The Power of Boredom

How to use boredom as the ultimate lifehack.

The Power of Boredom | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

I listened to such an interesting podcast this week: Am I Boring You? from the Freakonomics Radio podcast. This is a really great show and I highly recommend it. They aways have interesting content, and they are great storytellers.

Boredom has been a huge interest of mine for a while. Earlier this year I asked: Would you rather be busy or bored? I think it’s a fair question. Would you rather have too much on your plate, or nothing at all? This podcast asks a series of very good questions: What is boredom? Why do we get bored? Does everyone get bored? And, what does it mean?

My takeaway from the show is as follows:

Boredom is an emotion that has developed over time, similar to other instinctual emotions (fear, love, hate, etc.). These emotions are mental triggers that lead us to act. For example, when we are afraid we summon the power to either fight or take flight. Boredom is an emotion that is caused when our brain recognizes that what we are doing has no purpose.

You have mental resources, they’re scarce and they’re really important and valuable, and boredom develops as this signal that mental resources are not being used wisely, they’re not being used on valuable pursuits. -Amanda Markey

You will feel bored when you are in a situation that does not stimulate you, either mentally, physically, spiritually – whatever you wish. When your brain recognizes that you are wasting your time, you will feel bored!

Evolution gave us emotions for survival. So, fear is useful. Anxiety is useful. And even boredom is useful, because you don’t want an organism who just does the same thing over and over again without learning anything. It would be good to equip that organism with an emotion, an urge to move on when they don’t think that they’re learning anything new. -Angela Duckworth

It makes perfect sense. You may be sitting there, wasting your time away, feeling restless and bored and you just don’t know why. It’s because you are not learning anything new! Because you are not challenging yourself! Because you have become stagnant! Your brain recognizes this and it’s trying to tell you something!

The key is to recognize the symptoms of boredom and use it to change your life. The next time you feel bored, you need to stop what you are doing and get out of that situation! Think about what you are doing at that very moment and why you are not learning anything new. And then make a change. Never put yourself in that situation again. Change your attitude. Course correct. Do something that enriches your life, that makes you happy, that makes you feel like you have a purpose.

Do something. Do anything.

Listen to Am I Boring You?  and let me know what you think!

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A Brief Selection of Weird Search Terms

I think I’m really reaching my target audience.

image

I’ve been meaning to write this list for a while because I get such a kick out of it. Something changed in the terms of service for WordPress or Google over the past few years so I’m getting fewer search terms coming down the pipeline, but man, they sure are wacky.

There are a bunch that make sense. Lots of searches for my name, Carleton, Seneca… A few people I have written about. A weird surge for Lauren Conrad Braids, Realistic Horse Costumes, and Guac. And then the crazy:

Misc.
kanye west’s outrageous high heels
why my ” and @ button are swapped (I still don’t know)
swords of famous people
there is no modern romance (re: swap boxes)
jaguar cichlid breeding (ew why?)
where can i buy a wallet in fairview mall
can i use paper clips to start an avocado
people freaking studying
why the changing of the guards at buckingham palace is so exciting (because it is!)

Nihilism
i am not boring
people who gets bored there the one who are boring
do not waste your feeling status
im learning to be alone
feeling bored and lonely photo

The moral of this story is that Big Brother is watching you! I think we are all in agreement that anything you type, click, view, or send is in the public domain. So keep that in mind while you’re browsing. Nothing is a secret and there is no such thing as privacy on the internet.

Dot Com Boom

I finally caved and bought www.maggiedebarra.com!

Notes

For a long time on my About Me page, I had written “Maybe one day I’ll buy my own web domain and stop doing everything for free. But that day is not today.” Well, my friends, that day is today. Well this year really. I bit the bullet and bought www.maggiedebarra.com and www.maggiedebarra.ca! Using my fantastic computer skills, I even re-directed MaggiedeBarra.ca to MaggiedeBarra.com and I mapped my WordPress blog to MaggiedeBarra.com! Does this make sense to you? It does to me! I owe it all to my many hours spent back in high school hacking websites to copy and modify their code.

I really do enjoy the structure and style of WordPress and I am happy to continue using their publishing platform. I used GoDaddy as a host because Diggnation brainwashed me many years ago. In addition to these new matters, I even updated my Theme to give it a mini face lift!

