#029 - BORED IS GOOD, and it's actually good for you. Being bored can stimulate your creativity, your flexibility and help you solve problems. Join your host, Dr. Charles Boyer, to hear some of the benefits. You won't be bored!
Hello and welcome to Keys For New Leaders, a podcast Serving Leaders Serving Others. This is your host, Dr. Charles Boyer, but my friends call me Charlie, and that’s most certainly YOU, my friend. If you are a new or newer leader, or are joining this podcast for the first time, a special welcome to you. And, if you are a returning listener, a very warm welcome back! I’m so glad you’re here for this episode. If you haven’t already done so, please take a minute to click on the subscribe button on your audio platform, and you’ll receive notices of future episodes as soon as they are published.
Serving Leaders Serving Others is what we’re all about. In this series of podcasts, my goal is to serve you, the leader, helping you serve others through sharing ideas, helpful hints, suggestions, inspiration, insights, encouragement and sometimes a laugh or two to lighten the load along the way.
I want to take a minute to thank you so much for listening! I’ve been surprised – and pleasantly so – to note that we have over 2600 downloads from many different cities to date, and new ones coming in all the time. I’m so glad you’re enjoying these podcasts. Thank you again!
This is Episode #29, called Bored is Good. What? Yes, you heard me correctly: Bored is Good. Studies show that boredom can foster creativity, flexibility, and problem-solving. I wish I had known that years ago.
It was the second day of summer vacation, and my then-teenage daughter declared, “I’m bored!” The first thought that came to my mind was that this was going to be a long and difficult summer. Then, just to be a little bit outrageous, I said, “Just go knit, or something,” and laughter saved the day. And, the summer. But she didn’t take up knitting.
As a new leader, you probably won’t be bored for a long time – but keep this in mind when you find that things begin to feel routine and the newness has become a bit stale: Bored is Good!
Being bored is often viewed as a negative, and it sure can be if you let it. Boredom left unchecked and unchallenged can lead to negative situations and unhealthy choices: depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and more. That’s sure NOT what we want to have happen.
There really are a number of benefits that can come from being bored. You tend to get what you give your attention to, so let’s avoid the negatives and focus on the benefits during our time together.
Being bored can help increase our productivity. That may sound a bit strange, but studies have shown that boredom can stimulate your brain to process new information better. I’ve certainly found that to be true. When I’m stuck on something, I often take a break by doing some task that is very repetitive and a little boring, and soon my old brain begins to churn out a new way or ways to solve the problem.
Being bored can lead you to be more creative. Your mind can begin to wander and to wonder – and when you just let go, you just might be amazed at what can happen. The story that J.K. Rowling told about being on a long train ride with nothing to do prompted her to begin to dream up the story of Harry Potter, and just look where that creative streak led!
Being bored can help you make changes in whatever it is that bores you. It’s a part of your productivity together with your creativity. When something becomes overly repetitive it can easily become boring, not only for you but also for the people you lead. You can change that, my friend. Challenge yourself to find a different way to do the same task, or challenge yourself to present the same information in a different way. I have often joked about teachers who have taught the same stuff year after year. It’s like they haven’t taught for 25 years, they’ve taught one year 25 times. I once had a professor like that. His lecture notes were written on white paper that had yellowed with age. At the end of each class, he would take the stub of a pencil and make a little mark on his notes where he stopped. One day, he didn’t make that mark, and the next class, he gave the same lecture, word for word, including the jokes. It was obvious that he hadn’t changed the course content or his delivery in years. After that experience, I always challenged myself to change and never taught the same course twice in the same way. Never.
I still challenge myself to make changes. For example, about twice a month, I play Singalongs for residents at a nearby memory care facility, and I change some of the songs each time. The memory care residents likely wouldn’t know the difference, but I do. It keeps me on my toes to prepare new music, and it helps me keep the presentation fresh each time.
Do you ever wonder how singers or actors keep from getting bored, doing the same songs or the same role day after day, week after week, month after month? Well, it can get to be boring – if you let it! It is hard to keep the same routine fresh in your own mind, and for your audience, whoever they may be. No two performances are ever alike, so the challenge becomes making the magic happen every time. It’s not easy, and it certainly isn’t boring if you take that approach! Think of that the next time you have a routine meeting with your team. Treat it like a performance. How can you make your role fresh and inviting to them?
