Get bored, get busy

10 September 2018

Last week I did something really weird. It was so strange, in fact, that every couple of minutes I had strangers stopping in their tracks to ask if I needed help and whether I was ok.

What was this strange, counter-cultural behavior I was engaged in? Well, shocking as it may seem, I sat in the staffroom of a local high school and stared out of the window into the surrounding gardens for about twenty minutes, slowly sipping a glass of water. It wasn’t easy, I must be honest. I felt like a bit of psycho, sitting there doing absolutely nothing while hurried teachers rushed around preparing classes and marking tests.

But I did it intentionally. And as hard as it was, it felt really good.

After an extremely intense and demanding morning full of wonderful people, meaningful conversation, productive meetings and hours in the car, my brain needed some space. I was grateful that my next meeting was running a little late and I was asked to wait in the staffroom.

My natural inclination – like most of us – was to fill this half hour scrolling through social media and catching up on messaging. If time dragged on I could click on a couple of articles or watch some cute cat videos.

My brain asked for it, told me it would be a lovely way to pass the time. But I said no. And this time I stuck to my guns.

Like I said, it was hard at first. I felt awkward and it was obvious I made other people feel uncomfortable. It is such a rare sight these days: a person doing absolutely nothing.

But now more than ever this is a practice we need to cultivate.

Numerous scientific studies cite the link between boredom and creativity, problem solving and inventiveness. When we get bored, our brains finally have the space and quiet they need to process our thoughts and come up with brilliant new ones.

When we don’t give ourselves this time we are just on a constant hamster wheel, operating at a way less than optimal level. We are just coping, just maintaining the status quo.

My challenge to all of us is that next time we find a pocket of space – whether in a supermarket queue, while we are waiting for our kids at pick-up or waiting for our ride, in a doctor’s waiting room, or waiting for a movie to start, let’s give our brains a break. Let’s give them space. Let’s give them a chance to come up with some new ways to solve that relational issue, to manage our budget, to connect with our kids.

When we create time in our crammed schedules for blank space, we give ourselves a canvas for something new and something better. In that quiet, ideas start forming, understanding comes, courage takes root and excitement builds. So let’s give ourselves – and our kids – a chance to get bored. Then we can all get busy doing some seriously beautiful and meaningful things!

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