Bored and Brilliant Challenge Report

If you read my February Reads blog post, you’ll remember I said the most important book I read that month was Bored and Brilliant, and that I intended to do the challenges and report back to you.

So here it is. Due to my travel schedule (pre-coronavirus!), I had to skip a few days between challenges, but I still managed to get them all done. Quite an interesting experiment!

Here’s how it went:

Day 1: track usage—I downloaded the Moment App a couple of days before so I could get used to it. The results were interesting. I averaged over 40 pick ups a day and over 3 hours of usage. After several days of being mindful, this number went down a bit, though not dramatically. Still, since then I have been more conscious of when I pick up my phone, choosing whether I really needed to check anything or not.

Day 2: no phone in transit—I thought I’d do well at this one, but it was harder than I imagined! It felt weird not to have it in hand when walking from our hotel room to elevator, to ride elevator without looking, then get out of elevator and not look until settled where I was headed. Also really hard: Uber rides! But I did it. And I did find my mind wandering in good ways.

Day 3: no photos—As I suspected, this one wasn’t hard for me. Honestly even things I want to take pictures of I forget to take pictures of! So this day I tried to continue to focus on the previous two days’ tasks—and tried not to focus on the dreaded Day 4!

Day 4: delete that app—The challenge was to delete that app–the one that steals your time, the one you think you can’t live without. I knew immediately which app it was, partly because the author had a similar situation for herself. For me, it was Jewel Mania. I love that game. It is both thinking and mindless at the same time. And I’d reached the high hundreds levels. I’d felt so successful. But then I hit that X and it was gone. To add insult to injury, it was a travel day, so no playing while on the airplane. Sigh. At least the challenge was only one app. I still do have a couple of word games that aren’t as addicting or time consuming. But as the days passed I found I could live without it and I was fine. I was proud of myself for my strength of will.

I paused the challenges here for scheduling reasons, but then went back to it.

Day 5: take a fakation—This one didn’t really work for me in that I don’t field a bunch of “work” on my phone. It seemed a bit silly to set time apart from my phone when in the course of a usual day I might get 0-2 texts and no important, time-sensitive emails.

Day 6: go out alone an observe—I had been most excited about this challenge, but it didn’t work out as I’d wished. I’d wanted to spend this time at a museum or a garden, but by the time my travel schedule allowed, we were suddenly in pandemic lockdown. So I did the next best thing. I observed my surroundings as I walked my city streets and as I sat on my balcony. But of course the whole landscape of those places had drastically changed by then. The only people on the streets were the homeless, construction workers, a few city employees, and others, like me, trying to get in some exercise with our gym access closed. But in spite of the ghost town-like feel, there were new leaves budding from trees, green grass poking up fresh blades. Spring, new life, arriving even in the midst of seclusion and shutdown.

Day 7: boredom challenge—The first part of this challenge is to do a mind-numbing (boring) activity such as watch a pot of water boil or handwrite a small page full of 101010. Immediately after finishing that, you are to turn your mind to a specific project or problem that you’ve been avoiding thinking about. I did the handwriting one. And yes, I was thoroughly bored by the time I wrote all those 1’s and 0’s! Then I pulled out a notepad and started jotting notes about writing projects. By the time I was done, I had a good start on some real options. Maybe enough to actually get me to dive in and commit to one or more of those stories!

All in all, I’m so glad I did these challenges instead of just reading the book. But truth to tell: everything changed with COVID-19. After a few days cloistered at home, I reinstalled my Jewel Mania app. And I turned off the Moment app. I needed to be connected moment by moment and I didn’t need to add how many times I’d picked up my phone to my worry list. But that’s okay. Because even now I am still more thoughtful every time I pick up my phone than I was before. More focused on what I intend to do, even if that means playing Words with Friends in order to stop thinking about sheltering in place for a few minutes. However, when the world returns to something akin to normalcy again, I hope my new-normal will include being in charge of my phone instead of letting it tyrannize me.