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Boredom: The Surprising Path to Success

Boredom is not the enemy! Learn how to use it to boost your creativity, productivity, and success.

Framework Garage | Boredom is the surprising path to success

Boredom is a feeling many of us strive to avoid at all costs. We fill our schedules to the brim with activities, entertainment, and work, leaving no room for idle moments. If you have been keeping track of free time, try quantifying it in hours and think about how much time we actually have to do nothing. Boredom often seems like an enemy we must defeat at all costs, but is it really an enemy?

The short (and unsatisfactory) answer: it depends. Feeling bored a lot is unhealthy.

While there is no shortage of opinions, facts, and theories on boredom (there's an International Society of Boredom Studies that just hosted the annual 5th conference this year!), there are enough studies to point out that boredom sprinkled throughout a day is actually good.

What if I told you that getting bored can actually be a powerful tool for enhancing your thinking and boosting productivity?

What if you learn that embracing boring moments might just be the key to success? That's the focus of today’s article - boredom!

Here’s what you can learn today:

  1. Dive into boredom

  2. Explore why it's good for you

  3. Learn how to harness its potential for success

So, what leads to boredom?

Boredom can be triggered by various factors, including monotonous tasks, repetitive routines, and a lack of novelty. When we encounter situations that fail to challenge our minds, we become bored.

While I love creating my own analogies to explain ideas and concepts, I can't do a better job than Dr. James Danckert.

“We need to maintain our body temperature within an ideal range (the homeostatic set point). Too cold and we start to shiver to warm ourselves up. Too hot and we sweat the excess temperature out. For thinking we have a similar need. We need to be engaged in things that are not too easy or too difficult given our range of skills and talents. Boredom’s function then is to tell us that we are outside our cognitive homeostatic set point – we’re either understimulated or overstimulated and we need to find something else to do because of that.”

Dr. James Danckert, co-author of Out of my Skull and a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo.

So, boredom is a signal that whatever we are doing isn’t stimulating. At this point, we have two choices: either do something that stimulates us or continue getting bored. Interestingly, the first option often leads to endless scrolling on social media. The second option, however, is what I want to draw your attention to. This 'zone,' if I may call it that, is capable of generating great ideas that your mind wouldn’t be capable of if you are consistently overwhelmed.

What is our state of mind when we are bored?

When we're bored, our minds enter a unique state known as the 'default mode network' (DMN). The DMN is characterized by decreased neural activity in areas associated with attention and arousal. In this state, we often find ourselves daydreaming, with our thoughts wandering aimlessly. The brain defaults to regions involved in introspection and self-reflection.

This state is where creativity thrives!

Think about it—how many great ideas have you had when you were deeply engrossed in a task?

I'll go first: 0. Sure, I had ideas, but truly great ones? Not a single one.

However, when you're following a routine, operating on autopilot mode, your mind is free. This state provides a fertile ground for ideation. Has anyone else experienced having a brilliant idea while, say, brushing their teeth? Shower?

What are the benefits of getting bored?

The benefits of boredom are numerous. It can lead to curiosity, creativity, learning, focus, relaxation, and, most importantly, success. In our modern work culture, where constant stimulation often results in stress and burnout, boredom offers a way to slow down, reflect, and generate innovative ideas.

In my 14 years of experience in analytics, the best ideas came to me when I wasn't actively working. The increase in idle time is strongly correlated with the quality of my work, enhancing my thought process and ultimately enabling me to be a better analytics partner and a leader.

I've shared this insight with those I've had the privilege to mentor. My go-to line for advocating idle moments remains, 'If you're constantly firefighting, when will you find the ideas to make things better?'

Ideas don't necessarily require more time; they need mental space, and boredom is the most common path to creating that mental space.

Here’s a structured chain that connects boredom to success.

The best part? You've already experienced this chain several times! I've only broken it down into stages to help you understand the process. It doesn't happen instantly, but boredom is that spark.

So, how can you "stay" bored?

My top recommendation is to intentionally schedule time for idleness on a regular basis. Just do nothing. If you're a knowledge worker, it's crucial not to be fully immersed in tasks all the time.

We've all experienced what it's like to be bored. The goal is to extend those moments a bit longer.

Wrap up

Boredom, once considered a negative emotion, has been proven to offer several benefits. So, the next time you find yourself in a state of boredom, don't resist it—embrace it as an opportunity to slow down, reflect, and unlock your creativity. Remember, some of the most groundbreaking ideas often emerge during moments of idleness. Let boredom be your pathway to success and innovation!


Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your feedback. You can either comment or reach out to me here.

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