A Terrible Thing to Waste

Chapter 55 of the book Self-Help Stuff That Works

by Adam Khan:

DO YOU SOMETIMES feel tired? Listless? It might be boredom. Some tasks are just plain boring, and when your mind is bored, it starts shutting down or drifting off and going to sleep. To stay awake, you must engage your mind. Here are a couple of ideas to help you:

Move faster.
This makes your mind pay closer attention in order to avoid mistakes. This demand for increased attention wakes you up, focuses your mind and makes the task more challenging. You can speed up without feeling unpleasantly stressed: Make it like a game. How much can you get done in the next half hour? Set a target and see if you can reach it. This makes a tedious task less boring and, as a bonus, frees up more time for things you like to do.

Listen to something.
Everyone knows it's more fun to do physical work while listening to good music than it is working in silence. Music engages your mind to some degree. But there is something that engages your mind more completely: talking. There has been a virtual explosion in the publishing industry of books and seminars on audiotape. Many people who commute to work have converted that boring and otherwise unproductive time into a mind-engaging education. The amount of material available on tape is staggering. In the next few years, using only the time you spend driving and doing household chores, you can learn a foreign language, listen to countless great books read to you by the best readers in America, and transform boring routines into an opportunity to expand your mind.
There's another kind of value to tapes. Often it doesn't matter what you have learned. Even if you could recite it, some practical knowledge matters only if you have it in mind. Ideas about human relations are like that. I have pretty much memorized the principles in Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends and Influence People, but when I am face-to-face with a real human being, I often forget it all. It isn't fresh in my mind - it's stored away somewhere. For this kind of knowledge, it's better to listen to a little every day. Then the ideas will be in the front of your mind when you need them.

USE THESE two ideas to make boring tasks more interesting to your mind. Move faster, listen to something, or both. A mind is truly a terrible thing to waste. Brains are made to be constantly interested. Brains aren't like muscles; muscles get tired when they are used too much. Brains get tired when they aren't used enough. Brains not only get tired, but over time, they can become smaller and more feeble.


Research is now showing that it is a myth that people lose their mental ability with age. What they have found is that people who don't continue to use their mental abilities - people who don't continue to learn and grow - lose their mental ability with age. Learning and growing is for everyone, young and old alike. Even during a boring task, you can find a way to engage your mind.

During a dull task, move faster or listen to something.

Here's a technique to use when you're having a hard time accomplishing your goals because other people seem to interfere with you.
Use What You Get

Scientists have found out some interesting facts about happiness. And much of your happiness is under your influence.

Science of Happiness

Find peace of mind, tranquility in body, and clarity of purpose with this simple method.
Constitutional Right

The questions you ask direct your mind. Asking the right kind of questions makes a big difference.
Why Ask Why?

A simple change in perspective can make you feel better and can also make you more effective at dealing with the situation. Here's one way to change your perspective.

What if maximizing your full potential was bad for you?
Be All You Can Be

This is a simple technique for reducing a little of the stress you feel day to day. Its biggest advantage is youcan use it while you work.
Rx to Relax

next: "I Don't Know What to Do With My Life"

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 20). A Terrible Thing to Waste, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Last Updated: March 31, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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