Bored is good. It helps us stop and smell the coffee. It gives us a much-needed break from the “always on and instant answers” pace of modern life. Author Adam Grant wrote that “Resting is not a waste of time. It is an investment in well-being. Relaxing is not a sign of laziness. It is a source of energy.”
Bored is good. Try boring yourself with silence. Silence is indeed golden, and quite a rare happening these days. We’re so used to being wired for sound all the time that we’re forgetting what “quiet” really sounds like. Yes, there really is a sound of silence. Have you heard it lately? Listen – you’ll be amazed at what you hear!
Bored is good. Why do we think it’s such a bad thing? Bored is good. When you’re bored, think of your boredom as an opportunity to relax, to think, to dream of what is possible, to try something new and different, or just wonder “what if…” Let your brain rest and recharge. Being bored is nothing to be afraid of. Being bored gives us a chance to just be ourselves and enjoy just being.
Bored is good because you can do so much to make creative use of that boredom. Imagine what you can do! Read a novel, not a how-to book or a professional journal or business article or the newspaper. Read a genuine, honest-to-goodness story and let yourself get lost in that story.
Draw, paint or sketch a picture. Learn a new song on whatever instrument you play. Read a play out loud to yourself and get into each character as you read their lines. Watch a movie you’ve seen lots of times and look and listen for something you haven’t noticed before. Take a walk and observe the world around you. And leave your phone and your earbuds and your music playlists at home. Go to a park, sit on a bench, close your eyes, and just listen. Observe all the sounds and listen and enjoy.
Bored is good. If you have a boring task to do, make it into a game. If you are right-handed, challenge yourself to do something left-handed only. If you have a long to-do list, re-write it in reverse alphabetical order. What other ways can you think of? C’mon, stretch your imagination a bit. It won’t break.
Turn off and tune out some each day. Hit the mute button frequently, or better yet, turn off the TV for awhile. Treat your ears and your nerves to a rest from the constant thumpa-bumpa soundtrack that underpins nearly all the commercials and many of the programs these days. Turn off your phone and take a break from it for a period of time every day. If we don’t, I think the next generation will begin to be born with cell phones hanging from their ears, and over-developed thumbs for texting. Take back control of your time. Give yourself permission just to BE each day. You are worth it!
Bored is good, and so good for you! So, the next time you catch yourself saying or thinking “I’m bored,” if you can’t think of anything else to do, just go knit or something.
I don’t want to bore you with too much talk in each episode, so let me end this by asking you three open-ended questions to give you a few points to ponder, challenge you to make good use of your boredom and maybe stir up your creative juices a little. No, this is not a test, and nobody is going to score your answers. In fact, there are no wrong answers. These questions are just for you to think about and DO SOMETHING about, my friend. After all, you’re worth it! And here they are:
1. Think of a time when you felt bored. What creative things could you have done to relieve your boredom?
2. Describe how you felt the last time you heard the sound of silence. If you haven’t done this, try it.
3. A two-parter: (1) What are three ways you can take back control of your time? – and – (2) Which one will you commit to doing this week?
And for those of you who have stayed on through the whole podcast, thank you for your patience and persistence. Now, here’s that special key for this episode: It’s the Key of G for GOOD. Good for you that you’ve recognized some boredom in your life, and Good for you that you have resolved to do something positive and creative about that boredom. Good for you that you are actually doing something to make your life less boring. By the way, knitting isn’t as easy as it looks, and it certainly isn’t boring!
The next episode is one of those landmark episodes – it’s #30, a landmark I never dreamed we’d get to when I started this series of episodes. It’s called “Everybody is Somebody.” And the opposite of that is Nobody is Nobody. Think of that. Everyone is unique. Everyone is special. Everyone deserves to receive your best efforts to make them feel valued and happy because of you. Treating Everybody as Somebody is what leaders who serve others is all about.
Until then, my friend, stay safe and well, and now – take back some control of your time, just for you, because you are worth it!