What’s in a Name?

This blog has been Paper Clips for so long. Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra. It just makes sense to me. It sounds and feels so familiar! I couldn’t bear to change it. I did run through many other possible names (I wanted to call it In Medias Res back in third year, though I couldn’t seem to make it work…) but I kept coming back to this one. That or simply calling it MAGGIE DE BARRA, which sounds ever more pretentious and narcissistic than owning a website that is simply your first and last name dot com. And so, I will continue using Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra as my go-to until another name strikes me, or I get a cease and desist order!

To Blogue or Not to Blogue

I think one reason why I waited for so long is because, in addition to being extremely clumsy, I’m really shy! I am. With minor online exhibitionist tendencies in the form of public tweets and private instagram photos, but at the heart of it, I am shy.

I remember reading somewhere: It’s not personal branding, it’s just living your life online. And yes, my generation is doing just that. Your online presence is a mural, and every tweet, photo, and post is another brush stroke.

I thought for a long time that if I could hide behind maggiedebarra.wordpress.com it meant that I was projecting to the world that I was not really serious, that I could stop at any time, and that I’m simply indulging an odd, online hobby. But, attaching my name, and throwing a few dollars consideration at it, that means I am proclaiming, loudly: Hello, world! This is really me and I am serious. I am still shy, but I’m working on it.

Type-Casting

For a long time this website had been a “student life” blog, documenting my experiences as a college and university student between 2008-2012 (what a nice time capsule!). Since I am now a young, urban, working professional, it has really morphed into something totally unique. It is not a millennial blog, or a fashion+beauty blog, or a foodie blog, or a music blog. As much as I’d like it to be, it is not my dream Modern, Moderate Feminism Blog (#modfem). I write about my life and experiences and things that are interesting and important to me. I write a lot about Canada and Toronto because they are the centres of my universe.

One term that I have always loved is “hyper-local”. I came across this term when it was applied to a few Ottawa blogs back in university. They would cover all the local goings-on: restaurants, concerts, cafes, shops, and local politics. They weren’t exactly travel blogs, but they’d be worth checking out if you were going for a visit to learn all about the cool local spots.

And so, I think in 2015 I think I will try to write more about the people, places, and things I love, and to embrace the hyper-locality of it all!

2013: A Year in Review

There are no walls but those we build ourselves.

2013 was a year of great personal growth and change. I feel that I have become a better person along the way, and I recognize that I have a long way to go.

Re: last year’s resolutions: I pushed my long run to 13 miles, just about the distance of a half marathon…; I did not get my driver’s licence…; I managed to make two trips to visit friends in other cities; I took many photos, read a decent number of books, and saw all the movies I wanted to see. I like to think of the resolutions as suggestions, and not rules.

Music

Freelance Whales, The Knocks, Passion Pit, Tame Impala, Alt-J,Whitebrow’s CD release party+ Church show, He’s my Brother, She’s my Sister, Vampire Weekend, the Arkells, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Girl Talk, Hot Chip, Phoenix, Beyonce, and Kanye West.

I didn’t see as many concerts as some past years, but, I consider myself lucky that I have seen just about every band that I could possibly imagine. I already have Jay-Z and Arcade Fire lined up for next year. Arcade Fire is really the last big band that I want to see, but have not yet had the chance to do so.

Passion Pit

I saw Passion Pit at Lollapalooza in 2012. Their show was in the early evening. It was their first show back since their brief hiatus. It was a lovely summer show. In February, I was lucky enough to see Passion Pit again in all their glory at the Kool Haus during the middle of a spectacular snow storm. Their show is made to be experienced indoors, with all of the lights and trappings.

Beyonce

All my dreams came true when I finally saw Beyonce live. We were the first show since the surprise release of her new album. Her voice was powerful, her dancing was sharp and energetic, and the girl power in the room was off the charts. I paid homage to her earlier in the year when I dressed as Beyonce in her single ladies video for Halloween. The costume did not go to waste, as I wore it again for the concert. We were the only people in the 300s to dress up. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Kanye WestKanye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me preface this next part by saying that I am Kanye West’s biggest fan. After postponing our show just over a month due to unforeseen technical difficulties, my sister and I were able to catch the last show of the Yeezus tour on December 23rd. We had amazing seats in the 100s, and it will be hard to enjoy a concert from any other seat going forward. His latest album was experimental, and while there were a few good songs, I felt it was mostly wanting.

