According to the psychologist John Eastwood, boredom is “the unfulfilled desire for satisfying activity” — when our mind and bodies are looking for, but failing to find, something that merits our meaningful attention.
Researchers have found that subjects who are asked to perform boring tasks later perform better than a control group at a creative activity. The scientists believe that when we’re bored, we tend to start daydreaming, engaging in the kind of free and associative thinking that’s fertile ground for creativity.
Boredom can also make us more productive. When we’re uninspired by the task in front of us, it’s easy to indulge in distractions like social media, online shopping, or texting. The productivity expert Josh Kaufman advises us to resist this impulse and embrace the boring task instead. He calls this “strategic boredom” — when we don’t allow ourselves anything else to focus on, we’re more inspired to finish the boring task quickly.
Here are some tips to help you embrace boredom.
1. Don’t Dismiss Boredom
Next time you find yourself in a potentially boring situation — waiting in line at the grocery store, sitting on a bus or train, stuck at your desk with an uninspiring assignment—resist the impulse to focus on something more entertaining. If you don’t have pressing responsibilities, let your mind wander and see where it leads you.
2. Approach Boredom With Curiosity
Researchers have identified multiple forms of boredom ranging from indifferent (calm but disengaged) to reactant (negative feelings, like a desperate wish to be doing something else). When you notice boredom, ask yourself about the nature of that feeling. What thoughts and feelings can you identify?
3. Listen to Your Boredom
Your boredom may be sending you an important message. Being consistently bored at work is a good sign that your work isn’t challenging you. If you’re bored around your friends or significant other, you may have gotten into a social pattern you no longer find stimulating or fulfilling — meaning it may be time to introduce new conversation topics or new activities.
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