The importance of being bored… and eating frogs

Hunter-gatherers couldn’t have had much to do once the sun had gone down and the storytelling was over. I’m sure we can all think of a few things but, aside from the obvious, our ancestors would have little to occupy themselves with but watching the night and watching their own minds watching the night.

We, on the other hand, have as many distractions as we need to completely ignore our experience from sun up to the wee small hours. Are we really as busy as we complain to be? What is it we’re avoiding with all this busywork? Even though I’ve taken a sabbatical my days feel as filled as ever. There are always lists of things – creative, pragmatic, ludicrous – waiting to be done. The busier I get the harder it is to call it a day, stop, and listen to the wind whistling around the eaves. Somehow, I doubt our ancestors’ problems were abstract enough to warrant lists, which would at least afford them more time for living in the present.

A technique I’ve found helpful is to write down one task each day that it’s actually important to do. Choose something that, even if you were to do nothing else that day, would make you feel like progress was made. This is what they call eating a frog: it’s often slimy, difficult to catch hold of and you may be reluctant to do it. If caught early enough, however, a frog can sometimes be swallowed whole or with a minimum of chewing and may even prove tasty. I offer this as food for thought for modern hunter-gatherers and email farmers.