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Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive & Creative Self

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It’s time to move “doing nothing” to the top of your to-do list. In 2015, Manoush Zomorodi, host of WNYC’s popular podcast and radio show 'Note To Self' led tens of thousands of listeners through an experiment to help them unplug from their devices, get bored, jumpstart their creativity, and change their lives. Bored and Brilliant builds on that experiment to show us how to It’s time to move “doing nothing” to the top of your to-do list. In 2015, Manoush Zomorodi, host of WNYC’s popular podcast and radio show 'Note To Self' led tens of thousands of listeners through an experiment to help them unplug from their devices, get bored, jumpstart their creativity, and change their lives. Bored and Brilliant builds on that experiment to show us how to rethink our gadget use to live better and smarter in this new digital ecosystem. Manoush explains the connection between boredom and original thinking, exploring how we can harness boredom’s hidden benefits to become our most productive and creative selves without totally abandoning our gadgets in the process. Grounding the book in the neuroscience and cognitive psychology of “mind wandering”—what our brains do when we’re doing nothing at all—Manoush includes practical steps you can take to ease the nonstop busyness and enhance your ability to dream, wonder, and gain clarity in your work and life. The outcome is mind-blowing. Unplug and read on.


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It’s time to move “doing nothing” to the top of your to-do list. In 2015, Manoush Zomorodi, host of WNYC’s popular podcast and radio show 'Note To Self' led tens of thousands of listeners through an experiment to help them unplug from their devices, get bored, jumpstart their creativity, and change their lives. Bored and Brilliant builds on that experiment to show us how to It’s time to move “doing nothing” to the top of your to-do list. In 2015, Manoush Zomorodi, host of WNYC’s popular podcast and radio show 'Note To Self' led tens of thousands of listeners through an experiment to help them unplug from their devices, get bored, jumpstart their creativity, and change their lives. Bored and Brilliant builds on that experiment to show us how to rethink our gadget use to live better and smarter in this new digital ecosystem. Manoush explains the connection between boredom and original thinking, exploring how we can harness boredom’s hidden benefits to become our most productive and creative selves without totally abandoning our gadgets in the process. Grounding the book in the neuroscience and cognitive psychology of “mind wandering”—what our brains do when we’re doing nothing at all—Manoush includes practical steps you can take to ease the nonstop busyness and enhance your ability to dream, wonder, and gain clarity in your work and life. The outcome is mind-blowing. Unplug and read on.

30 review for Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive & Creative Self

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    I did not like this book. The premise is that we can be more creative if we stop turning to social media when we are bored. The book was simplistic, poorly researched, and included no reference section, Even worse, the author, a "podcaster", reported her online project as if it was an experiment which it clearly is not. I also found the title to be a misnomer. The title implies that if you are bored you can be creative and brilliant. In fact, what the author means is that if you are bored, you c I did not like this book. The premise is that we can be more creative if we stop turning to social media when we are bored. The book was simplistic, poorly researched, and included no reference section, Even worse, the author, a "podcaster", reported her online project as if it was an experiment which it clearly is not. I also found the title to be a misnomer. The title implies that if you are bored you can be creative and brilliant. In fact, what the author means is that if you are bored, you can choose not to turn to social media, and instead think creatively, These two things are not the same. There are many brilliant academics who write on these topics much more succinctly, I found Manoush Zomorodi's musings watered down and sometimes inaccurate. Thanks to Netgalley for an advanced copy.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dannii Elle

    I don't know what I was expecting but it wasn't this. I can appreciate how this book would be invaluable to some readers but don't believe I was exactly the right audience. I believed this would deliver advice on creativity and the cultivation of it in life. Instead this was a guide on how to rely less on the distraction of your smart phone. Whilst I can see the benefit of this book I found this not to be an issue I had as I already restrict my social media and smart phone usage, throughout the I don't know what I was expecting but it wasn't this. I can appreciate how this book would be invaluable to some readers but don't believe I was exactly the right audience. I believed this would deliver advice on creativity and the cultivation of it in life. Instead this was a guide on how to rely less on the distraction of your smart phone. Whilst I can see the benefit of this book I found this not to be an issue I had as I already restrict my social media and smart phone usage, throughout the course of the day. I found nothing of interest in this book for me and, whilst well written, this was, sadly, not for me. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Manoush Zomorodi, and the publisher, Macmillan, for this opportunity.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Janelle

