Turning boredom into a tool for creativity

photo: Magnet.me
photo: Magnet.me

How being bored can be useful for creatives

The word “boring”’ is charged. 

In our industry, downtime can be looked at as lack of hard work. But simply embracing boredom can have a lot of power.

Boredom is actually pretty amazing. It allows us to turn off, not think, wander and discover. It also has real creative benefits, as proven in a March 2019 study by the Academy of Management.

In advertising, everything we do is creative – the work, the strategy, even the decks and proposals we put together. But if we gave ourselves a bit more leeway to get bored during our day jobs, perhaps we’d be more creative. 

Most of us are uncomfortable sitting in our boredom, because we’re trained to be constantly doing something. Now that our schedules have drastically changed during the pandemic, think about using moments of boredom to fuel your creative inspiration.

Walk. Living in downtown Boulder gives me the opportunity to walk the town, people watch and get lost in the mountainous landscape. Find what’s special about your environment. Wander a park, walk down a new street -- and leave your cell phone on the charger. 

Stimulate your mind. Rather than defaulting to passive entertainment, try picking up a book, taking a class or learning something new. Podcasts and music are great, but they can be mindless, and mental stimulation sparks great ideas. 

I’ve been a guitar player for more than 30 years, but I recently started taking online lessons to hone my chops and learn new skills. It was a stimulating challenge that helped me get unstuck and feel empowered.

Exercise. I was once working on a large multi-client project, and my team and I were swirling because of the number of players in the mix. I took a break from the chaotic environment to work out. Observing people exercising around me sparked an idea: rather than accept the confusion, we should scrap the brief and start clean. 

It turned out that was exactly what our team needed. Creativity isn’t just spurred from our minds but how we move our bodies. Jog, run, get outside – simply move. Don’t watch calories or set a timer. Leave the earbuds at home and get lost in the power of movement.

Unplug. We rely on technology for everything. We are constantly connected, and not just for work. So it’s natural that we’d turn to our phones the second we feel bored. Next time, opt out of tech and into something else. Take notice of your surroundings. When you’re not head in your phone, your head is in life. 

Make time. I block off my calendar for my “free” time. For just one hour, I stop working and recharge, whether that’s by running an errand, calling my parents or meditating. Forcing the mental break is very effective for me.

Do nothing. This last one sounds simple, but it’s the hardest to practice because we’re trained to seek constant stimulation and entertainment. But sometimes blocking an hour to do literally nothing is the mental break we need to come up with our next great idea. 

So, the next time you find yourself with too much time or overthinking the situation, try getting bored. Your creative side will thank you.

Devin Reiter is chief marketing officer at Fortnight Collective

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