Here’s some advice I bet you thought you’d never hear: Let yourself get bored more often!
Studies show that boredom is an important part of the creative process - and can actually lead to breakthrough ideas and increased productivity. Because when we’re bored, our brain starts sifting through stored information – and makes us more likely to make connections that never occurred to us before.
The problem is – we’re never bored anymore! Because we take our smartphones everywhere we go and any second of downtime can be spent texting, playing Zombie Tsunami, or surfing the web. And that’s true whether we’re standing in line, at a stop light, or even using the bathroom.
But avoiding boredom is costing us. Researchers at the College of William and Mary analyzed two decades worth of creativity tests and found that creativity scores are steadily declining. But in another study - volunteers who read the phone book before taking a test – and got bored doing it - were better at solving problems. They were also more likely to come up with ingenious uses for everyday objects. That’s compared to test-takers who didn’t read the phone book first.
So, what’s the deal here? Experts say that boredom happens when your brain doesn’t receive enough simulation. But it’s not like your brain ever slows down – it has to keep processing something. So when we’re bored, it goes back into our mental files and fiddles around with the information that’s already there. Your mom might’ve called it daydreaming but psychologists say it’s a complex process that allows us to view information from new and different angles.
So, if you’re trying to solve a problem - or overcome a bad case of writer’s block - you might want to read the phone book or a financial report, or tackle a dull task like organizing your CDs. Because that can help get your brain bursting with creativity again.