    “...mobile consumers now spend an average of two hours and fifty-seven minutes each day on mobile devices.” Waiting in line to check out? Fire up Candy Crush. On your commute? Get caught up on blogs or YouTube vids. One laaaast round of checks on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter before the theater darkens for the movie previews. (And then another check when the lights come up to catch what you missed.) We have the option to never, ever be bored. There’s always something, somewhere willing to keep “...mobile consumers now spend an average of two hours and fifty-seven minutes each day on mobile devices.” Waiting in line to check out? Fire up Candy Crush. On your commute? Get caught up on blogs or YouTube vids. One laaaast round of checks on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter before the theater darkens for the movie previews. (And then another check when the lights come up to catch what you missed.) We have the option to never, ever be bored. There’s always something, somewhere willing to keep us occupied, and it's rarely farther than a pocket. According to Manoush Zomorodi, host of NPR’s Note to Self program, that’s a problem. In 2015, Note to Self launched a week-long project to promote boredom. Through a series of challenges, Bored and Brilliant participants were encouraged to think through how, when, and why they engage with technology. This book emerged from that project, giving Zomorodi a chance not only to talk about the outcomes of the project itself, but also some of the rationale behind each component challenge. She interviews scientists and laypersons along the way. But why boredom? Isn’t it *good* that we can use these otherwise unproductive three minutes at Starbucks to touch base with a friend on Facebook? What else would we possibly do with that time? Zomorodi argues that the cumulative effect of all these check-ins cost us creativity and introspection. The brain desperately needs to these unoccupied moments to tie disparate parts of our lived experience together in new and creative ways. The wandering mind moves backward and forward, updating your narrative of self and the world around you. Every time you fire up Candy Crush, you’re unconsciously choosing not to let your mind wander. Zomorodi works hard to present the scientific evidence for this view and to keep it morally neutral--she frequently mentions her own addiction to an online game as evidence that she suffers along with the rest of us--but it’s not hard to see that some readers are going to be defensive about this notion. The portion of the book that spoke to me loudest was a passage in which Zomorodi interviews a couple of college professors who bemoan how their students prefer to communicate via text rather than office hours. A student points out that a text or email allows her to choose her words in advance, so as not to say the wrong thing. One of the professors points out that makes her own job harder. If a student asks a precise question over text/email, the professor can only answer the question posed. A student who stumbles through an idea verbally, who makes mistakes and corrects herself as she goes along, who leaves openings where the professor might probe further or reframe portions of the question… this is how academic inquiry and discovery happen best. Yes, it’s messier, but it’s also more likely to engage the student. “...perhaps our biggest loss is that of patience. Patience to let someone finish an imperfect thought; patience to read a dense paragraph not once, twice, but three times to understand an intricate point; patience to let a simple thought that crosses your mind grow into a mediocre concept and only then blossom into an outstanding idea. These things take time. And the one thing our phones can’t give us is more hours in the day.” In describing the premise of the book to a co-worker, she pointed out that distraction has always been with us. Forty years ago, the commuter train car might have been full of folks reading a paper rather than their cell phones. She’s right: screens are a new iteration of an old habit. There was no magical past in which strangers were happy and willing to engage with one another on the morning commute that has now been taken from us by smartphones. However, Zomorodi isn’t anti-technology. She hasn’t chucked her iPhone into the East River, and she’s not inciting us to rise up in revolution against our electronic masters. Instead, she’s arguing that a healthier relationship with our phones will open up more space in our lives for creative thinking. You can check out the original Bored and Brilliant project challenges online. I received an advance copy of this book for review via NetGalley. For further reading about the merits of distraction-free work, I recommend Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. If you’re a parent, you might be interested in an internet movement to ask parents to commit to not buying smartphones for a child until 8th grade.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    I am very interested in the topic of phone use and overuse. I am not anti-technology (and neither is the author of this book), but I do find the overuse of phones by much of American society alarming. Zomorodi was definitely preaching to the choir with me as a reader. Zomorodi includes research to back up the idea that we are more creative when we allow ourselves to be “bored” and allow our minds to wander. I do not carry my smartphone around in my hand and it is seldom in view when I am out with I am very interested in the topic of phone use and overuse. I am not anti-technology (and neither is the author of this book), but I do find the overuse of phones by much of American society alarming. Zomorodi was definitely preaching to the choir with me as a reader. Zomorodi includes research to back up the idea that we are more creative when we allow ourselves to be “bored” and allow our minds to wander. I do not carry my smartphone around in my hand and it is seldom in view when I am out with others, so I am actually not her primary audience. Still, even I found some of her seven challenges (to change your relationship with your phone and increase your productivity and creativity) of interest. Most of them are not a challenge for me (keep your device out of reach while in motion – already do that; have a photo free day – most of my days are photo free, etc.). But I certainly waste time on the internet on my laptop, if not my smartphone. I found myself wanting to quote long passages of the book because they match my own experiences so well. For example, “In a study from 2014 called the iPhone Effect: The Quality of In-Person Social Interaction in the Presence of Mobile Devices, researchers at Virginia Tech found that the mere presence of a mobile device, even just lying there, seemingly benign on the kitchen counter, can lower the empathy exchanged between two friends.” (p. 56) and “This isn’t just a productivity or focus issue. [Gloria] Mark’s lab has found that the more people switch their attention, the higher their stress level. That is especially concerning, she says, because the modern workplace feeds on interruptions.” (p. 89) The text was engaging and the research cited compelling. If you would like to decrease the amount of time you waste on your smartphone (or laptop), you might find this short and easy to read book of interest. I read an advance reader copy of Bored But Brilliant. It will be published in early September.

