It's Saturday afternoon and I've found myself with a little time on my hands. For about 30 minutes I felt - dare I say? - bored. So, I thought I would hop on my computer and see if I could get a little work done.
As I tried to find inspiration to write about something to do with marketing, I actually stumbled upon a TED talk that dealt with - what do you know?? - BOREDOM. It's like it was meant to be.
The thing is that I hadn't been searching around the term "boredom" - I was actually Googling "social media" when I found this presentation from Manoush Zomorodi, a journalist turned podcast host who created an experiment dealing with how much time we spend on social media.
I'll get back to that in a minute.
Many of us joke that we come up with our best ideas in the shower or in the car. The other day, I was walking and I couldn't get my new Bluetooth headphones to work, so I actually walked in SILENCE and I came up with a doozy of an idea...because I wasn't thinking of anything else.
I actually joked during a presentation once that you should keep a "dump book" or a brainstorming journal ANYWHERE but your office. Because we all know that's not where the good ideas happen.
But all too often, I find myself staring in a trance at my phone: Facebook, Pinterest, email, and Yahtzee are my drugs of choice. And this is how bad I am - I'll look at my Facebook feed and then 5 minutes later I'll look again. WHY??? It hasn't changed. Nothing is new. But I find myself looking at the same posts over and over again, usually from people I don't even know very well.
All of this wasted time is truly that: wasted. Not only am I not being productive, I'm not allowing myself to be UNPRODUCTIVE. That is, I'm not allowing myself to be bored.
Now, most of the time I'm doing this on my own time which means I'm not taking time
away from my kids (which now I realize sounds ridiculous because what they're doing is sitting there on their own phones). However, my dog, Max, will actually whine when I pick up my phone.
That's right. My DOG has noticed I spend too much time on it.
That can't be good.
So, let's get back to the TED talk. If you have time, I recommend you watch it. If not, I'm just going to keep going so you don't get bored.
See how I did that?
Anyway, as Manoush discovered during her research, when we allow ourselves to be bored, we go into "default mode" which is often when we get our best ideas. And while she expands on other concepts (like autobiographical planning), what struck me the most was that by allowing ourselves to be bored...we're actually being more productive.
Yup. All those times I felt guilty for just sitting there and staring off into space, I should have been patting myself on the back.
Not only that, but often when we're trying to multitask (a concept that is actually impossible for the brain to accomplish), we're doing much more harm than good.
Now, I've never been good at meditating - I am the poster child for "monkey mind" - and being a single mom with three kids (and a dog), there's no way I can completely give up the impossible multi-tasking at this time in my life.
But if I keep going the way I'm going, I could hit a creative roadblock that could be hard to overcome.
And that I can't have.
So, what the heck does this have to do with marketing?
Trust me when I tell you that I realize how backwards this sounds coming from someone who makes a living creating content to promote on social media; that I'm telling you to spend LESS time on your phone makes no sense at all.
Or does it?
I'm also a creative person who understands the time-suck that is social media (and television and Netflix and whatever). Yes, I get that it feels good to just tune out for a little while, but I don't think it's actually very relaxing (those Yahtzee games get intense).
I DO think that it stifles creativity and, as the video talks about, creativity is starting to disappear; as the next generation continues to stare into a small screen for hours at a time, they're not coming up with any new ideas. And I don't want to live in a world where nothing inspires me anymore.
For all my small business owners out there, PLEASE allow yourself to be bored on a regular basis because you KNOW that's when your greatest ideas take root. That will allow your mind to wander and come up with ideas that it wouldn't if it was concentrating on an Angry Bird. It could help you create new and meaningful content that might inspire someone who is just (hopefully) skimming through their newsfeed during the limited time they spend on their phone every day (yes, I know that's wishful thinking).
Their wandering mind just might wander over to your business.