The new book ‘Bored and Brilliant’ tells readers why daydreaming boosts creativity
Being bored at work could spark your next brilliant idea.
Daydreaming — in moderation — should be embraced and is actually beneficial for our brains and careers, according to Manoush Zomorodi, author of “Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self,” out now.
“When you’re bored and your body is not doing a focused activity, but you’re thinking or relaxing, you ignite a particular network in your brain called the default mode, this is when we come up with ways of combining ideas and making connections,” Zomorodi tells Moneyish.
Boredom is scientifically proven to be effective. Neuroscientists discovered that we get our best ideas when our attention is not fully engaged in our immediate environment, according to a 2015 Harvard Business Review study by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire mentioned in the book.
“[When we’re bored] we also do autobiographical planning — looking back on our lives and making sense of something that happened to us, then we do something called perspective biases, setting future goals and breaking down the steps we need to take to achieve these goals,” Zomorodi explains of our brains dipping into profound, and sometimes buried emotions, memories, and thoughts when we’re aimlessly thinking.
Zomorodi, who also hosts the podcast “Note To Self,” dreamt up the idea for the book after feeling “creatively stagnant” a few years ago. She realized instead of letting her mind simply wander during mundane gaps in the day like waiting in line for lunch, she, like many others, was glued to her smartphone, a major hinderance of thinking innovatively, she notes.
“In order to do the deep work, it requires something that doesn’t give you immediate feedback, sitting and doing the painful connecting,” she says, of why it’s important to just sit alone with your thoughts verses constantly trying to fill them with social media and other aversions.
“My fantasy is that each corporate office will have a quiet room to do some thinking,” she adds.
While your boss might call this bored behavior lazy, Zomorodi argues that it’s actually beneficial to bringing innovative ideas to work. “You think that to be productive you have to be constantly making something, or answering emails, but stopping to think about the bigger thing is actually vital,” she says. “There’s this idea especially from the younger people even if they’re physically alone they have to post about an experience.”
According to a Gallup report, Millennials are the least engaged generation. Fifty-five percent of Millennials are not engaged in their work, while 50% of Gen Xers and 48% of Baby Boomers are disengaged. But most workplaces don’t necessarily promote quiet time to think freely and benefit from it.
“Today’s culture overemphasizes the importance of constant social interaction, due in part to social media,” Kaufman and Gregoire wrote, adding that many view alone time as being anti-social, when it should be viewed as a sign of “emotional maturity.”
To make boredom productive at work, Zomorodi suggests taking a walk or longer lunch break without your phone. If you’re lucky enough to have a door to an office at work, close it every once in awhile, and block off time during the day to not be on call — an hour or so with an “Out of Office” automated response if you feel guilty about signing off to prevent distractions. The Harvard Business Review study suggests managers give people more freedom to work off site, especially when they are assigned projects that require innovation.
“It’s different than mindfulness and different than meditation — this is letting your brain wonder where it will,” says Zomorodi.
“The amount of time you spent doing the nothing was paid back in spades so exponentially that it was worthwhile,” she adds, of her findings.
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