Are you bored yet at work today? Maybe you should be, because those dull periods could be an incubator of creativity.

In my projects, I’m always looking for that spark. This might not seem like the time of year to embrace boredom. After all, it’s busy. Post-Labour Day always feels more like the new year to me than January ever does. The summer holidays are over, work is ramping up again and the kids are back at school. It’s a fresh start and the days are full.

No time to be bored? Make time. And relish it.

Several studies have indicated the upside. In one, psychologist Sandi Mann from the University of Central Lancashire asked different groups to find different uses for two polystyrene cups. Before the experiment, she asked one group to copy numbers from a phone book. Tedious, right? Dr. Mann reports that this group found far more creative uses for the cups than the control group.

“Boredom is a fascinating emotion because it is seen as so negative yet it is such a motivating force,” she says.

Dr. Mann notes that she has generated some of her best ideas while commuting to and from work: “This would be dead time, but thanks to the boredom it induces, I come up with all sorts of projects.”

In another study at Penn State, psychologists Karen Gasper and Brianna Middlewood had participants watch different video clips to spur certain emotions. Then they administered a creativity test, asking people to think up different words for “vehicle”.

The subjects who were relaxed or elated after watching the videos didn’t fare as well. Most people just said “car”. But the subjects who were bored had more active minds, even coming up with offbeat answers like “camel”.

No wonder people get creative ideas in the shower – 72% of us, according to a study by psychologist Ron Friedman. He says the routine task allows the mind to wander and opens people up to their inner stream of consciousness.

In any field, including creative ones, some work tasks are boring. If you have to be particularly creative when writing or planning, maybe the best strategy is to line up something mundane right before. Who knows, it could free your mind and get your creative juices flowing.

Stuart Foxman is a Toronto-based freelance writer, who helps clients’ products, services, ideas and organizations to come alive. Follow me on Twitter @StuartFoxman, connect with me here on LinkedIn, or check me out at I would love to hear from you. More articles like this coming, with original posts every week about communications, writing, branding, creativity, media, marketing, persuasion, messages, etc., etc.

September 6, 2017

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