  5. 4 out of 5

    TS Chan

    3.5 stars. Being very aware of how smartphones have taken over a very significant part of our lives, I do mindfully keep my phone out of sight when I am moving about and especially while having meals with friends and family. This is an era of too many distractions and too much information. How much can our minds really absorb and process, and how often do we really actively observe. While I am not sure if being bored can necessarily make me 'brilliant', I am a proponent of having time and space t 3.5 stars. Being very aware of how smartphones have taken over a very significant part of our lives, I do mindfully keep my phone out of sight when I am moving about and especially while having meals with friends and family. This is an era of too many distractions and too much information. How much can our minds really absorb and process, and how often do we really actively observe. While I am not sure if being bored can necessarily make me 'brilliant', I am a proponent of having time and space to let my mind wander. I do know for a fact that I have gotten insights and ideas on how to write some of the more difficult book reviews (for eg. Malazan) while I was out running without my phone. I won't call this book exceptionally ground-breaking or enlightening, but it is engaging and informative. It is also not anti-technology but rather enabling technology to help us get the most out of our modern hectic life. Self-awareness is the first step to taking a good look at one's gadget use and next is the will to break those less desirable habits, where possible. I will leave with the TED talk link below for a briefer take on the Bored and Brilliant project. https://www.ted.com/talks/manoush_zom...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Leen

    Basically take some time and unplug from technology so your brain can process life and think. That is it. She uses a lot of other researchers work which leads you wondering what her input really was other that repeating the same concept over and over again. I honestly thought I'm repeating chapters by mistake multiple times throughout the book, but nope I wasn't! Not worth the time spent on. Basically take some time and unplug from technology so your brain can process life and think. That is it. She uses a lot of other researchers work which leads you wondering what her input really was other that repeating the same concept over and over again. I honestly thought I'm repeating chapters by mistake multiple times throughout the book, but nope I wasn't! Not worth the time spent on.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dr. Tobias Christian Fischer

    We spent our time wrong. How long do you spend time on your phone? - It’s actually not bad to use games for relaxation or do some research by using our phone. Generally spoken, we can be brilliant but we should be using technology wisely.

  8. 5 out of 5

    B.J. Richardson

    I was actually pleasantly surprised by this book. Almost immediately I realized that it wasn't exactly what the title advertised. I was expecting a work on the connection between boredom and creativity. while that was certainly there, this book is much more about being more self-aware with our use of cell phones and social media. The title actually came from a project (social experiment?) the author did on her NYPR program, Note to Self, where for a week her listeners took on a series of challen I was actually pleasantly surprised by this book. Almost immediately I realized that it wasn't exactly what the title advertised. I was expecting a work on the connection between boredom and creativity. while that was certainly there, this book is much more about being more self-aware with our use of cell phones and social media. The title actually came from a project (social experiment?) the author did on her NYPR program, Note to Self, where for a week her listeners took on a series of challenges to help reduce their phone time and be more purposeful and aware of why and how often it is being used. The seven challenges in the Bored and Brilliant program are: 1) Observe yourself. Record exactly how many times you pick up your phone and how many minutes you spend on it. 2) Keep your device out of reach while in motion. 3) No photos today. 4) Delete your most addictive app. 5) Take a fakecation. 6) Observe Something else. 7) Decide on a permanent change resulting from your observations during the first 6 challenges. According to the author, this challenge ended up having a much larger reach and enthusiastic level of participation than expected and this book was really a product of what came out of that challenge. Most of the chapters in the book are a detailed look at each challenge. They will combine personal insights, interviews, research (lite) and testimonials from those who participated. This book is neither profound nor scholarly. It isn't meant to be. From my perspective, the book has two aims: 1) To get people to participate in the Bored and Brilliant challenge and 2) To help them be more aware of their addiction to social media and then do something about it. For me, in both these goals, the book was mildly successful. I personally think many of the poor reviews it has garnished are really a result of people getting a little uncomfortable with a truth that hits too close to home. I do have 10 Reasons to Delete Social Media by Jaron Lanier in my TBR and do expect it to be a much better book covering a similar topic. For now, however, I will definitely recommend this book and am glad I read it. My "clanmates" on Vikings might not be happy I disappeared but I appreciate the time and freedom it has opened up.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    This gave me so much food for thought about why I have the relationship I have with my technology and the ways I can consider being more conscious of that. This isn't anti-tech, and Manoush does a great job of giving insight into both sides of the coin -- she, for example, found herself addicted to Two Dots and wondered why, so she explored why it was a problem for her, as well as interviewed one of the creators of the game and how the "addictive" mentality could be mined to suck people into suc This gave me so much food for thought about why I have the relationship I have with my technology and the ways I can consider being more conscious of that. This isn't anti-tech, and Manoush does a great job of giving insight into both sides of the coin -- she, for example, found herself addicted to Two Dots and wondered why, so she explored why it was a problem for her, as well as interviewed one of the creators of the game and how the "addictive" mentality could be mined to suck people into such a game. There are mini challenges throughout, meant to encourage finding ways to "get bored." The audiobook is read by the author, and it's no surprise she's great. It's fabulous to listen to a self-help/creative/business-y book written by and read by a woman of color. It's not some Silicon Valley, young white guy who has all of the answers. It's much more real and, for me, applicable. I also just agree with the premise of needing quiet, boring time in order to be our best, most creative selves. And oh, how I loathe spending time with people who never get off their damn phones. Why am I with you if your face is glued to a screen? But then again, I don't feel the compulsion to do that, and it's worthwhile to read this one and consider why it is a. other people do and b. why I react how I do.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jess Macallan

