About three years ago I cut the cable, meaning I discontinued our cable television service. At the time, I was a newly divorced, struggling freelance writer, and it was simply an effort to save money. However, there was a grand perk I didn’t anticipate: my children became more creative. Without television to entertain them, they played pretend a lot more, made up games and built gadgets.
In a recent BNET article by Laurie Tarkan, “How Mobile Devices Rob You of Creativity,” she argues that perhaps your SmartPhone or iTouch is preventing you from enjoying that same perk: creativity. She explains, “In the pre-mobile device days, when you waited for a train or on a plane, or on your commute to work, you would probably do nothing but think or read. It could get pretty boring indeed. Today, on the other hand, every time you have a second with nothing to do, you go online, you text, you make a call. Boredom be damned.”
Tarkan sees that as a significant problem, for out of boredom often springs innovative and pioneering ideas. In fact, researches have noted a strong connection between boredom and creativity. And when you use your mobile devices to battle boredom, you stop thinking for yourself, preventing your mind from processing new and exciting ideas.
According to Tarkan, when you are bored, your brain is restless and apparently, that is a prime environment for creativity. While some may argue that restless means inactive, MRI studies show that when people are bored their brains are nearly as active as those who are fully engaged—in fact, they are 95% as active. It’s time to take boredom back!
Tarkan provides 8 suggestions on giving your brain a break in order to generate more creativity, of which we share 4 below:
1. Call a technology strike. This year there are two National TV Turnoff Weeks: April 18th – 24th and September 18th – 24th. During this time families are encouraged to live TV-free for a week. In that spirit, Tarkan suggests scheduling technology-free weekends. This will force you to come up with ways to occupy that restless brain!
2. Stop going full-tilt. According to Genevieve Bell, PhD and director of Intel’s interaction and experience research, our nation is grounded in a work ethic that dictates we continually be productive and work hard. She says, “Doing nothing is a rejection of the work ethic.” However, scheduling down time just might be the best thing you ever do for your brain, and consequently, your career.
3. Create technology-free rooms. Whether it be at work or at home, it can be good to designate a technology-free zone, where occupants are required to do something other than use technology to engage their minds.
4. Commit to down times without technology. Consider those times you are most likely to use mobile devices to curb boredom. Now determine which of those times you will resist the temptation. Perhaps you ride the bus or carpool to work; you can designate the drive to or from as technology-free trips instead.
Whatever you do, it’s important that you not consider boredom an unnecessary evil. While sometimes uncomfortable, it is often the driving force behind creativity, and what professional can do without that?
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Please share your thoughts in our comments section!
Tarkan, Laurie. “How Mobile Devices Rob You of Creativity.” 30 June 2011 BNET.com