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50 Things to Do When You’re Bored

Don’t wait for a long stretch of time to start accomplishing things. Five minutes is all you need.

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Boredom can strike at any time. Now that you're quarantined at home and not able to do your normal activities due to COVID-19, you'll have to be a little creative in figuring out how to pass the time. From listening to new podcasts and going out for a walk, when in doubt, here's what to do when you're bored. If you're feeling down about being stuck at home, here are 12 wonderful things that will never be canceled.

What to do, what to do

Taking five minutes to jot down a to-do list every day is critical, but don’t just make it a list of tasks, says Charles Duhigg, New York Times bestselling author of Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. Put the short-term goals for your day at the bottom and write a “stretch goal” for what you want to accomplish over the next day, week, or month at the top. “It pushes you to think about your deepest priorities,” Duhigg says. When you have five minutes later in the day, revisit your long-term goal. If your recent tasks haven’t been getting you any closer to it, you might want to reassess how you’ll spend the rest of your day, he says. Here are sneaky reasons you don't finish your to-do list.

Write a to-do list

Keeping a list of tasks you can do in five minutes (or 10 or 15) is an easy way to make sure you’re prepped with ideas when you have a bit of downtime, says Laura Stack, productivity speaker and author of Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time. One of her go-to chores: dusting. “I have an awards shelf of things I’ve been given over the years and keep Pledge wipes on hand, so if I’m on hold at least five minutes, I just dust the shelf,” she says. If you haven't been cleaning with microfiber cloths, you really should be.

Do some dusting

If you’re about to enter a big meeting, taking five minutes—or even just 45 seconds—to picture what could happen to make everything run more smoothly, Duhigg says. Take it a step beyond rehearsing what you’ll do and say, and imagine other people’s actions too. “If you tell yourself a story about how your meeting is going to go, your consciousness will be better primed for how to react to things and know what to pay attention to and what to ignore,” Duhigg says. Using this method before running errands could prep you for a successful afternoon too, he says. Here are 20 little tips to make running errands way easier.

Visualize your next task

Moving for just five minutes can give you a big energy boost, Stack says. “People just sit way too much at desks. Sitting can shorten your life if you sit too much,” she says. “Get up and move.” Stack keeps dumbbells by her desk for overhead presses, but she also recommends doing squats, sit-ups, or stretches. Here are more ways to help your body recover from a day of sitting.

Sneak in some exercise

Keep a folder of articles you’ve wanted to read, then pull one out when you find yourself with extra time. “When you find a link, don’t read it—just print it out,” Stack says. “When you have time, peruse an article for a while instead of using ‘real time’ during the workday.” Here's exactly what you need to be successful working from home.

Read an article

When you're working remotely in virtual meetings, instead of shuffling notes before a meeting starts, ask coworkers around you what their weekend plans are. “The most effective teams tend to be the ones that have psychological safety, which often comes from learning how to pick up on each other’s nonverbal cues,” Duhigg says. “Learning how to listen better and how to show your listening is a critical aspect.” If you’re waiting in line at the grocery store at a safe distance, chat with the person behind you—Chevy Chase made friends with Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels while the two were standing in line for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Duhigg points out. Here are 12 simple ways to make friends as an adult.

Talk to people around you

Five minutes is just enough time to clean out a filing folder. Stack keeps an orange folder sticking the opposite way in her filing cabinet to mark the last folder she went through, and when she’s on hold, she’ll go back to that spot. On the flip side, you can also add papers you’ve been meaning to file. “You can make a big dent in a file pile in five minutes,” Stack says. These are the 13 golden rules for working from home.

Clean out files

iStock/dolgachov

Make a phone call

A quick phone call checking in with a friend or family member is a great way of showing your appreciation. “It’s good to say ‘I have five minutes and wanted to let you know I was thinking about you,’” Stack says. Here are 24 little ways to be a good friend.

iStock/blackred

Water your plants

You might not remember to water your houseplants all the time, but make a point of feeding them when you’ve got some spare time. “I don’t water plants on a consistent basis, but if I have a minute I’ll water them,” Stack says. These are the 29 secrets your houseplants would tell you if they could.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest