Get posts right in your inbox!

My Bored and Brilliant Challenge – Part 1

April 24, 2018
My Bored and Brilliant Challenge - Part 1 |Tiny Ambitions

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). Because I wanted to share my daily experience with you (and because apparently, I have a lot to say on the topic), I’ll be sharing the challenge as a two-part series here, sharing Days 1-3 this week, and Days 4-6 next week.

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, specifically, your phone.

Based anecdotally on my own personal experience, I know our phones are fundamentally altering 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 favourite 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, 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

My Bored and Brilliant Challenge: Part 1 {Pin} | Tiny Ambitions

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 phone(s) 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.

Durig Day 3, the impulse to check my phone mostly left. 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 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 good, actually. Photo free day was hard, but, once I freed myself from the expectation to have to take photos, it was actually refreshing.

If 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!

Stay tuned for next week’s post when I’ll go through days 4-6 and share some final thoughts on the experience and how it’s changed my habits with technology (hopefully) permanently.

If you missed last week’s episode of Tiny Bites, all about my attempts to pay off my sleep debt, you can listen to it here.

P.S. Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist just opened up a new round of his Uncluttered course. If you’re thinking of starting a minimalist mission, but aren’t sure where to start, this may be the course for you! Learn more (affiliate link). Read my disclosure here.  

Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions

  • […] up on my radar earlier this year. Most recently, my friend Britt over at Tiny Ambitions did the Bored and Brilliant challenge. Since in my opinion Britt has impeccable taste, I knew I had to see for myself what this was all […]

  • Katie @ Retiring To The Road April 28, 2018 at 7:33 am

    This is great! I am definitely going to take on this challenge. I started putting my phone upstairs when I arrive home from work so that I’m not tempted to check it in the evening. I don’t bring it back down again until the kids are in bed and I’m ready to zone out on the couch. It makes the evening much more pleasant when I don’t feel like my attention is divided.

    • Britt April 28, 2018 at 10:03 am

      That’s awesome! Good for you for taking that step. And divided is exactly the right feeling. My brain can’t be fully present in two places at once. If I’ve got my phone on me, I’m in my phone. Thanks for reading, Katie!

  • Daisy April 27, 2018 at 9:22 am

    This is a great challenge, Britt – I’m now pretty curious about the book. And since you asked, delete that app would be the hardest for me. I already do photo free day a lot – I was a freelance photographer at one point and I was surprised how much I enjoy NOT taking my camera out – and I’ve noticed the damage leaving my phone out all the time does. (Though I still take it out on hour long commutes, but I put it on airplane mode and read an e-book most times.)

    But delete that app… Well. I’ve noticed the main apps I use through the Battery settings on my iPhone (it shows which app uses the most battery which technically tells me which ones I use most), and the thought of deleting any of them makes me whimper. Will work towards this one!

    • Britt April 27, 2018 at 12:08 pm

      Thanks, Daisy! I totally recommend you give it a try. It would be interesting to see how your delete that app day goes. It was easier for me than I thought!

  • kiwiandkeweenaw April 26, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience with the challenge! I’ve been working to be more mindful of my phone/social media/blog time since quitting my job. It is so easy to get sucked in, instead of enjoying my mini retirement. When you said you deleted chrome I did cringe. I don’t think I’d have any problem getting rid of twitter/instagram/gmail, but chrome?!?! Yeah, that’d be hard. That probs means I should delete it right now.

    • Britt April 26, 2018 at 11:48 am

      Technically, I didn’t delete it delete it. My phone wouldn’t let me (I have a Google Pixel). But I did remove it from my home screen and out it back in my app folders, which pretty much guarantees I’m not going to use it haha It was refreshing to have a Google free day!

  • Lisa April 25, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Awesome, Britt! So glad the first half of the challenge went well for you. Sounds like you got a lot out of it, especially the photo challenge. I’m looking forward to reading about how the second half went for you and your final thoughts on the whole process! I’ve been reading the book this week and am up to the last chapter. Thanks again for a great book recommendation. 🙂 I’ve certainly been blown away by some of the research mentioned!

    • Britt April 25, 2018 at 6:21 pm

      I’m so glad you’re liking the book! I feel like a lot of what she presents is very common sense. Like, deep down we know our phones aren’t great for us. But, once you read the evidence, it really sinks in. Thanks for reading, Lisa!

      • Lisa April 26, 2018 at 3:22 am

        Totally agree with that, Britt – it’s basically just backing up what many of us instinctively know to be true!

  • Leigh April 24, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    I really love the recent iOS feature that puts your phone automatically into Do Not Disturb mode when you start driving! It is a huge help with 1). One thing I use to counter 1) sometimes is that I save certain mindless tasks for time on the bus. For example, if I know I’m going somewhere on the bus in the morning, I don’t look at Instagram until I’m on the bus and I use the time for that.

    As for 3), one thing I do is to kill my most used apps immediately after using them so that I can’t just double tap into them. Email, instagram, I do this with. I don’t have Twitter or Facebook on my phone. I only check Facebook on the computer, once or twice a day. Also, with Instagram, I mostly stopped posting actual posts and just post stories. Why? I don’t worry about likes and comments any longer. It’s been a huge help.

    • Britt April 24, 2018 at 7:29 pm

      I love all of this, Leigh! I’ve also mostly done the same with Instagram. I post very infrequently in my feed but more so in stories. They are more fun anyway!

      I also like your idea of saving your social media (or email or games), for a specified time/place. That sounds like a great way to deal with everything all at once, not having to worry about it throughout the day.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Amy Miller April 24, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    Interesting challenge! I hadn’t heard of it before, so thank you for sharing.

    Similar to Day 1 of the challenge, a few months ago I decided to have phone-free mornings. I used to check news apps, weather apps, and social media apps while I drank my morning coffee and ate breakfast. I realized all of those things could wait until I get to work (well, maybe not weather, but I usually know what the weather will be like because I watch the evening news). My morning routine has become a lot more peaceful. Even though I have the same amount of time as before, I feel less rushed. And I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything by not checking my phone first thing in the morning 🙂

    • Britt April 24, 2018 at 5:03 pm

      You’re most welcome, Amy!

      I feel the same way about my no social media mornings (mostly). I read blogs now I’m the morning rather than watch YouTube videos or scroll through social media. Its made a big difference for me! It’s exactly like you describe it, I have the same amount of time, but I feel way less rushed.

      Thanks for reading!

  • theluxestrategist April 24, 2018 at 4:31 pm

    I recently had lunch with someone recently, and she had her phone on the table faced down the whole time. I felt like it was really considerate. I don’t even do that when I’m eating out with my husband.

    Hmm, I think I could do all three OK! Sometimes I’m so busy I don’t have time to even take a picture, honestly. I do love these ideas, though. Maybe one weekend I’ll do a no-Internet weekend, and see what happens. Could be an interesting experiment!

    • Britt April 24, 2018 at 5:01 pm

      That was super considerate of her! I’m now hyper aware of my phone use when out with people, so I try to keep it in my bad as much as possible.

      I’m sure you’d totally rock this experiment! It would be interesting to see how a no internet weekend would go for you. I’m not sure Twitter could handle your absence!

  • Erin | Reaching for FI April 24, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    Just finished the book and now need to actually do the challenge! I think right now not taking pictures would be the hardest one for me. I walk everywhere and now that it’s spring there are so many gorgeous flowers out that I feel compelled to document and share! Although that also leads to a lot of clutter in my photos—I take a bunch of pics but then don’t go through and get rid of most of them.

    As for deleting your most-used app, it would be Twitter for me. I SHOULD delete Two Dots but then I’d lose all of my progress in the game and I’m just not willing to start from level one (although that would probably be a good way for me to delete the game entirely then! 😂).

    • Britt April 24, 2018 at 4:58 pm

      I had never heard of Two Dots before I read the book, so it’s funny you play it too!

      Photos was by far the hardest to me. I love documenting everything and finding new angles for things, so Day 2 was a struggle for sure.

      You should totally do the challenge! I highly recommend it just as a learning experience alone.

    Hey! I'm Britt. I write about living a tiny, simple, intentional life. Because life doesn't need to be lived big.