Are you feeling restless? Wondering what the best things to do are when you’re bored? I got you covered!

A recent survey of 2,000 Americans found that the average adult spends more than a third of their year in boredom.

And if you’re like the average human, the first thing you do is turn on the TV and binge on the latest show. But…

Boredom is an opportunity!

I want to show you 40 unique and productive things you can do to take advantage of your boredom streak!

40 productive things to do when you're bored image

But first, let’s see the top reasons why we get bored and the science behind boredom.

The Science of Boredom

Before 1766, there was no word for boredom in the English language. After that, we have found many reasons to be bored.

Do you ever wonder why you are so bored? It’s not a problem of motivation.

It’s a biological one.

Boredom stems from a lack of dopamine, or the “reward molecule,” in your brain.

Dopamine, the happy hormone

When your brain transmits too little dopamine, you feel less excited or happy in your life.

But being bored is completely normal. 

Here’s the problem: We treat boredom as a bad thing, when in reality, being bored is where the magic happens.

Being bored can actually spark productivity and creativity!

Psychologist Sandi Mann devised an experiment in which she came up with one of the most boring activities she could think of: asking participants to spend 20 minutes writing down phone numbers from the phone book. Afterwards, she asked the participants to come up with as many different uses as they could for 2 paper cups.

The result? They came up with somewhat creative ideas, like turning the cups into pots for plants.

But here’s where it gets really interesting (and non-boring)…

Mann decided this experiment wasn’t boring enough. Instead of writing the numbers, she told the participants in a second group to read the numbers out loud from the phone book (ouch!). Unsurprisingly, this new group found this task to be even more boring than writing down numbers.

And here’s the result: the second group came up with even more creative tasks than the first group, including using the paper cups to make a bra!

“Boredom always precedes a period of great creativity.”

Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Instead of wasting your potential, here are my top 40 things to do when you’re bored.

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15 Things to Do When Stuck at Home

Things to Do When Stuck at Home

Are you stuck at home? You’re not alone. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life while in the comfort of your own home. Here’s how to slay boredom with these fun ideas:

Create a vision board

A vision board, or dream board, is a collage made of images, pictures, words, and affirmations. 

According to a survey of more than 1,100 people and 500 small business owners, people who made vision boards had twice as much confidence as those who didn’t! And I can confirm this as well. Every time I see my own personal vision board, I feel more motivated and ready to tackle the world head-on!

Resource: Learn how to build a vision board of your own here.

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Write a Learning Bucket List

One of the best ways to snap out of boredom AND optimize a slow time is to flip your brain into learning mode. In learning mode you:

  • Have “aha” moments
  • Are open-minded
  • Feel awe
  • Get inspired

I highly recommend you start a learning bucket list. Sit down with a pen and paper (or extend your vision boarding) and answer these questions:

  1. What is something you have always wanted to try?
  2. What is something you wish you knew more about?
  3. Is there a skill you always wanted to learn?

Make a HUGE list of both big and small items and then start completing the items!

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Find your A work

What is your “A” work? This is the type of work you do that you are the absolute best at! It makes the time go by, you love doing it, and you can do it for hours without being bored. Not everyone is at their A-game. Which level are you performing at?

Resource: Watch the video below to quickly find your best work:

You can also read more in our article here.

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Find your maximum resonance point

Are you using your optimal speaking tone? Here’s the deal: most people aren’t tapping into the full potential of their voice. Since your voice carries power behind your words, it’s a great idea to find your ideal range.

Resource: Watch my video on how to find your maximum resonance point below:

And here’s a great online keyboard to help you find your voice (make sure to turn on Letter Notes): Virtual Piano

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Throw away everything

Well, okay, not everything.

But if you have a little clutter, I recommend trying the KonMari method of cleaning. This deep-cleaning method involves taking your physical possessions and getting rid of them if they do not bring joy into your life.

Resource: 

Here’s a video of Marie Kondo teaching how to clean up her office desk:

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Learn some magic

…not just to impress people, but because magic has the power to spark our novelty centers in our brain and bring us closer to believing in the impossible! At least, it’s the best skill to learn to become more like an actual Hogwarts wizard.

