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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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What to do, what to do

Boredom can strike at any time. Now that you’re quarantined at home and not able to do many of 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.

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Write a to-do list

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.

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Do some dusting

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.

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Visualize your next task

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.

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Sneak in some exercise

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.

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Read an article

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.

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Talk to people around you

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.

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Clean out files

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.

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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.

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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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Check your email

Instead of jumping to reply to emails as they come to you, wait until you have a five-minute break, or one that you’ve carved out. “The nice thing about emails is…you can talk to me without me being there to hear them,” Duhigg says. “The point is to check when it’s useful for me, not other people.” These are annoying email habits you didn’t realize you had.

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Embrace the boredom

Resist the urge to pull out your smartphone, and just let your mind wander—you might be surprised at the insights you have when you don’t have to pump out emails or watch the kids. “Being bored is important,” Duhigg says. “If we could carry our iPhones into the shower, we wouldn’t have good ideas anymore.” Here’s why your next big idea could come from being bored at work.

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Take a nap

If you’re not sure what to do and feel exhausted all the time, then maybe taking the time for a short nap during the day is just what you need. There are many benefits that result from taking a nap including boosting mental function, reducing stress, and improving heart health. Need help falling asleep? This simple trick will help you fall asleep in 60 seconds.

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Write a letter to a friend or family member

If you have some extra time, then writing a letter to a loved one would be a good way to fill it. There’s research that shows writing a letter will actually make you happier, and it’s sure to bring a smile to whoever happens to read what you wrote. Concerned about your penmanship? This one-minute trick will instantly improve your handwriting.

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Try out a new recipe

When in quarantine, you’re probably spending more time in your kitchen. Take some time to use the items in your fridge and pantry and have some fun cooking and baking. These are the 35 absolutely essential recipes you should know before you turn 35.

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Make your own DIY face mask

If you have a sewing machine readily available, as well as other fabric and materials lying around, you could spend the time you would be commuting to work on making a face mask. Before you start, here’s what you should know before trying to make your own face mask.

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Do your laundry

Doing your laundry doesn’t have to be the bane of your existence. In fact, doing your laundry could make you feel better about having a cleaner, more fresh-smelling home. Here are 8 secret ingredients you should be adding to your laundry.

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Take a bubble bath

After a long day at the office, it could be tempting to come home and have a nice bubble bath. To really up your bubble bath game, you can use Dr. Teal’s Pure Epsom Salt Soothe & Sleep Lavender Soaking Solution for peak relaxation. This is what’s really in your bath bomb.

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Read a favorite book from your childhood

There’s no harm in revisiting favorite characters from your favorite childhood stories. These are the 7 children’s books every adult should read again.

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Read a new book on your bookshelf

Along with revisiting childhood classics, it’s time to revisit that brand new book you swore you were going to read but instead ended up collecting dust on your bookshelf. In fact, reading should be a daily habit. Here’s what happens when you read a book every day.

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Listen to your favorite album of music

Don’t know what to do when you’re bored? There’s nothing like music to transport you to a different place and time and just relax. Play an old record or hear a live recording on YouTube of a favorite band to help pass the time or as background music to make chores more bearable. If you ever want to see your favorite musicians live, these are the best cities in America to watch live music.

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Learn more about your favorite musicians

Many musicians have fascinating histories and it could be fun to see the story of how your favorite musician became famous. Here are 12 biographies you really should have read by now.

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Read through your favorite quotes

There’s always words of wisdom to be found in quotes said by other people. If you’re looking for a new morning routine, here are 50 inspirational morning quotes to wake up to.

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Take time during the day to stretch

If you don’t want to go for a run or commit to a full workout, that’s OK. Taking a few minutes to stretch has numerous health benefits including helping you have better posture and calming your mind.

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Play a board game

When you’re bored, you can always dust off classic board games like Monopoly and Risk from the back of your closet and play them with friends and family members to pass the time.

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Finish a crossword puzzle

There’s no need to be intimidated by crossword puzzles. Simply start with the easy ones first and then work your way through to medium and hard. To get started, here are 24 printable crossword puzzles to test your smarts.

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Learn a new language

Yes, this one might seem a bit challenging to do when you’re bored, but really, when is there a better time to learn the Spanish alphabet or learn how to count to ten in Dutch? Here’s how you can say “hello” in 17 languages.

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Play a video game

Video games have changed over the years from Pac-Man and Snake to more role-playing games with stunning visuals. If playing a video game sounds like a bit too much time, then you might want to listen to video game soundtracks in the meantime. After all, once you hear it, you may never go back to your old tunes again.

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Learn how to dance

Who says you can’t transform your bedroom into a makeshift dance party? If you don’t know the difference between a foxtrot and a two-step, watch a few YouTube videos and practice, practice, practice! For more inspiration, these are the 12 best dance movies of all time.

