As an entrepreneur, you might be tempted to jam-pack your schedule you're doing something productive every minute of the day. But one activity you might not have considered making more room for: boredom
According to recent studies, boredom is a productive, regulatory state. It warns us that we are not doing what we want to be doing, then motivates us to think about something more meaningful or interesting. In other words, boredom sparks creative thinking.
Instead of trying to combat boredom, we should embrace it. Here are four ways to lean in to boredom to boost creativity.
1. Let your mind wander
According to University of California researchers, mind-wandering is an evolved trait, and may have aided humans when our survival depended on creative solutions. Through their experiments, they've found that when we allow our brains to wander, we are over 40 percent more effective in creative problem-solving than when we simply take a break.
The next time you start to zone out while you're supposed to be working, allow it to happen. Your wander mind may lead you to a better place than you're able to consciously lead it.
Neuroscience and psychology research have shown that people who doodle are better at refining creative ideas. According to one study, doodling activates pathways of our brain that otherwise go dormant without external stimuli.
Consider decorating your workspace with a whiteboard or chalkboard or stock it with scrap paper. The next time you're bored--maybe you're waiting for a response to an email or perhaps you're attending a meeting or maybe you're sitting in a meeting you don't need to be in (don't worry, we've all been there)--pick up a pen and doodle. Even if your drawing is not creative, your thinking probably will be.
3. Hop on treadmill
Research has shown that walking on a treadmill while staring at a blank wall, enables us to think more creatively than we do when we're sitting down. According to an Oakland engineering professor, part of the reason walking boosts creativity is that it can be kind of boring--we don't have to think about what we're doing, so our mind can instead consciously or subconsciously meander to whatever we've been learning or analyzing.
To give your boredom (and creativity) some legs, leave your headphones in the locker room.
4. Shut off your phone
Given the demonstrated benefits of boredom, psychologists are worried that we may be inhibiting our ability to be bored. Instead of dealing with dull moments, most of us quickly eliminate them by picking up a mobile device. Without allowing ourselves to truly be bored, we inhibit our brains from traveling down its most creative paths.
When faced with a creative task, switch off your phone or put it up high on a shelf for twenty minutes (or ten minutes, or fine, even five minutes). Without the ease of distractions, you'll be able to focus more on your work, and your boredom.
It's time to kill the phrase "bored to death." Instead, let yourself be bored into creativity.