Resource: Watch 52Kards Youtube channel to learn some amazing card tricks!

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Create your playlists

Are you a music fanatic like me? It turns out, music can help you be better at:

  • exercising harder
  • improving your memory
  • easing stress and anxiety
  • …and even healing physical problems!

What types of music do you like for exercising, relaxing, and working? Create your playlists that match your activity!

Resource: Read more on the science of music here.

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Test your signature

Signatures might seem like a necessity, but they can reveal a lot about a person. Does your signature slant upwards or downwards? Does it contain embellishments? Is it big or small? Hard to read or clear? All these factors can tell a lot about someone else’s or even your own personality.

Resource: See how your signature pairs up, along with examples of famous people:

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Become a face reader

Humans have 7 basic emotions that can be seen through the face. An easy way to tell what emotions someone is displaying is by reading their facial microexpressions. And don’t worry! It’s easier than you think. And once you learn how to read people’s emotions… you’ll never look at them the same way again.

Resource: Learn to read the 7 microexpressions in our microexpressions guide.

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Try an online experience

Want to try a new experience, but don’t want to leave the house? Airbnb recently released a new kind of activity called online experiences, which lets you take a tour, play with animals, or even join a cooking class in the comfort of your own home!

Try these fun experiences:

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Color a mandala

Did you know that drawing mandalas has been shown to reduce anxiety? It’s also a great way to get into the flow and find your meditative state.

Resource: Learn how to draw a mandala and grab inspiration from these mandala examples.

Here’s an easy-to-follow video tutorial:

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10 Videos to Recharge Your Brain

Sometimes you need a quick fix. Boy oh boy do I have a great video list for you! If you need to shake up your brain, snap out of a funk or recharge for a few minutes sometimes videos can do the trick. Here are some options depending on how much time you have (or how deep your boredom is):

Of course, you can always subscribe to my YouTube channel for the latest and greatest anti-boredom videos!

And here’s my own TED talk!

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Brush up on your financial literacy

Do you know your assets from your liabilities? According to a 2015 study of over 7,000 individuals, 57% of Americans were shown to be struggling financially.

Many Americans are dealing with debt, irregular income, and unwise spending habits. Learn to take control of your finance, and take control of your life!

Resources: Get started with Khan Academy for finance videos and Investopedia for specific terms.

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Read a thought-provoking book

Don’t just read any book—read one that will provoke thought, change your behavior, or offer you a new perspective on life. There are a lot of amazing books out there—from business, social skills, and relationships. Here are a few outstanding books I’ve read recently below:

Resources:

Here’s Tim Ferriss’s amazing video on how to improve your reading by speed reading:

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Try Meditations

It might sound counter-productive, but the silence where you let your mind sit and stir is where the true magic happens. 

So why not relax into your boredom? You never know—you might find something truly profound or get inspired with a new creative spark!

Resource: Let your mind stir and focus better with this Meditation Guide.

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15 Things to Do With Others

4 people grab shoulders in a line together and enjoy a Christmas party.

Tired of spending time alone? Want to connect with friends and spend your time forming closer relationships? Check out these 10 things to do:

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Learn the love language of your partner

Science shows there are 5 “love languages” or different ways we prefer receiving love. Do you know which language you prefer? What about your partner? Find out in the Love Language Quiz!

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Try the single best team-building exercise

Have you tried the Stop, Start, Continue exercise with your team? This is my single favorite team-building exercise and I find it greatly helps my team focus more and zero in on what’s working and what’s not!

 Resource: Watch the exercise below, or read more about it here.

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Take a personality test

Get to know your friends and family better by getting them to take a personality test! Researchers have found that every single person has a specific personality made up of 5 traits:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

What personality traits do you have?

Resource: Get started by taking our Big 5 Personality Test.

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Make a YouTube video

Who says you have to be on the big screen to get your taste of stardom? Gather your friends, channel your inner Halle Barry or Brad Pitt, and put yourself out there! 

Resource: Get going with 101 YouTube video ideas.