Kanye punctuated his energetic, oldie but goodie songs with show stopping new songs. I mean literally show stopping, as he would cut all the music and talk for minutes at either end. His performance seemed lackluster to me, but I probably just didn’t get what he was going for. He seemed in disbelief at our response at times, as if we weren’t giving him enough energy, or singing along to the level he wanted. I feel like you should expect to receive the energy you give out, and seeing how he sang 3+ songs lying on the floor and talked for longer than he sang (including a 20+ minute rant about the Grammy’s), I left the ACC feeling really let down. He did bring out Drake for a few songs, which was awesome, and I think the crowd loved that more than the rest of the show.

I was hoping for an energetic performance like Eminem at Lolla in 2011, or the last two times I’ve seen Macklemore. Maybe Kanye thinks that he is already at the top of his game, so he doesn’t have to work for it anymore. Macklemore on the other hand is hungry, and as I was sitting in the ACC, I was wishing I was back at Echo Beach with Macklemore and crew as they shocked all of our senses with their magnificent show. Things to consider for the future…

Theatre

I was able to take in one musical and three plays this year. Cats at the Panasonic Theatre, and three shows in Stratford: Romeo and Juliet, the 3 Musketeers, and Othello.

Romeo and Juliet was exactly what you’d expect. The 3 Musketeers was swashbuckling and funny. My favourite has got to be Othello. The set design was innovative and all the actors were on point. The tension during the last scene was so powerful it gave me chills. I am really looking forward to next year’s season.

Sports

4 Jays games, 2 Leafs games, and 1 Rock game.

Halifax

I spent four days in Halifax in March. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day at the Split Crow and I cooked my first Lobster.

Halifax

Ottawa

I celebrated the May24 weekend in Ottawa with a kayak and a hike.

Dow's Lake

Parliament

Tobermory

In June, we visited Georgian Bay and went cliff jumping in the Grotto. The water was freezing, but it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

Grotto

The O Course

My coworkers and I were crazy to sign up for the O Course. After a little training, we tackled a 45 minute boot camp work out, a ~7k run, and a ~2hr obstacle course. It was the most physically exhausting feats I’ve accomplished to date. In the first half of the course, during the run, I was in 5th place out of the women. By the time I reached the second half of the course with the major obstacles, I fell to 77th place! This race is no joke. I thought I was in decent shape but I was put in my place. I’d like everyone to experience this just once so that they can take themselves to their limit, and break through it.

Miscellaneous Adventures

Friday Night Live @ the Rom – The Mesopotamia Exhibit @ the ROM – The AGO – Parkinsons Super Walk – Canada Day at Turtle Castle and Burrits Rapids

Toronto Fashion Week

Fashion Week

Boat Cruisin (count the cranes!) + Winning a Limbo contest

Toronto

Birthday

Birthday Card

I am 25 years old. I am officially older than all of my favourite literary characters.

Ice Storm 2013

Ice Storm

On December 22, we woke up with no power and no heat. The whole city was covered in ice. I sent a tweet to Toronto Hydro late on the 23rd, and on the morning of Christmas Eve, we were shocked and surprised to hear the buzz of the power turning back on. I’ve never been so happy for a hot cup of tea before in my life.

That being said, it was nice to spend some unplugged time with my family. We played board games by candlelight for eight hours straight. We learned that our candlesticks burn for five hours.

Blackout

New Year’s Resolutions:

To continue in my transcendentalist spirit of self-reflection and self-improvement:

Read one book per month, plus whatever is on the docket for my book clubs.

See more movies and more live shows. I think I’d like to head to Osheaga this summer.

Visit one Toronto attraction/museum/exhibit per month.

Go to a Toronto FC game.

Run a Half Marathon!!! So ambitious, but it would be nice to say I’ve done it at least once.

G1? Maybe…

Delete Facebook. I have been trying to wean myself off Facebook for some time now. I think it is a waste of time and energy. I think now is the opportune time, before any more engagement rings or babies start showing up in my news feed.

And with that, I will give a fond farewell to 2013, and a hearty hello to 2014.

Quarterly Review

So far, so good.

It’s strange to think that I have just one month of school left. It’s scary to think that I’ve been out of university for two years! That is frightening. Reminds me of the good old days blogging for Maclean’s. I think I summed up how I’m feeling right now here. One month of school, four weeks, four exams and that’s all folks. It is overwhelming and I sympathize with my fellow graduating students.

The first quarter of 2012 has been pretty great so far.

Re: New Years resolutions- I’m trying to take lots of photos, waiting with my fingers crossed for the Lollapalooza lineup, and happily managing the stress of my final semester through painting my nails, writing exercises, transcendental meditation and working out on a regular basis.

Here are a couple of things that have helped to make these last few weeks a bit brighter:

world peace crossword
inspirational fence signs  monday morning crosswords

valentines korean bbq
homemade doily valentines korean bbq at korean village restaurant on bloor

toronto map flowers
• 
craigslist antiques breakthroughs beautiful flowers on the walk to school

combo royalewords with friends
live music  73 point words

A Place for Everything

And everything in its place.

I just wanted to show off my new flavors.me homepage. I’ve been looking for something like this for quite a while. I wanted a splash page that was stylish, user friendly, and easy to navigate. Flavors.me is all of those things.

I like Flavors.me for three reasons:

  1. It looks great.
  2. It was easy to create.
  3. It is efficient.

It will take less than ten minutes to craft and design your Flavors homepage. The customization options are very simple and easy to use. And it collects a bunch of your most important links and puts  them all in one really good looking page.

I changed my homepage url on Twitter from this blog to the splash page. This blog shows off my work and what I’m doing, but not everybody who clicks through from Twitter is interested in that. Maybe they want to see my photos or foursquare. Using the Flavors page let’s the user make the decision, instead of forcing something on them.

It also presents a more varied display of what I do and what I’m intersted in. Right now I have collected my blog, flickr photos, twitter stream, my tumblr and posterous accounts and my foursquare feed in one spot. Mine is pretty basic, but you can look at what some other users have created for inspiration in their design gallery here.

Flavors.me seems to be catching on. I read about Flavors.me while reading Amandalyn Ferri’s blog a while ago, and today I noticed that Lifehacker did a little write up about it here.

I’ve started using a lot of new services in the last month or so: Flavors, Buzz, Foursquare and Posterous. More on those later.

“You Should Follow Me On Twitter Here.”

Marching to the drum of Dustin Curtis.

Last night I came across this post by Dustin Curtis about Twitter and click-through rates. Curtis studied the click-through rates based on different prompts to readers, urging them to follow him on Twitter.

“Follow me on twitter” is the phrase I usually use. Curtis discovered that he got a 7.31 per cent click-through rate with this prompt. “You should follow me on twitter here” raised the click-through rate to 12.81 per cent. This is an impressive increase.

According to professor Wikipedia: click-through rates are calculated by taking the number of times a person clicks on a link or ad and dividing that by the number of times that the link was available for viewing. For example, if my About Me page was viewed one hundred times, and five people clicked the link to my Twitter page, then I could have a click-through rate of 5 per cent.

There are a couple of cool things about this study:

  • Curtis uses a lower-case t in twitter instead of a capital T in Twitter. This is something new to me. I think it works because it slips in the command seamlessly. It doesn’t interrupt the flow of the sentence by having Capital Letters throwing off your GROOVE. Also having a capital Twitter just seems a bit overpowering, while lower-case twitter seems nice and friendly.
  •  The command is a bit stern: You should follow me on twitter here. It just sounds so tough. But, if you think about it, a lot of people may have no idea what Twitter is or what you do on Twitter. If you sound like you have authority in this area, the herds may be more willing to follow you. It’s 10 per cent what you say, and 90 per cent how you type it.

I’m going to follow his lead, and I am already following him on Twitter (@dcurtis). I’ve put that command in my About page and I look forward to seeing if there is any change in my click-through rates. One more thing:

You should follow me on

twitter here.