Boredom Can Boost Productivity and Creativity
With how fast-paced our lives have become, it would be impossible to find ourselves sitting idly with nothing to do, let alone doing so on purpose. However, according to a recent study, allowing yourself to sink into boredom may be the exact boost you need to get the creative juices flowing.
The study, led by the Academy of Management, utilized two groups of people. The first group was asked to complete a boredom-inducing task by methodically sorting a bowl of beans by color, one by one. The other group was asked to complete an interesting craft activity.
Following the two tasks, the groups were then asked to come up with an excuse for being late that wouldn’t make someone look bad.
The findings revealed that the group that was tasked with the dull, monotonous task actually performed better than the group that was initially tasked with completing the craft activity. In fact, the boring group outperformed the creative group in terms of idea quantity and quality.
Benefits of boredom
Better mental health
The strain of work, social media and family can take a toll on our mental health yet being bored can provide an escape from these day-to-day stressors, giving us an opportunity to recharge.
Additionally, an Irish study found that boredom can lead one to engage in altruistic behaviors in an effort to establish more self-meaning. This behavior includes doing volunteer work or donating to charity.
Also, as published in the psychology journal Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, boredom can let us know if we’re in a situation that’s leaving us unfulfilled.
According to a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, Sandi Mann, boredom is exactly what you need when you’re looking to spark your creativity. Speaking to Time Magazine, Mann revealed how, due to a lack of stimulation, boredom will have you setting out to find some.
“If we can’t find that, our mind will create it,” she revealed, “there’s no other way of getting that stimulation, so you have to go into your head.”
A 2014 study, led by Mann herself, tasked subjects with completing various boring tasks before asking them to use their creative thinking. The findings revealed that the participants who had the most boring task came up with the most creative ideas.
A separate study published in the Harvard Business Review found that solitary reflection and boredom can boost creativity as it gives the brain an opportunity to daydream and thus conceive original ideas.
It seems that by increasing mind-wandering behavior, boredom helps to increase one’s ability to succeed at a given task (1).
What’s more, a study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition found that boredom can make one more goal-orientated as people are more likely to plan their future when daydreaming.
In terms of the original study’s findings, the researchers hope that it will create a new understanding when it comes to being bored in the office.
“We hope our research creates a better understanding of what it means to be bored at work that will be helpful for managers, employees and organizations,” they explained. “We believe there is an opportunity to improve employee engagement and organizational performance by designating boredom periods for employees during the workday. Organizations like Google and Salesforce are already implementing similar concepts by encouraging employees to nap, disconnect and recharge at work and we believe these practices will expand throughout the corporate world in the coming years.“
While being bored may help to alleviate stress and boost creativity, it’s important to remember not to conflate being bored with purposefully relaxing activities such as yoga and meditation.
To tap into your boredom and boost your creativity, Mann suggests walking a familiar route or even just sitting with your eyes closed and letting your mind wander. It is also imperative that, during your boredom, you stay clear of technology and resist the urge to scroll through your phone in hopes of finding some stimulation.
“We’re trying to swipe and scroll the boredom away, but in doing that, we’re actually making ourselves more prone to boredom, because every time we get our phone out we’re not allowing our mind to wander and to solve our own boredom problems,” Mann explains. “Our tolerance for boredom just changes completely, and we need more and more to stop being bored.”
Thus, the next time you find boredom creeping up, resist the urge to scroll and rather let the boredom take over so that your brain can wonder.
You can read more about the study here.