles is truly excellent : D.
    Just right process, cheers

  18. You really make it appear so easy along with your presentation however I find
    this topic to be really something which I feel I’d by no means understand.

    It kind of feels too complex and extremely huge
    for me. I am taking a look ahead on your subsequent
    put up, I will attempt to get the hold of it!

  19. Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
    The text in your content seem to be running off the screen in Internet explorer.
    I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with
    web browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know.
    The design and style look great though! Hope you get the issue solved soon.

  20. Having read this I thought it was rather informative.
    I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put
    this short article together. I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and posting comments.
    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  21. I’m impressed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s both
    educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head.
    The issue is something that not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about.
    Now i’m very happy that I found this during my search for something concerning this.

    my homepage; poker pulsa

  22. Hi there! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone 3gs!

    Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts!
    Keep up the outstanding work!

    Also visit my web page poker pulsa

  23. Fantastic website you have here but I was curious
    about if you knew of any community forums that cover the same
    topics discussed here? I’d really like to be a
    part of online community where I can get feed-back from other
    knowledgeable people that share the same interest.

    If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
    Thank you!

    my blog: betayam.com

  24. Every weekend i used to visit this website, because i wish for enjoyment, as this this site conations in fact fastidious
    funny information too.

    My website :: game slot

  25. We are a bunch of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme in our community.

    Your site offered us with valuable info to work
    on. You’ve performed an impressive process and our whole neighborhood
    will likely be grateful to you.

    Also visit my web blog: poker pulsa

  26. I’m now not certain where you are getting your information,
    but good topic. I needs to spend some time finding out much more or working out
    more. Thank you for excellent information I was looking for this information for my mission.

  27. I used to be recommended this website by my cousin. I’m now not sure whether this post is
    written by means of him as no one else recognise such unique approximately my difficulty.
    You are wonderful! Thanks!

  28. Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday.
    It will always be exciting to read articles from other writers and practice a little something from other sites.

  29. Excellent post. Keep posting such kind of information on your page.
    Im really impressed by your blog.
    Hello there, You have done a fantastic job.
    I’ll certainly digg it and in my opinion suggest
    to my friends. I am sure they will be benefited from this website.

  30. It’s going to be end of mine day, except before end I am reading this fantastic post to improve my know-how.

  31. This is a topic that is close to my heart… Take care!
    Exactly where are your contact details though?

  32. What’s up i am kavin, its my first time to commenting anyplace, when i read this
    post i thought i could also make comment due to this brilliant article.

  33. I’m really loving the theme/design of your weblog. Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility issues?

    A couple of my blog visitors have complained about my website not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Opera.
    Do you have any recommendations to help fix this issue?

  34. I every time spent my half an hour to read this webpage’s posts
    all the time along with a cup of coffee.

  35. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s equally educative and
    interesting, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head.
    The problem is something that too few men and women are speaking intelligently
    about. Now i’m very happy that I stumbled across this
    in my search for something relating to this.

  36. Unquestionably believe that which you said. Your favorite justification seemed to be on the internet the easiest thing to be
    aware of. I say to you, I certainly get irked while people think about worries that they plainly don’t
    know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top
    as well as defined out the whole thing without having side-effects
    , people could take a signal. Will likely be
    back to get more. Thanks

  37. Hey there! I know this is kinda off topic but I’d figured I’d ask.
    Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest writing a blog
    post or vice-versa? My blog discusses a lot of the same topics as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each other.
    If you might be interested feel free to send me an e-mail.
    I look forward to hearing from you! Terrific blog by the way!

  38. Whoa! This blog looks just like my old one! It’s on a totally different subject but it has pretty much the same page layout and design.
    Wonderful choice of colors!

  39. My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find almost all of your
    post’s to be just what I’m looking for. can you offer guest writers to write content
    available for you? I wouldn’t mind creating a post or
    elaborating on a number of the subjects you write with regards to here.
    Again, awesome website!

  40. I was wondering if you ever thought of changing the
    layout of your site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content
    so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for
    only having one or 2 images. Maybe you could space it out better?

  41. Great post. I used to be checking constantly this blog and
    I am inspired! Very helpful information specifically the remaining part 🙂 I
    handle such info much. I was looking for this particular information for a very long
    time. Thank you and best of luck.

  42. Thanks for every other informative blog. The place else may just I get
    that kind of info written in such a perfect method?
    I have a venture that I’m simply now running on, and I’ve been at the
    look out for such info.

  43. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up.

    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just wanted
    to say great blog!

  44. Wonderful beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your web site, how
    could i subscribe for a blog web site? The account aided me a acceptable deal.

    I had been tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered bright clear concept

  45. I have been browsing online greater than three hours lately, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
    It is beautiful value sufficient for me. In my
    view, if all site owners and bloggers made good content material as you probably did,
    the internet can be much more useful than ever before.

  46. naturally like your web site however you have to check the spelling on quite a few of your posts.
    A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it
    very bothersome to inform the reality however I will definitely come back again.

  47. This design is incredible! You definitely know how to keep a reader entertained.
    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Great job.

    I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how
    you presented it. Too cool!

  48. After exploring a number of the blog articles on your web site, I honestly like your
    technique of writing a blog. I saved as a favorite it to my
    bookmark website list and will be checking back in the near future.

    Please visit my website too and tell me how you feel.

  49. I blog frequently and I really appreciate your information. Your article has truly
    peaked my interest. I will take a note of your blog and keep checking for new details about once
    per week. I opted in for your Feed too.

  50. Hi there, I discovered your site via Google
    even as looking for a comparable subject, your website got
    here up, it appears good. I have bookmarked it in my
    google bookmarks.
    Hi there, just became aware of your blog via Google, and located that it is
    really informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels.
    I’ll appreciate for those who continue this in future. A lot of other folks might be benefited out of your writing.

  51. I believe what you posted was very reasonable. However, what
    about this? suppose you added a little content? I mean, I don’t wish to tell you how to run your website, but suppose
    you added a title to maybe grab folk’s attention? I mean Take the ‘Bored and Brilliant Challenge’ – The Online Mom is a little boring.
    You might glance at Yahoo’s front page and see how they
    write article headlines to grab people to click. You might add a related
    video or a pic or two to get readers interested about
    what you’ve got to say. In my opinion, it might make your website a little bit more interesting.

  52. I don’t even know the way I stopped up here, however I thought this post used to be good.
    I don’t recognize who you might be however definitely you’re going to a well-known blogger should you aren’t already.

  53. An interesting discussion is worth comment. I believe
    that you should publish more about this subject matter, it might not
    be a taboo matter but generally people don’t speak about such subjects.
    To the next! Best wishes!!

  54. Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to produce a really good article… but what can I say… I hesitate a whole lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.

  55. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, such
    as you wrote the book in it or something. I feel that you can do with some percent to
    power the message house a bit, but instead of that, that is fantastic blog.

    An excellent read. I will certainly be back.

  56. you’re in reality a good webmaster. The website loading pace is amazing.
    It seems that you are doing any unique trick.
    In addition, The contents are masterwork. you have performed a magnificent job in this

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *