Work/Life Balance

The Bored & Brilliant Challenge That’s Helping Me Live A Better Life Offline

By | Tuesday, July 03, 2018

In my ongoing journey to simplify my life, I recently partook in the Bored and Brilliant Challenge (based on the podcast series and book of the same name by Manoush Zomorodi). (I made this a two-part series on my blog because I wanted to talk about my daily experience with you, and because apparently, I have a lot to say on the topic — see part two here).

For the uninitiated, the Bored and Brilliant Challenge is a six-day long challenge, with one challenge activity per day designed to help you rethink and rewire your relationship to technology, and specifically, your phone. Based on my own personal experience, I know firsthand how our phones can fundamentally alter our brains and how we live our lives. The book, which I highly recommend, proves this with tons of data from scientific studies done all over the world. Without revealing too much of the book, here are some of my favorite points from it:

  • Social media feeds (and their constant scrolling) has decreased our ability to read and absorb long-form content (i.e. books) properly;
  • Snapping a photo of something reduces your brain’s ability to remember the actual moment;
  • Reading printed paper content is better for your memory retention than digital ebook content (sorry, blog readers);
  • Hand-written notes are easier to retain and recall than memos on your phone;
  • Having your phone on a table (even face down) reduces your ability to engage meaningfully and empathetically with whoever you are with.

Even just one of these facts on their own would have been enough to convince me to try the Bored and Brilliant challenge. Taken as a whole, I couldn’t not do it.

The Bored and Brilliant Challenge

Every day for six days, I did a different challenge activity. The podcast series is still available online, and you can listen to it here. The Daily Challenge activities included:

  1. In Your Pocket
  2. Photo Free Day
  3. Delete That App
  4. Take a Fauxcation
  5. One Small Observation
  6. Dream House

1. In Your Pocket

“On the train, bus, sidewalk, or passenger seat, keep your phone in your pocket. Or — bonus points — in your bag.”

Day 1 was simple. When I was in transit, I had to keep my phones out of my hands and in a pocket or bag. Confession: I drive to work every day, and always put my personal and work phones in my backpack. So, this was an easy one for me. Plus, it’s illegal in Ontario to use your phone (at all) while driving, which is a nice extra incentive.

However, I can see how this would be a challenge for people who have a long commute to work by train. What the heck else are you supposed to do except look at your phone? I upped the ante for myself and stashed my personal phone in a desk drawer for the whole day.

2. Photo Free Day

“We take 10 billion (yes, that’s a “b”) photos per month, mostly on our phones. Today, we want you to start seeing the world through your eyes, not your screen.”

Day 2 was also exactly what it sounds like. No photos for an entire day. No sunsets, no brunch snaps, no cute puppy poses. This is the challenge I was worried about the most. Being a blogger and a semi-amateur photographer, I take a lot of photos on any given day. Plus, I have an adorable cross-eyed rescue cat that doesn’t help the situation.

Of course, we had a gorgeous sunrise on Day 2 that I wasn’t allowed to photograph. What’s interesting is that I can actually remember that one sunrise more than the hundreds I’ve taken previously. I was also desperately hoping my cat didn’t do anything adorable for 24 hours. Thankfully, she didn’t. The realization of this challenge is that I want to take photos for me, and not for anyone on my Instagram (though, if you like them too, that’s a wonderful bonus).

3. Delete That App

“Your instructions for today: delete that app.”

Day 3 required a little prep work. To know which app I used the most (and therefore which one I needed to delete), I downloaded the Space app and used my phone normally for about a week. According to space, I used Chrome the most, followed closely by Twitter and Instagram. So, I deleted all three. After the deletion, I basically had no reason to check my phone except to check texts and emails. So, I didn’t. What I realized is that you can check pretty much anything on desktop — it just takes more work.

During Day 3, the impulse to check my phone mostly vanished. I noticed that I would often want to log in to feel validated by post likes and comments (which is not a good enough reason for me to log in). I did still check my social media (on my desktop), but far less frequently, and I dealt with my notifications all at once. My preference now is to access my phone in concentrated chunks of time, rather than small fragments spread out over the course of the day.


How do I think the first half of the challenge went? Pretty well, actually. Photo free day was hard, but, once I freed myself from the expectation to have to take photos, it was actually refreshing. Remember to check out part two hereIf you were to do the Bored and Brilliant challenge, which one of these challenges would be the hardest for you? Let me know in the comments!

Tiny Ambitions is the online space where blogger Britt shares her tiny, but wonderful, life. Britt is a minimalist, a simple living advocate, and a tiny house enthusiast.

Image via Unsplash


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