The Boredom and Creativity Link

The Boredom and Creativity Link

Let myself be bored? Seriously? Why would I ever need to be bored again?

Between running the business I love and my handy dandy smartphone, there's really never a reason to be bored.

  • Standing in line at the grocery…Facebook to the rescue.
  • Waiting to get my driver's license renewed…Facebook, Email, Amazon Seller App, and Solitaire Double Klondike to rescue.
  • Driving the car…Audible.

You name a time when I might get bored, I have an app to eliminate it. And so do most people in the free world. Well, maybe not the entire world but in the U.S. most everyone has a smartphone, even kids.

Boredom Is Good For Your Brain

Recently I read (and watched a TED Talk) about how there's a correlation between boredom and creativity. It seems that when you're bored the mind starts to wander and in doing so it starts making associative thoughts. That's where you see or hear something, and that reminds you of something else, and so on and so on. When you get to end you have an entirely new and totally different thought.  Your brain tends to go there quickly to relieve itself of the pain of boredom.

In researching the boredom and creativity link, I found that when you're doing mundane or repetitive tasks that don't require any thinking, your brain goes into what is called “default mode.” According to Dr. Sandi Mann, a Boredom Researcher, this is when it switches over to an autopilot mode. During this time it probes our subconscious and strengthens the communication pathways in the brain giving us better cognitive abilities.

This is why you come up with your most creative ideas when out for a morning walk, taking a shower or standing in line at the Post Office.

Your Boring Morning Walk Can Offer More Than Just Health Benefits

dog on walk

I had lunch with a friend a few weeks ago and she told me that she signed-up to do a blogging challenge. I was a bit surprised because the last few times we'd had lunch she told me she didn't have a clue what to write on a blog. Even though she knew it was good for her business and her customers to have a blog, it was beyond her how to do it. But, she's the kind of person that follows through when she says she's going to do something, so when she said she was going to do a blogging challenge, I knew she'd figure out how to do it.

When the first day of the challenge rolled around, I got her email in my inbox with a link to her first blog post. And then day after day the emails arrived and every day I read them.  She's doing a great job, the posts are really thoughtful, filled with insight and downright good, so I've continued to read them. Funny though, one thing I've noticed, which isn't a problem, just an observation, is that most days she starts her post with something she saw or a thought that came to her during her morning walk. And that was another thing she told me during our lunch, that she always wrote the perfect blog posts in her head during her morning walks, but when she got home she never did anything with them. Well, she finally started doing something with all those thoughts, I'm so happy for her!

This is the perfect illustration of the boredom and creativity link. Unless I'm hiking in the mountains in a place where I've never been before, I can't think of anything more boring than going for a walk. However, that boring morning walk might be just what we need to bring back our creative juices, as long as we leave our smartphones at home or in our pockets.

I Think I'm Losing It – I Won't Let That Happen

yoga poseWhen I was growing up I was bored “all the time.”  It was before computers and there were only three channels on the TV. My brother was five years younger than me so we didn't hang out together. I had friends but it was a small group and you can't hang out with your friends 24/7. That left a lot of hours, especially in the summer, for me to be bored. I'd go on long bike rides by myself. I'd walk to the mini-mart by the house hoping to run into someone I knew. I'd watch reruns of sitcoms while lying on the floor lifting my feet up over my head to touch my toes to the floor behind my head (don't know why I remember doing that but I did it all the time, kinda like a yoga pose). Sometimes I'd talk my grandmother into taking me to the library where I'd check-out craft how-to books and then I'd make a mess on the kitchen table. I would even play games with an imaginary friend.

Back then it seems that I always had ideas for things to do. I was always the one to figure out a fun game or creative way to solve a problem. When I got married, my husband always came to me when he needed help coming up with an idea because “I was the creative one.” Even after the kids came, I was the one to help them figure things out, like what to create for a school project or how to figure out a problem. Again, because “I was the creative one in the family.”

But lately, I have to admit, that creativity is just not there. I still get ideas and can creatively solve problems but not to the extent that I used to. I just thought it was because I'm getting older and I'm not as excited about things, but now that I'm starting to learn about the boredom and creativity link, I don't think it has anything to do with age. I think it's because there is never a minute when I am bored.

What About Our Future

In doing my research I came across an article that quoted a recent IBM poll of 1500 CEOs that identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future. But if creativity comes from boredom and daydreaming, and we're not allowing ourselves to be bored because all our downtime is filled with scrolling on our phones, where will this creativity come from? It's truly something to think about as our kids are raising their kids.

And how does this affect our own businesses? Well, it's something to think about and I for one am going to take it seriously as I consider my creativity to be a precious asset. The other day I purchased the Audible book “Bored and Brilliant” by Manoush Zomorodi.  I haven't started reading it yet but will report back after. I listened to her TED Talk and find the information she's gathered to be very relevant for today's world, I included it below.


Maybe it's time to take a look at your technology habits, especially your connection with your phone. Consider some of the info I've talked about in this article, listen to Manoush's TED Talk and maybe even read her book. You're creative mind just might be dying for some downtime and your business' vitality might depend on it.

Ciao for now!


About the Author Reba Collins

I’m a fifty-something, self-taught, online business geek from Texas and owner of Online To Thrive. A lot goes into creating an online business and it can be a really scary endeavor. I’m here to help make getting started easy and affordable with step-by-step courses that are clear, straightforward, and uncomplicated.

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