    I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was interested in the premise of this book--the idea that by unplugging and purposefully allowing ourselves to be bored, we could benefit creatively and in other ways. I enjoyed the information--both studies and interviews with experts--that outlined our need for and addiction to technology, specifically our smartphones. I did the challenges outlined in the book, which sound surprisingly easy but was harder to exe I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was interested in the premise of this book--the idea that by unplugging and purposefully allowing ourselves to be bored, we could benefit creatively and in other ways. I enjoyed the information--both studies and interviews with experts--that outlined our need for and addiction to technology, specifically our smartphones. I did the challenges outlined in the book, which sound surprisingly easy but was harder to execute. I'm not as addicted to certain features of my phone, so it wasn't hard to delete overused apps and refrain from taking pictures for a day. It was more difficult to acknowledge how many times I mindlessly check my phone in a day. Let's just say it's a lot of wasted time, and I don't have a good reason for it. This book offers a lot of food for thought, and anyone who uses a smartphone should read it, if for no other reason than to gain a little perspective about putting the phone or tablet down more often and reconnecting with what really matters.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This is basically a book version of the challenge that they did on the Note To Self radio show a few years ago. It was fun to listen to it again in a different form and very pleasant to listen to because the author’s voice is amazing. Lots of great ideas about using technology in a more meaningful way and the power of letting yourself be bored once in a while.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I actually finished this book a few days ago because I hadn't yet completed the last task, but the library wants it back, so! I forget what made me put this on hold at the library. But as someone who used to be a non-stop daydreamer and is now a constant phone-gazer, the idea was inherently sort of interesting to me: that keeping our brains busy with tech at every waking hour decreases our ability to think creatively, problem-solve, and generally function. The start of the book summarizes the re I actually finished this book a few days ago because I hadn't yet completed the last task, but the library wants it back, so! I forget what made me put this on hold at the library. But as someone who used to be a non-stop daydreamer and is now a constant phone-gazer, the idea was inherently sort of interesting to me: that keeping our brains busy with tech at every waking hour decreases our ability to think creatively, problem-solve, and generally function. The start of the book summarizes the research on boredom and why a bit of mind-wandering is good for you. After that, the author structures chapters around more particular distractions and technological concerns - compulsive photo-taking, video games, etc. Her radio background shows through; every chapter centers on a few interviews, brushing over academic research, testimonials and the author's own personal anecdotes. I had hoped for a bit more of an in-depth discussion of the research, so in places it felt a bit shallow to me. The experiments at the end of each chapter were interesting. I particularly liked the one about not using one's phone while in transit, and the one about making observations in public instead of looking at one's phone. I also deleted Twitter and Sudoku off my phone - I'll admit to having a bit of withdrawal! Overall, definitely a worthwhile read on a topic I'll be thinking more about.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Emily Horne

    I found this to be a helpful thought experiment and guide to regulating your technology use. While most of us have vague feelings we use our phones too much, this book offered research and concrete ways to evaluate your tech usage and turn it into something that is useful for you. Must read in this digital age.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    While I think this book has some interesting ideas and small exercises I'm not sure if it really teaches the tools that it needs to in order to make a lasting change. Overall can give you an opportunity to give your own use of technology a second look. While I think this book has some interesting ideas and small exercises I'm not sure if it really teaches the tools that it needs to in order to make a lasting change. Overall can give you an opportunity to give your own use of technology a second look.

  15. 4 out of 5

    SundayAtDusk

    This book is an interesting and concise look at how technology, particularly cell phone usage, is greatly reducing the amount of time one’s wandering mind is daydreaming, coming up with highly creative ideas and “autobiographical planning”. If you’re doing stuff on your cell phone all the time, your mind can’t wander. Not good. Don’t imagine this is an anti-tech book, however. It most certainly is not. Manoush Zomorodi is obviously a person who thinks cell phones are here to stay and can’t be li This book is an interesting and concise look at how technology, particularly cell phone usage, is greatly reducing the amount of time one’s wandering mind is daydreaming, coming up with highly creative ideas and “autobiographical planning”. If you’re doing stuff on your cell phone all the time, your mind can’t wander. Not good. Don’t imagine this is an anti-tech book, however. It most certainly is not. Manoush Zomorodi is obviously a person who thinks cell phones are here to stay and can’t be lived without. She is simply encouraging tighter control over using them, and encourages paying more attention to how much time you spend using them. Ms. Zomorodi conducted a Bored and Brilliant experiment in 2015 with the radio listeners of her WNYC podcast Note To Self. This book concentrates on that experiment and includes comments from some of the participants of the experiment. Overall this is a noteworthy read, but not that noteworthy. Nothing the author or the participants say seems like anything new about modern day technology. It’s all been said before, it’s all been noted before. Maybe if you are someone who really does need to reduce the time you spend every day looking at one screen or another, this book will be useful to you. For me, it was just another sad look at those who actually think they can’t live without their cell phones, except for very short periods of time; where those very short periods of time are seen as huge accomplishments. (Note: I received a free ARC of this book from Amazon Vine.)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary Rey

    I've been interested in figuring out how to focus and minimize the distractions that block me from my writing. I started out reading another book about deep focus and the ways to work without distraction. Both this book, Bored and Brilliant, and the other had one thing in common, technology. The cause of our problems is the enhanced technology we have access to. I didn't have a problem writing a paper in 1992 before the internet was introduced to me. I didn't have a problem studying for the Bar I've been interested in figuring out how to focus and minimize the distractions that block me from my writing. I started out reading another book about deep focus and the ways to work without distraction. Both this book, Bored and Brilliant, and the other had one thing in common, technology. The cause of our problems is the enhanced technology we have access to. I didn't have a problem writing a paper in 1992 before the internet was introduced to me. I didn't have a problem studying for the Bar exam before smartphones. But when it comes to writing my fiction or paying bills, I'd rather scroll through Instagram, post pics, and Twitter-review TV shows. There were some good tips in this book on disconnecting and allowing your mind to be still to not be "on" and working--or worse, addicted to games, etc. For people who like to read non-fiction self help books, I recommend this book. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rissie

    I read (listened to) this book, because I was trying to limit my phone usage. I was noticing that I picked it up a LOT, even when I didn't need to, or even want to. In that regard, this book was very helpful. It gave suggestions and challenges that helped me to use my phone more mindfully. After that, much of the advice in this book is based on two assumptions ... 1. If you do not use your smartphone, you will be bored. 2. If you are bored, you will come up with great ideas. The latter may be true, I read (listened to) this book, because I was trying to limit my phone usage. I was noticing that I picked it up a LOT, even when I didn't need to, or even want to. In that regard, this book was very helpful. It gave suggestions and challenges that helped me to use my phone more mindfully. After that, much of the advice in this book is based on two assumptions ... 1. If you do not use your smartphone, you will be bored. 2. If you are bored, you will come up with great ideas. The latter may be true, but I take issue with the first. Just setting your phone aside does not mean that you are sitting there doing nothing. You may pick up a magazine, or do some yard work, or meet a friend. I think our willingness to *let* ourselves be truly bored goes far beyond phone usage.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Manoush Zomorodi presents some insights into the ways modern life short-circuits creativity, as well as concrete steps to take to enhance creative energy by allowing boredom into our lives. I borrowed this one from the library, but I think I'll want my own copy eventually so I can try out her week of exercises for disconnecting and getting used to boredom. Manoush Zomorodi presents some insights into the ways modern life short-circuits creativity, as well as concrete steps to take to enhance creative energy by allowing boredom into our lives. I borrowed this one from the library, but I think I'll want my own copy eventually so I can try out her week of exercises for disconnecting and getting used to boredom.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Glenn

    I'm so glad I have this book in my collection. It's a great reminder to take time to foster my creativity by not trying to fill every free moment with with some kind of distraction/entertainment. I've done the challenges and have really liked the changes. If you haven't read this book, it's definitely worth your time. It's an engaging and interesting book you won't regret reading. I'm so glad I have this book in my collection. It's a great reminder to take time to foster my creativity by not trying to fill every free moment with with some kind of distraction/entertainment. I've done the challenges and have really liked the changes. If you haven't read this book, it's definitely worth your time. It's an engaging and interesting book you won't regret reading.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kaytee Cobb

    well researched and put together, convincing evidence for not letting our devices rule our lives. definitely interested in learning more about my phone usage especially and how to fully tune in in a world filled with digital distraction. heard about this one on the By the Book podcast.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Keely

    In “Bored and Brilliant,” Manoush Zomorodi examines the extent to which smart devices and other technology interfere with the “default mode” spacing-out time our minds need in order to be their most productive and creative. The book is based on the “Bored and Brilliant” challenges she undertook along with her podcast listeners in 2015, and incorporates input from experts in software engineering, gaming, psychology, and other relevant fields of study. At the end of chapters, Zomorodi offers the s In “Bored and Brilliant,” Manoush Zomorodi examines the extent to which smart devices and other technology interfere with the “default mode” spacing-out time our minds need in order to be their most productive and creative. The book is based on the “Bored and Brilliant” challenges she undertook along with her podcast listeners in 2015, and incorporates input from experts in software engineering, gaming, psychology, and other relevant fields of study. At the end of chapters, Zomorodi offers the same challenges to readers, along with past participants’ responses to them. The challenges include taking a photo-free day, deleting a must-have app, putting devices out of sight during work or conversation times, putting time limits on game play, and setting goals to reduce the number of phone pickups during the day. I found this book highly compelling and was gratified to learn that there is a lot of evidence to support what I had suspected—that technology was interfering with my powers of attention and focus and detracting from both my work and my relationships. I had started cutting back my phone usage (especially social media) before coming to this book, and I’ve been happier and more focused as a result. Still, I gained lots of good practical advice from reading “Bored and Brilliant.” One of my favorite tips was to make myself complete some kind of assignment before checking my work email in the morning. That’s a practice I’ll be keeping—along with the overarching idea that the less time I spend on my phone, the more effective I’ll be at work, the more time I’ll have to pursue other interests, and the closer I’ll be to the people I care about.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shan

    This is a simple, friendly book whose premise is that your life can be better if you give yourself a chance to get bored and do some daydreaming. In other words, put your phone away. It offers a week-long series of challenges, one per day, beginning with monitoring your baseline behavior and ending with a capstone exercise in which you use your newfound powers to make sense of your life and set goals. I recently started listening to the author's Note to Self podcast, which discusses a lot of the This is a simple, friendly book whose premise is that your life can be better if you give yourself a chance to get bored and do some daydreaming. In other words, put your phone away. It offers a week-long series of challenges, one per day, beginning with monitoring your baseline behavior and ending with a capstone exercise in which you use your newfound powers to make sense of your life and set goals. I recently started listening to the author's Note to Self podcast, which discusses a lot of the ideas in this book, but the book pulls it all together, along with the evidence underlying each aspect of the program, and comments from podcast listeners who did the challenges in 2015. I haven't done the challenges yet but just listening to the audiobook has made me more aware of when I'm tempted to pull out the phone to counter the agony of waiting thirty seconds for the light to turn green or for my dining companion to come back from the restroom. It's also made me think about all the other ways I've found to fill my attention so I never have to just be in my own head: I always have a book with me, I listen to NPR and podcasts while driving or walking the dogs, I watch movies while doing chores. Not to mention the puzzles and games I do while watching tv, just in case there might be a spare chunk of unoccupied brain. The author recommends reading the whole book first, then going back and doing the challenges. Tip: if you're listening to the audiobook, make sure to bookmark the challenges as you go along. I didn't; I was painting a room while listening to it, meaning I'm pretty much going to have to listen to the whole thing again to find them. It's okay. It will do me good. Oh, and there's some surprising information here, too. Like, the link between meditation and creativity. Which isn't what I thought it was.

  23. 5 out of 5

    B.P.

    This book was an excellent impetus for me to interrogate my relationship with my phone and other screens. I was able to critically reflect on how addicted I was/am to particular apps and technologies. I tried some of the challenges in the book designed to detach you from your phone baby. Very liberating. The point of the book is that we need to be bored (without stimulus) in order to generate ideas and solve problems. Learning to be away from my phone longer has lessened my anxiety and provided This book was an excellent impetus for me to interrogate my relationship with my phone and other screens. I was able to critically reflect on how addicted I was/am to particular apps and technologies. I tried some of the challenges in the book designed to detach you from your phone baby. Very liberating. The point of the book is that we need to be bored (without stimulus) in order to generate ideas and solve problems. Learning to be away from my phone longer has lessened my anxiety and provided my mind with time and space to consider what is important to me and rethink how I should spend my time. (hint: more reading of books!) p.s. I have noticed some reviewers are critical of this book because it is a bit light in the way of proper research. I acknowledge that, but I gave it a high rating because it scared me into action.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kathie

    This book came along at just the right time when I needed to take a break from all the negative news on social media. There are some excellent, practical solutions to help you limit, or break away from, your device, and I fully intend to use the challenges to help make some regular habits.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Heare Watts

    I won an advanced reading copy of this book during a Goodreads giveaway. I am under no obligation to leave a review or rating and do so voluntarily. So that others may also enjoy this book, I am paying it forward by donating it to my local library.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lisa of Hopewell

    I learned of this book from this blog post https://www.sarahsbookshelves.com/the... I learned of this book from this blog post https://www.sarahsbookshelves.com/the...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ash Wilson

    To clear things up right from to git-go, this book stated several times throughout that it is NOT an anti-technology book, and it wasn’t. In fact, it often discusses how advances in technology greatly benefit our day to day lives and general being. I think it was all about coming down to balance & how we need to check / police ourselves more with how much we let various forms of technology really control our lives altogether, particularly our brains, ability to learn, read, listen, make memories To clear things up right from to git-go, this book stated several times throughout that it is NOT an anti-technology book, and it wasn’t. In fact, it often discusses how advances in technology greatly benefit our day to day lives and general being. I think it was all about coming down to balance & how we need to check / police ourselves more with how much we let various forms of technology really control our lives altogether, particularly our brains, ability to learn, read, listen, make memories, human connections, think original thoughts, explore our creative & artistic sides, etc. Towards the very end of the book, it was stated best - “Bored and Brilliant is about living smarter and better within a digital world.” Although all the information throughout the book could be taken as basic, common knowledge, barely scratching the surface of anything too deep, there were still many things I learned or thought about on ways that I’ve known them, but never truly analyzed them before. First case in point - A story was told in either the intro or the first chapter, I don’t specifically remember, but it was teachers talking about getting too lost in the fabulous technology provided to many of their classrooms nowadays and how the B&B Challenge made them have more eye contact with students in class. This really made me think. My friend & colleague working at a college preparatory high school, Kristen, is the one who lent me this book, and we recently discussed this piece that I took away from it in that as I am not a teacher, I do various faculty / paraprofessional jobs around campus, I realized how often I do sit behind my computer in the library nearly all day long. However, I also have students with me in my library all day long. I thought about how, as Kristen pointed out to me, we only get four years of these students lives to truly spend with them, and they are four of the most important, informative years by far. I thought of: A.) What I’m really modeling for them not coming out from behind my monitor more often. & B.) What I and they are missing out on interactionally by not spending more personal, one on one time with each other. I talk to them and try to help them constantly, yes. But I so often do that from my desk, where I’m stationed at my computer and not being fully present with them in the moment. That whole piece got me super focused and into this book right off the bat. Then the book went into something that was SO right up my alley, as it has always been very near and dear to my heart. - Old fashioned reading vs. Kindle, computer screen, iPad, etc digital reading. Fascinatingly, 92% of university students still prefer paper books to e-books. ALL IS NOT LOST. I am a school librarian and I adore the library. But I believe so much in real, physical books that you can hold in your hand and flip through and while I can’t deny the much more mere convenience of a kindle or even an audio book, the section of this book discussing all of the benefits young people are even still recognizing in a good, ole’ fashioned hardback, brought me OH so much joy! Somewhat on the same vein, the book then went on to discuss taking notes by hand and why it’s better for your brain and memorization skills than typing on a computer. Typing is often verbatim, whereas note taking in your own hand will include your own thoughts and ideas of what’s relevant, important, pertinent, etc. There was even a thought provoking interview with a teacher who does not even allow laptops in their classroom. (That would help cut back on cheating tremendously too.) The last two points I knew I had wholeheartedly agreed with. Then I re-thought about and learned some things. Such as - don’t just put the phone facedown if you go out to dinner, coffee, etc, with friends, family, or even in a professional meeting setting. Put it out of sight, out of mind completely. Playing on your phone during conversations about anything with anyone definitely does affect the legitimacy, empathy, communication, etc of that conversation. Talking on the phone vs. texting / emailing? I raise my hand up high about being guilty on this one! How many of us would MUCH rather text back and forth for hours, or have an email chain for days, (I’m not talking about simple, yes or no, quick questions that texting was basically designed for), than have a real, personal, 5-10 minute phone conversation that would probably be a lot more clear and understanding of the other person’s tone and feelings on the subject? I think that many of us have even built up an anxiety about conversations in person, but particularly on the phone, now that it has become such an almost taboo thing. Then there’s the basic idea of not necessarily needing to fill every single moment of our lives / awake time doing (what we consider to be) something... anything. Let your mind wander! Just because you’re sitting on a bus or sitting waiting to pick up take-out or for your coffee to be made, or whatever, doesn’t necessarily mean you always need to pull out your phone and check social media or email or play a game. People-watch. Talk to real people. Let your mind freely wander without being forced to concentrate on something specific at all times. Picture taking mania with camera phones was a very interesting chapter because it was one of the ones that really made me self-evaluate. I thought of how many moments I’ve missed at concerts, etc. because of all of the pictures and video I felt so excited to take. I’ve always loved people pix more than art photography landscaping, etc however, I have been guilty of taking pics in museums of exhibits just like what was used as an example in the book. However, I wouldn’t say that I’m totally on the camp where pictures are a way of communicating for me. I don’t even have Instagram. I don’t understand the point of Snapchat. I don’t even understand the idea of people who can’t imagine a day going by in there lives without taking pictures. I’ve never understood bathroom selfies, food pictures, etc., and yet I can’t honestly say that I’m not guilty of having taken them in the past. A quote from that section of the book that I would seriously like to follow is: “My goal is to be in the moment more often than photographing it.” I have tried to do this more before I even read this book at the last few concerts I went to, trips I went on, etc. Be present, myself more instead of behind the iPhone recording or photographing. The book posed the important question: “How does our need to capture the moment, change how we actually experience the moment?” What if our taking a picture to remember a moment adversely or negatively affects how we end up actually remembering and perceiving the moment in our brains, harming the memory we have of that moment forever? If your camera captures the moment, then your brain often doesn’t. And at the end of the day when we really think about it, besides social media, who are we really photographing it for anymore? It’s not like we’re scrapbooking all of the thousands of pictures we take. How many pictures do we take on our phones, post to social media, save to the cloud or whatever ... and never even look at ever again? Challenge #3 was to live a photo free day. It surprised me that that would be difficult to anyone. The closest I’d come is it might be odd for me to live a photo free week without pictures of my dog. She’s by far the most pictures in my phone. Also, if they count screen caps as taking photos then I might have a problem. I do take an awful lot of screen caps. Hopefully the B&B challenge acceptee who got into the car accident on photo free day didn’t need to take any pictures for insurance purposes... I did disagree somewhat about making a make believe utopia version of yourself on social media though. I only post fun, happy, uplifting cool stuff from my life and experiences because that’s what I feel my FB friends would most like to see. I’m not at all trying to show off or paint an unrealistic picture of myself. I just don’t care to use social media as a diary or a place to vent the negative or bothersome, stressful, depressing aspects of my life to people. It’s not that I’m trying to hide anything or only show the ‘glorious’ side, that’s just the side of my life that I see a social platform such as Facebook for - to stay in touch with friends and family and share our adventures throughout life together. The interview with the creator of Two Dots was interesting to me just because, much like the author, several members of my family are obsessed with that game. I, myself got stuck on a level for a few months one time a few years back and just gave up altogether. I did find it interesting that the Two Dot’s creators’ main pet peeve about other game designs is that he doesn’t like games that reward you for checking in. Yet he’s proud that in Two Dots you only get 5 lives before you have to wait 20 minutes for another life to play again, (unless you pay actual, physical money for more lives), which he feels forces people not to binge the game. But I don’t see how that’s any different at all from rewarding people if they check into a game once or more a day. Waiting 20 minutes for a new life (if you don’t just pay for them), is encouraging people to come back to the app every 20 minutes, is it not? I didn’t quite get the logic on that one, I’ll admit. Fortunately, as far as video games go, I’m not a big gamer, myself. The only games I play on my phone / iPad that I will admit I have a slight addiction to, are trivia games about things I love. Such as QuizUp or SongPop. I LOVE physical games like board and card games in real time with real people and I think those are positive for socialization and de-stressing, compressing, etc. Of course, I do love me the occasional Mario Brothers game with my sister or something, but as I said, I, for instance, had no problem wasting no more of my time with Two Dots once I got stuck on it for too long. As the chapters went on, I found a few things that I really didn’t see the same way as was being presented in the book. Especially in the last few chapters. But overall, as you can clearly see per my review, I enjoyed this book tremendously, felt I learned from it, gained new perspective, saw some of my own faults that I need to work to correct, and I really liked the author’s laid back style of writing and communicating the research rather than many books like this that are written more with the tone of the author coming off as snooty, more well educated, and above the reader somehow. This author made her life and her faults so relatable to mine, and I love how she openly discussed the mistakes she, herself makes all the time in these challenges and lessons. I definitely think I’ll at least partially take on trying out the B&B challenge this summer and I for sure want to check out her podcast!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition

    When very bored, your brain apparently goes into a "default mode" - that is when creativity and productivity is at it's best. The premise of this statement is that if you are not otherwise distracted, you can think more clearly (obviously) however, according to the study by Manoush Zomorodi, people nowadays are NEVER not distracted, primarily by their cell phones and other devices. In fact, she states that the only businesses that refer to their customers as "users" are technolgy /software develo When very bored, your brain apparently goes into a "default mode" - that is when creativity and productivity is at it's best. The premise of this statement is that if you are not otherwise distracted, you can think more clearly (obviously) however, according to the study by Manoush Zomorodi, people nowadays are NEVER not distracted, primarily by their cell phones and other devices. In fact, she states that the only businesses that refer to their customers as "users" are technolgy /software developers and drug dealers! Zomorodi proves that it is good to be bored once in a while by her research and proposes a 7 Day Challenge to wean people off their electronic devices: The Bored and Brilliant Seven-Step Program CHALLENGE ONE: Observe Yourself First you’ll track your digital habits—and most likely be shocked by what you discover. CHALLENGE TWO: Keep Your Devices Out of Reach While in Motion Keep your phone out of sight while you’re in transit—so no walking and texting! CHALLENGE THREE: Photo-Free Day No pics of food, kitten, kids—nada. CHALLENGE FOUR: Delete That App Take the one app you can’t live without and trash it. (Don’t worry, you’ll live.) CHALLENGE FIVE: Take a Fakecation You’ll be in the office but out of touch. CHALLENGE SIX: Observe Something Else Reclaim the art of noticing. CHALLENGE SEVEN: The Bored and Brilliant Challenge In a culmination of all the exercises, you’ll use your new powers of boredom to make sense of your life and set goals. I found the interviews with software developers to be interesting and informative. It was also fun to read the responses from her volunteers who went through the 7 step challenge. I thought I used my phone a lot when not neccessary and was somewhat addicted to social media, so I downloaded the monitoring software and found I did not pick up my phone nearly as much as the people who participated in the survey and it was relatively easy for me to participate in all of the challenges, especially deleting apps - it was a kind of silly relief to delete HBO and Hulu and I found I absolutely did not miss out on anything by not using Facebook for up to 40 days at a time! (but I did not delete FB after all, argh) The "fakecation" from work emails is something that some of our departments do at crunch time anyway, so that was not a problem either. I thought the book was a little too long and have a feeling that my millenial aged son would have a harder time with these challenges than I did, but it would be a good eye-opener for anyone who uses electronic devices to look into this. PS. I love Manoush Zomorodi's "Note To Self" broadcasts on NPR

  29. 4 out of 5

    Heather Conkin

    Loved this book! So timely. It reminded me of Cal Newport's most recent book, Deep Work except much more light hearted. I love Manoush's podcast Note to Self and this was a great extension of her work there. Loved this book! So timely. It reminded me of Cal Newport's most recent book, Deep Work except much more light hearted. I love Manoush's podcast Note to Self and this was a great extension of her work there.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Antonia

    First thoughts: Just two chapters in, but feeling annoyed. The author seems to be conflating boredom with daydreaming and mental meandering. Boredom, by definition, is weariness, apathy, unconcern, lack of interest or enthusiasm. I don't think she's going to convince me that this can lead to brilliance. Weird semantics. And fairly redundant already. . . . Second thoughts: Now six chapters in and I like it better. It's really about the way that technology, mainly smartphones (evil, time-wasting ap First thoughts: Just two chapters in, but feeling annoyed. The author seems to be conflating boredom with daydreaming and mental meandering. Boredom, by definition, is weariness, apathy, unconcern, lack of interest or enthusiasm. I don't think she's going to convince me that this can lead to brilliance. Weird semantics. And fairly redundant already. . . . Second thoughts: Now six chapters in and I like it better. It's really about the way that technology, mainly smartphones (evil, time-wasting apps!) and social media are changing our lives and brains, robbing us of time that could be more productively spent. I agree to a point, but take it with a healthy sprinkle of salt. I'd have to look at the research. There's a lot of fear-mongering about the evils of computers and the shortening of attention spans, etc. Again, I'd have to see the science. I still don't buy the notion that boredom is a good thing. Maybe we just disagree on semantics, but I think Zomorodi misuses the word.  I finished this book with mixed feelings. There’s a good deal to think about, but . . . My main problem with the book is still the semantic issue. Zomorodi talks about boredom as though it’s a positive thing. What she really means is not boredom, but slowing down, appreciating solitude, taking time for introspection in order to engage the imagination and become more productive or creative. The other irritating thing here is the extent to which she presents her “experiment” as science, presenting the findings as “statistics.” It seems to me that this was all self-reported data by a group of people very motivated to reduce cell phone usage and to report that they’d in fact done so by using the recommended strategies. Even so, the reduction in phone usage was quite small. And Zomorodi reports that even she, herself, put her most addictive game (Two Dots) \ back on her phone and began playing it again when the “experiment” ended. Hmmm… I listened to the audio narrated by the author. It’s very lively and conversational. At times, a bit much, but anyway, never dull.

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