09/21/2010 01:22 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Combatting Boredom

There comes a point, after the novelty of having free time during the day has worn off and between frantic bursts of job-search activity, where mind-numbing boredom settles in. So the unemployed are presented with a quandary: how do I entertain myself without spending any money? Well, at least not too much money.

At the start, this seems fairly simple. My Netflix subscription was given a workout, other unemployed friends spent shockingly large chunks of time on my couch, and all of those small tasks that I had been putting off for the last year of my life were completed. Fantastic. Finally all of my files were actually in some coherent order.

This gets old quickly. I can only spend so much time in front of the television in a given week and I do not sleep 12 hours a day. This is when a good many of us start going to the gym. An office job rarely does wonders for the waistline, and exercise is a means of being productive while at the same time temporarily freeing me of the computer. I practically moved in to Back Bay Yoga. I was there so often that I genuinely felt sorry for my favorite instructor, as I was unavoidable and do not lack for personality.

Read a book, you say? Dozens. Pick up a new skill? Circus silks. Networking? Endless lunches, dinners, drinks, coffees, informational meetings and awkwardly distributed business cards, yet still hours remain free every day.

Now what?

Ah ha! I decided to be a better person. I started by taking on a few extra tasks for my family. My parents both work full time and needed some help coordinating the holidays and my grandparents' move to Atlanta, so I did my best to pitch in and let them focus on their normal lives. This went well, so I attempted to generalize it to the rest of my life. As it turns out, however, not all of my friends need my assistance and it is not a good idea to fix things that are not broken.

Next step: learn an entirely new area of the law. There are a lot of organizations and publications that need primers and articles written on all sorts of topics. It's also good mental exercise to buckle down and learn something new. Excellent, that makes two productive weeks.

Eventually, I ran out of other activities and decided to seek some contract attorney work. A quick summary of the job: on a good day you can only hope to be treated like you do not exist, the work is boring, and you run the risk of ending up with a scarlet "C" (for "contract") emblazoned on your chest, rendering you untouchable by desirable jobs.

Contract attorneys are considered the dregs of the profession, people who cannot find real employment and are summarily dismissed by employers. I have not even put any of my contract assignments on my résumé out of sheer paranoia that I will never be taken seriously again. Bills and boredom have driven young lawyers who never would have considered anything outside of AmLaw 100 law firms during campus recruiting to document review and due diligence assignments in the cubicle farms of temp agencies.

Still, these assignments get us out of the house, into business casual attire, and off of the unemployment rolls for a few weeks. More importantly, in rare occasions, the task at hand requires actual legal analysis and our brains come out of retirement. Having the opportunity to think in a way relevant to our profession is unbelievably satisfying.

Still, time moves slowly between projects and the doldrums can be numbing. If you have an unemployed friend who is driving you insane with phone calls, gchats, dinner invitations and references to extremely bad television, think of it as a compliment. You are clearly interesting enough to be categorized as intellectual stimulation. Have mercy on us, twenty-four hours is a lot of time to kill each day.