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Have a virtual dance party

If you’re ready to take your moves to the main stage, turn into a virtual dance party and have a club experience from the convenience of your home. Move your body, and impress your friends the next time you’re actually able to dance IRL whenever that happens to be. Here’s. how this woman’s making her business virtual post-coronavirus.

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Watch classic movies

It’s that time to catch up on your favorite TV shows and movies. Have you really not seen classic movies like Citizen Kane and Casablanca? When you’re bored, maybe it’s time to commit a few hours and watch. Here are 10 classic movies people lie about watching.

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Find a new favorite TV show to binge-watch

If you haven’t seen The Wire or LOST, what are you waiting for? It’s time to turn down the lights, make your bag of popcorn, and tune in for some serious viewing. Here are 20 classic shows you didn’t know you could watch on Netflix.

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Listen to a new podcast

After reading your favorite books and watching your favorite movies and TV shows, it’s time to explore new mediums by listening to podcasts. Here are 12 of the best podcasts you’re not listening to—but should.

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Create your own podcast

Feeling inspired after listening to a newfound collection of podcasts? Learn the tools necessary for you to create your own podcast!

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Write a short story

If you’re bored at home, pick up a pen, grab some lined notebook paper, and write a short story. Let your creative ideas go and let your imagination run wild. Here’s why writing—not typing—will make you smarter.

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Write a poem

If short stories aren’t your thing, then perhaps writing a poem or two will help let you express yourself. Here are 8 inspirational poems that will warm your heart.

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Write the next great novel

Well, maybe you don’t need to write the whole novel in one sitting. But taking a few minutes when you’re bored to write a few sentences can go a long way in achieving your writing dream. Here are 100 of America’s favorite novels to help you get started for inspiration.

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Color in a coloring book

Coloring in the lines (or out of the lines) isn’t just a hobby for children. It’s a creative outlet and there are many adult coloring books you can choose from, too.

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Learn how to draw

If you’ve drawn stick figures all your life and never figured out how to draw, fear not. There are many YouTube tutorials and books you can buy to turn your stick figures into full figures. Here are 6 ways doodling can make you smarter, happier, and more productive.

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Make a photo album

You’ve probably accumulated tons of photographs of your past travels and family get-togethers, but when was the last time you made a photo album? And we’re not talking about a Facebook photo album, either. The next time you’re bored, take the time to print out your photographs and compile into a photo album that could fit nicely on your shelf or would work well as a considerate gift to a loved one. For the next time you’re taking pictures, remember these 10 tricks to make yourself look better in photos.

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Take a long shower

If you don’t know what else to do, hopping in the shower can be a great way to jumpstart your day and bring about some creativity. Here’s the surprising reason the best ideas come to you in the shower.

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Take time out of your day to meditate

There are many scientific benefits to meditation, like keeping your blood pressure in check and decreasing your risk of depression. Here are 25 more ways you can relax that don’t cost a cent.

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Plan a future trip

Even though you may be stuck at home for a while, you can take this time to read a few travel blogs, scroll through travel sites, and look through travel books to plan your next vacation.

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Clean your makeup brushes

You might be taking a break from wearing makeup when working from home, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect the care of your makeup brushes. Take the time to clean your makeup brushes and go through your beauty products that may or may not be expired. These are the 10 makeup mistakes pros wish you’d stop making.

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Clean out your email inbox

Are you an inbox zero person or do you have thousands of emails in your inbox? If you’re in the latter category, you can take some time when you’re bored to sort through those emails and finally delete those newsletters you’re never going to read.

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Go through your voicemail

When was the last time you checked the voicemail box on your phone? It’s probably been a while, so when you’re bored, take some time to listen to people who have called you and clean out your inbox.

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Make a bucket list

Do you ever find yourself daydreaming about seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris or riding a red double-decker bus in London? If you’re bored you can make your own curated bucket list so that way when you’re next able to travel you can do so.

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Go for a walk

Break up the monotony of the day with a walk outside with fresh air and a bit of sunshine. Walking can improve your happiness. If you’re wondering whether to eat before or after exercise, science finally has the answer.

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Update your resume

With millions of Americans filing for unemployment, the coronavirus hasn’t been kind to many people. Now is as good of a time as any to update your resume, change your LinkedIn profile, and really figure out what you want from your career. Here are 6 ways job searching is going to change forever.

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Create your own website

Along with updating your resume, it’s time to create your own website and have a place to post your accomplishments and showcase your portfolio.

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Make a vision board

It’s time to take control of your dreams by visualizing what you want to happen. After all, who doesn’t want to see their dreams in reality? Plus, there are multiple benefits to creating a vision board.

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Make a care package and actually mail it

When in quarantine, it can be hard to feel close to other people. If you want to go a step further beyond mailing a letter, you can send a care package to someone you love. It’ll be fun for you to pack, and it’ll be fun for your loved ones to receive. Next, take a look at these productive things to do when you’re stuck inside.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest