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Why Being Bored Doesn’t Make You Boring

When was the last time you spaced out? Like, got lost in uninterrupted thought? Can’t remember? Neither can I. It turns out neither can a lot of people.

A recent segment of NPR’s New Tech City raised the question of boredom, pointing out that since the advent of the smartphone, there’s no reason to be bored. Taking the train to work or waiting in line at the store we can play games, interact with others, do work and more – all from the tips of our fingers.

Take a second to think about it. How much time do you spend every day plugged in? Or better yet, how many times a day do you check your phone? By now, most of us have heard about benefits of disconnecting, which though it sounds rewarding, is rather impractical for the world at work. However, even though you can’t get rid of your devices you can put them down. And perhaps you should.

The obsession with being busy has prompted a field of research that’s looking to understand the effects of boredom. More specifically, how boredom inspires originality and creativity. As one researcher puts it, “You come up with really great stuff when you don’t have the easy, lazy junk food diet of the phone to scroll.”

Here are 4 ways to boost your boredom and get inspired:

  • Download Moment and learn how many minutes you spend staring at that teeny tiny screen. Monitor your behavior, set limits and force yourself off your device. As the app’s tagline says, “Put down your phone and get back to your life.”
  • When it comes time to brainstorm, remove devices from your workspace. Focus in on the task at hand, even if it means zoning out for a while. This includes meeting rooms; you’ll get everyone’s full attention and reap the rewards.
  • Check your email only a few times a day (versus an average of 15 times). Unplug from email while you work on a project. If a matter is urgent someone will call. You’ll get more done and may even be happier.
  • Look beyond mindfulness and learn more about being bored. Start small. Take 30 minutes a week to yourself. Turn your phone off, sit at a café and stare at the people walking by. Think about the following: What would more creativity do for your work this year?