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Text your best friend this question

Did you know there are 36 questions that can bring 2 people closer together? It’s not just a joke;  it’s science. I welcome you to try out these unique questions and see how deep and meaningful your conversations can get between you and your close friends (mine sure did!).

Resource: See all 36 questions here.

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Play a board game

I absolutely love gathering my friends together for a board game night! There’s literally a board game for everyone—into strategy? Settlers of Catan is my go-to. Want an educational game? Try Code Names. Harry Potter fan? Clue has a game, too.

Resource: Get started with a list of the Best Board Games for Adults.

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Transform the difficult person in your life

Relationships aren’t perfect. Did you know the 4 types of difficult people we can meet in our lives? They are:

  • Downers always have something bad to say.
  • Better Thans love to impress and compare.
  • Passives contribute very little to others.
  • Tanks want their way and will do anything to get it.

Luckily, you don’t have to change them (that’s the worst advice). There’s actually a method for dealing with difficult people! Find out in my webinar here:

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Join an escape room

Board games not your thing? Try out an escape room! These rooms are designed to be filled with challenges and riddles to get your brain working—and challenge the strength of your friendships in the process.

Resource: Get started by finding a local escape room near you.

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Host a (productive) movie night 

Movies don’t have to be just for entertainment. Did you know there are 2 ways you can watch a movie? Most people passively watch. Host a movie party and actively watch a movie (more on that in the video below)!

Try these meaningful movies.

Resource:

Active versus passive watching movies:

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Start a side hustle with a friend

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates didn’t create Apple and Microsoft by themselves.

They had partners that helped them in their journey. Having an amazing cofounder in your business can give you greater perspective, decrease your workload, and have someone to lean on during difficult times.

Find out who in your social circle is good to connect with, and brainstorm some ideas!

Resource: Check out a business idea generator to get started.

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Plan your next vacation

If the reason you’re bored is because you’re stuck in a routine, try planning a way out of it. Everyone needs downtime, and a vacation is a great solution! And one with friends is even better.

Resource: How to plan a vacation trip in 7 steps

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Try a fun icebreaker

I LOVE icebreakers! They can boost productivity, loosen up the vibe, and are a great way to build relationships… but not if they’re boring! I’ve come up with a list of my favorite icebreakers, including ones you can do virtually and in-person!

Resource: Get started with the best meeting icebreakers here:

Here’s a TED talk from Tom Wujec on one of my favorite icebreakers, The Marshmallow Game:

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Host a crafts night

Have you ever seen those Pinterest DIY arts and crafts images? After saving a ton of them, I realized… why not actually do them? So I recently hosted a crafts night with a small group of friends and it was a blast!

Resource: Check out 47 Fun Pinterest Crafts That Aren’t Impossible, and 10 Popular DIY Ideas From Pinterest.

Here’s a list of DIY crafts on Pinterest to get you started. You can get really creative—check out all these different ways you can turn a plastic bottle into something amazing!

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Coloring party

Besides crafts, coloring is also a great way to be creative and relax with others! Make sure to gather all the necessary supplies (or have your friends bring over their own!).

Resource: Here’s a mega list of free coloring books you can use.

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Channel your inner fashionista

Beautiful. Strong. Personable.

How do you want to look to others? A 2013 study found that participants who wore a bespoke suit were rated more positively. Host a clothes party with your friends and see what new outfits you can come up with!

Dress it up! Learn how to dress appropriately fashionable for women here: A Beginners Guide For Women Who Want To Improve Their Personal Style. Or check out the men’s guide: 16 Essential Style Tips For Guys.

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Bonus: Perform a random act of kindness

I went to the streets of New York with one of my good friends, Michelle Poler from Hello Fears, to not only conquer our fears, but make people happier (video below). One amazing thing to do to make the world a better place is to spread your kindness!

Resource: Read up more on how to be a nicer person: 62 Kindness Ideas.

Here’s my fear-conquering video with Michelle:

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10 Things to Do Out of the House

Put on your shoes and get ready to go outdoors! Here are 10 great things to do out of the house that aren’t a waste of time:

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Hike a new trail

A stick figure in his tent looks at a fox and sees it stealing a stick.

