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My Bored and Brilliant Challenge – Part 2

May 1, 2018
My Bored and Brilliant Challenge - Part 2_ 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), this is part two, showcasing days 4-6 of the challenge. Click here to read my experience of days 1-3.

As a refresher (and if you’re just joining us), 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.

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 2 {Pin} _ Tiny Ambitions

4) Take a Fauxcation

“Craft an away message (or use one of ours). Put it up for an hour, an afternoon, or the whole day. It will make you more productive at things that matter.”

I only applied this activity to my personal phone rather than my work phone. This is because I realized that it’s not normally other people that interrupt my time and productivity – I normally do it to myself.

So, I set up a 3-hour long block on Flipd and set to work. If you want to learn more about Flipd, check out episode 23 of Tiny Bites.

This challenge was pretty uneventful. I didn’t check my personal phone for 3-hours. Case closed!

5) One Small Observation

“We want you to take note of one person, object or interesting, uninventable detail you would have missed if your noise were glued to your phone.”

Day 5 was interesting because I am normally a details person. I’m the person who will always point out something random I see – like a cool bird flying overhead.

What did I notice on Day 5? Well, I had an event at work, so I had my phone literally in front of my face for a good chunk of time.

However, I did notice a couple of things after work:

  1. A pregnant woman walking across the street while holding her belly. It was a loving, reassuring gesture.
  2. Seagulls and crows having a territory battle on the roof of a building. It was hilarious.
  3. The cutest black bichon frise wearing an adorable sweater and peeing on a tree outside our apartment.

To be fair, I probably would have noticed these things without the Bored and Brilliant challenge. Like I said, I notice things.

6) Dream House

“It’s time to get really bored and make something creative. You might just learn something about yourself.”

Step 1: Put a pot of water on the stove. Watch it come to a boil.

Step 2: Make your dream house out of the contents of your wallet.

I’m not going to lie – this is the challenge I was most excited for. I love working with my hands. When I was in high school, if there was a hands-on option for a project, I took it.

I’ve made models of Iroquois longhouses, sewn all kinds of clothes from scratch and painted every free surface available to me. I may not be Luxe Strategist level of awesome when it comes to making things, but I do really enjoy it.

Watch Water Boil For Your Brain

So, step 1 – watching a pot of water boil. I know that sounds boring. And people say a watched pot never boils. But, a) those people are wrong because science and b) I find the process so fascinating.

It took about 10 minutes for my pot of water to boil and I was mesmerized pretty much the entire time. Watching the teeny, tiny bubbles expand and turn into progressively bigger bubbles was a beautiful experiment in growth. I honestly loved it.

Step 2- building my dream house. From the start, it was interesting to see how much garbage I had in my wallet. So, I got a mini wallet purge as an added bonus from this challenge. The task was to build your dream house, with a specific location and site in mind.

This turned out to be extremely ambitious.


My Bored and Brilliant Challenge - Part 2 | Tiny Ambitions
Before: What I was working with (aka the contents of my wallet)

After several catastrophic attempts, I settled for just making something that vaguely resembled a house, rather than my actual dream house. One thing that was interesting in the building process is that I realized I’ve always like stone walkways. Hence my change boardwalk leading up to the house.


My Bored and Brilliant Challenge - Part 2 | Tiny Ambitions
After: My “Dream House”
My Bored and Brilliant Challenge - Part 2 | Tiny Ambitions
After: I’m no Frank Gehry.

I would call Day 6 a success in that it was a lot of fun, even though I won’t be winning any awards for my abstract design. Above all else, the challenge reminded me of how much I enjoy making things.

Final Thoughts On the Bored and Brilliant Challenge

I’ve written pretty extensively on social media and how we use technology in our lives – probably to the point where you guy are sick of it. But, as the challenge shows, our phones are pretty central to everything we do.

My first permanent foray into reducing my daily use of my phone was with Flipd. And, it’s been great. But, it doesn’t fundamentally address your relationship to your phone, it just cuts you off from it.

It’s like doing a junk food band for 30 days – awesome for your help in the short term. But, if you don’t address why you eat it on a daily basis, your eating habits might go right back on the junk food train after your ban is over.

This is where the Bored and Brilliant challenge comes in. To me, it’s the next logical step after doing a digital detox or ban. And it’s certainly a step I needed.

The week before the challenge, my phone consumption looked like this:

  • 265 total usage minutes
  • 278 total times unlocked

During the week of the challenge, my consumption looked like this:

  • 143 total usage minutes
  • 163 total times unlocked

That’s a 46% decrease in total time spent on my phone and 41% fewer times I unlocked my phone! Those are pretty impressive numbers for just 6 days of investment.

Has anything changed for me since doing the challenge?

Well, for one thing, I’m much more aware of my time on my phone. Even after all the bans I’ve done and even with this challenge, I feel like I’m still using my phone more than I would like on a daily basis.

I’ve been thinking about it like this. Think about your to-do list or your wishlist, like working out more or cooking more or taking up a new hobby. How much of that would become achievable for you if you spent less time on your phone?

I know what the answer would be more me – a lot.

If you missed last week’s episode of Tiny Bites, all about my current zero-waste conundrum, you can listen to it here.

My friend, Lisa, from Lisa’s Simple Life Experiment, just wrote a review of the Bored and Brilliant book over on her blog, you can read it here.

Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions

  • Jack The Dreamer May 11, 2018 at 11:11 pm

    Britt, this was an inspiring read! As are your podcasts as well lol. I have never thought about looking at the phone stats on time usage and managing it better! It’s like one of those settings in the phone that I knew was there but never really thought about. Really nice. Will have to see about keeping track with spreadsheets on time management lol and time minimalism.

    Really cool tiny house out of wallet stuffs BTW 🙂


    • Britt May 12, 2018 at 10:16 am

      Thanks, Jack! It’s interesting to know your usage data. It might be different than you think!

      • Jack The Dreamer May 12, 2018 at 10:11 pm

        Lol it’ll probably be way higher than I think 😅 but at least knowing is good because than I can acknowledge the issue and adjust accordingly. So thank you for writing about it!

  • Erin | Reaching for FI May 9, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Woah that’s an amazing cut to the amount of time you spent on your phone during the challenge! Hah I’m definitely not as creative as you, plus about the only things in my wallet are receipts and credit cards (never any cash or change) so I can’t imagine either my dream house or a house in general would be at all creative or inspiring. 😂 And while I do tend to notice details, the thought of watching a pot boil makes me want to scream, so I should probably go do that to flex my very weak patience muscle!

    • Britt May 9, 2018 at 5:34 pm

      I honestly didn’t think the challenge made that much of a difference in terms of time spent on my phone – so it was just as surprising to me when I looked at the numbers. I normally don’t have change on me either, but I had some leftover Eastern Caribbean Dollars from when I was in St.Lucia – vacation change for the win! If you do end up doing this challenge, I’d love to know how the water boiling goes. It was honestly so fun for me.. which probably wasn’t the intended outcome Manoush had in mind haha.

  • Tread Lightly, Retire Early May 3, 2018 at 8:48 am

    I am an extremely unobservant person so that part of the challenge would be extremely different for me. And I’m intrigued by the Flipd app.

    • Britt May 3, 2018 at 2:57 pm

      The fact that you observed that you’re not observant means you’re more observant thank you think! 😉 I like using Flipd in tandem with Space (the iPhone version is called Moments I think). Flipd keeps you off your phone for a defined period of time while Space helps retrain your habits when you do use your phone. I think they work really well together. Thanks, Angela!

      • Tread Lightly, Retire Early May 4, 2018 at 8:45 am

        Ha, maybe so, but I think you’re giving me more credit than I deserve 😉 I oftentimes don’t even see when people have gotten a dramatic haircut for a good month after it’s happened 🤷‍♀️

  • Lisa May 2, 2018 at 4:35 am

    Really enjoyed reading how you found the final three days and your overall comments on the challenge, Britt! That’s awesome that you tracked your pre-challenge vs challenge usage minutes and number of times unlocked, too. You really are a details person Britt. Love it!

    You’re so right, how many of the things we really desire to achieve/learn/experience would become reality if as a society we became more self-aware when it comes to technology? It’s about seeing beyond the instant gratification of being entertained (or, more realistically, distracted/avoidant!) in the here and now, and seeing the bigger picture instead – what is truly valuable to us in the long term.

    I really like the ‘one small observation’ practice that Zomorodi suggests for challenge five. Quite apart from the challenge, I guess this is something I’m trying to incorporate more into my life in general. I often like to read on the train but I’m trying to remind myself to put my book down sometimes and look around at the other people. Yesterday when I put my book away I realised that I hadn’t been hearing the three-year-old right near me continuously imitating the pre-recorded voiceover on the train that announces the next station, then repeating ‘doors closing, please stand clear’ over and over again between stations. It was absolutely hilarious and well worth putting my book away for!

    Thanks for the shoutout to my book review, too, by the way!

    • Britt May 2, 2018 at 7:14 am

      Thanks, Lisa! I agree with you 100%! We need to see instant gratification for what it really is, instant distraction.

      I love your one small observation. It literally put a smile on my face. When I used to commute to school/work by bus, I often tried to just sit and observe. You notice the most interesting things when you actually make the committment to pay attention!

  • […] did the Bored and Brilliant challenge (check out Part 1 of Britt’s challenge here and Part 2 here). Since in my opinion Britt has impeccable taste, I knew I had to see for myself what this was all […]

  • Sarah May 1, 2018 at 11:44 pm

    I’ve never heard of the bored and brilliant challenge but I’m intrigued for sure. And if it helps me stay off my phone then it’s probably exactly what I need. I struggle with disconnecting so often. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to get the boyfriend to give me a breakdown on whatever TV show we’re watching because I just lost an hour scrolling through Twitter or Instagram. I should also download Flipd, clearly.

    • Britt May 2, 2018 at 7:17 am

      Oh my gosh, same here. I’ve gotten a lot better about not multitasking when watching TV, but it used to be so bad. I’m a terrible multi Tasker for I always get absorbed by what is immediately in front of me (usually my phone).

      I like Flipd for scheduling in forced breaks to phone usage. And the Space app (there’s an iPhone version but I can’t remember what it’s called), for learning about your actual phone usage habits and setting goals for yourself. Together, I think they are a pretty good pair.

      Thanks for reading, Sarah!

  • theluxestrategist May 1, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    I think my husband might install Flipd on my phone when I’m not looking.

    I really was drawn to challenge #6 as well. I have never watched water boil before, but I’m someone who has little patience, so that will probably be good for me. I also have always gravitated toward hands-on projects. The choice to either write a paper or do a project? You know which one I chose!

    You’ve got me thinking about slowing down and really thinking about where my time goes.

    • Britt May 1, 2018 at 7:15 pm

      Haha I wouldn’t want to be Teddy when you figured out what he did.

      Challenge 6 was great! If you only pick one challenge to do from the bunch, try that one. I’d love to see what a Luxe wallet house looks like.

      It makes me so happy that you’re thinking about where your time goes. I think a lot of think we’re spending our time doing one thing, when it’s really another. The data for me from this challenge proves that quite clearly.

  • Daisy May 1, 2018 at 10:24 am

    I agree those numbers are impressive after 6 days, Britt! I might try some of them myself (though I was thinking of you in Toronto’s Pearson airport when I got in last weekend – it took an hour for my work luggage to come out and I didn’t look at my phone at all through that time because I realized I didn’t really need to. It was just a habit. *throws confetti*) And I think that house is pretty good for what you had to work with. The coins as a stone walkway is actually pretty genius – I wouldn’t have thought of it. And I don’t think most of us are ever going to be the Luxe level of craftiness (ha!) but you’re pretty creative yourself. 🙂 Thanks for sharing – I definitely will be more mindful of my phone after enjoying seeing your results.

    • Britt May 1, 2018 at 7:17 pm

      What a great realization! That would have been a real challenge for me – I don’t know if I would have been able to hold out.

      You should try challenge #6 too! I’d love to see other people’s wallet houses. I think it would say a lot about how our brains work.

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