Taking a fresh approach to boredom may be just your ticket to greater satisfaction! Why? Because, in our fast paced, digitized and hyper-linked lives we feel more and more compelled to fill idle time that could be used to reflect, relax, create and connect – to ourselves, to each other, and to our best and most important work.
The good news is that while things may seem unusually hectic now, this is an ancient problem: in Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, written around the year 167 AD, he cautions the reader against the frequent use of the words “I am too busy” (Book 1.12). The most important things we might do – or reflect upon – require us to be quiet first. It is in these moments that we are capable of detangling the urgent from the important, seeing new possibilities and solutions, gaining a deeper understanding of our true desires and tapping into a deep well of creativity.
A friend of mine shared a story of how his sons, separated from their phones from breakfast to dinner during the family’s summer vacation, came up with the idea to start a fishing company and not only acted on it but generated a multi-level enterprise that generated income and a lot of fun!
How can you make “boredom” work for you?
Resist the temptation to check email, social media or other digital distractions in idle moments. Schedule time for these duties and indulgences (really – put them on your daily calendar and challenge yourself to stick to it), and use the newly wide open spaces in your day to observe, reflect, read inspiring material, or meditate. I require some of my clients to create blocks of No-Thing time each week – not only has this lead to a greater sense of calm and command of their time, it has enabled some terrific thinking, writing and Ahah moments that are priceless.
Create opportunities in the workplace to brainstorm, explore, and play. What would happen if your team had time each week just to toss around some “what if” scenarios? If instead of sleuth internet shopping, you used down time or found moments to walk around the block and look up (imagine!) and check out the local architecture, faces and scene? To amble – alone or together- with no purpose other than seeing and listening to what’s going on? You might even learn something….
Make friends with your inner voice. Stop and listen to her or him – what is s/he going on and on about? Is it helpful? If not, challenge this voice to shift gears and narrate a new story that casts you as the star of a one-person show that is exciting, successful, engaged and anything but boring!