Want to boost your creativity to the max? Stanford researchers found that walking boosts creative inspiration by an average of 60 percent! Take a walk in nature to get more creative and relax in the process. Or plan a weekend camping getaway if you’re feeling adventurous!

Resource: Visit AllTrails to find your next trail to walk.

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Find a geocache

If you get bored hiking in the woods, turn it into a game by finding a geocache! Geocaches are little prizes that are hidden all around the world, and can be found through other people’s hints and GPS location. They definitely make you walk with purpose!

Resource: Join the hunt with the official Geocaching app.

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Join Toastmasters

In a study by Princeton University, researchers found that people who listen to a well-crafted story actually have similar brain activity as if they were inside the story!

In other words, if you tell someone a story about an amazing travel experience in the scorching Sahara desert, their brain will make them feel like they were actually there! This is an amazing way to compel people with your words and become more interesting!

Resource: Join a Toastmasters club near you to sharpen your storytelling skills.

Also check out David JP Phillips’s amazing TED talk:

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Attend a networking event

How many networking events do you attend in a year? One study of 1,000 entrepreneurs even found that 78% of startups attributed networking to their success.

But it’s not just showing up that matters. Do you know where to stand? Or who to talk to? There’s a big distinction between doing networking the wrong way, and doing it right. Check out the resource to find the best tips on networking.

Resource: Read our How to Network Guide.

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Go on a walking tour

Most cities have a walking tour available to get to know historical buildings and famous landmarks. If there isn’t one, try doing some research and hosting your own with some friends!

Resource: Find a walking tour near you.

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Use your green thumb

You don’t have to be a natural-born farmer to plant some veggies. Nor do you have to have a big old patch of dirt to plant them in. Try going green and planting your own veggies and fruits in whatever land you have (or even bring the nature to you by planting indoors), and save money in the process! 

Resource: Brush up your green knowledge by reading Growing Plants 101, or try Growing Plants Indoors.

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Join an outdoor fitness class

Are you struggling to get lean and mean for this upcoming summer? You don’t have to do it alone—you can do it in a group! From yoga in parks, morning beach swim classes, dance fitness classes, and even Zumba, you can change your fitness routine to a by going outdoors!

Resource: Check out 6 Outdoor Fitness Classes to Take This Summer

Or try it on your own:

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Challenge yourself to an obstacle course

If you’ve been keeping up with your fitness, congrats! Time to take it to the next level. There are a wide variety of obstacle courses designed to test your mental fortitude and physical endurance, including the Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and Rugged Maniac!

Resource: See the courses in The 12 Most Epic Mud Runs and Obstacle Course in the World.

…you could also set one up in your own backyard!

These courses are not for the faint of heart:

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Learn the stars

Do you know your Big Dipper from the Little Dipper? Not only did our ancestors know about stars to help them navigate direction, but they’re also an amazing reminder that the universe is such a huge place.

Resource: Read up on A guide to stargazing or check out Search Results Web results  5 Constellations Everyone Can Find.

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Journal in nature

A mood tracker is shown; the neutral face in the middle is circled. This is common for people who are bored.

Journaling is a daily task of mine— and it’s even better to do it in nature! I find that writing down my thoughts helps with emotional regulation. There’s a cognitive benefit, too: science has proven that journaling even boosts IQ!

Resource: 

And a journaling guide:

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Bonus: Captivate people with your social skills

Not everyone’s born a social butterfly, and you don’t have to be! Social skills are called “skills” for a reason, and there’s a reason why workers who combine social and technical skills fare best in the modern economy.

Your social skills determine how people view YOU!

Don’t be boring, inauthentic, or toxic in your relationships! Learn how to transform your skills in one of these courses:

Free courses: 

Paid courses:

I hope you found a way to take advantage of your boredom with these 40 tips!

What do you do when you’re bored?

Let me know in the comments!

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & founder at Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People has been translated into more than 16 languages. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma. She regularly leads innovative corporate workshops and helps thousands of individual professionals in her online program People School. Vanessa works with entrepreneurs, growing businesses, and trillion dollar companies; and has been featured on CNN, BBC, CBS, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur Magazine, USA Today, the Today Show and many more.

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