As we fill every moment of our lives with activity boredom is becoming extinct. Cell phones have become Swiss army knife-like appliances – we use them as a dictionary, a weather forecaster, a calculator, a calendar, as a torch, for messaging – they feed our mania for cramming every minute and leaving no downtime – waiting in a queue I check my messages – lying on the couch I am texting or catching up on the latest podcast.
The spaces, which once populated our day, moments when we may have felt nothing was happening, moments when we felt bored, have value.
Neuroscientists now know that during this ‘downtime’ when the brain is not focused on a specific activity, it switches to its default mode – a network of neurons switches on – and in this default mode it gathers disparate ideas and makes new connections – it begins to think creatively – it has a chance to solve that problem that has been nagging you for ages. – While you walk to work, or fold laundry, or wait in a queue – in other words when we are on ‘autopilot – our brain has a chance to work ‘off line’ – and think beyond the conscious.
If we are always on our devices – this default mode is blocked and there is no time for new connections to be forged and you are less creative.
So we need to re-educate ourselves and our children about the value of ‘boring time’- as a time to be creative – rather than as a time to be fixed or filled with activity.
We need to change our relationship with our phone – change it from it being our task master to being a useful tool when it is needed. Learn to use technology to improve our lives rather than dampen our creative capacity. And we need the next generation to be creative – they have huge problems to solve – climate change, over population etc.
This in no easy task – the competition for our attention is stiff – there are numerous technology companies employing thousands of clever engineers to keep our attention – working to keep us hooked to our devices – they want our attention 24/7. These people refer to us, their customers, as ‘users’ which should give us a clue about their priorities. They want you to have that itchy feeling, that hunger to stay connected and they build their technology to trigger this. The CEO of Netflix commented that their main competitors for your attention are Google, Facebook and sleep.
So turn off your device, take back control and then stare out the window..take a break…and know that by doing nothing you are actually being your most creative – it might feel strange at first but “boredom can lead to brilliance”.