This idea of this post started off with a mail thread from someone who has a knack for sending amazing links which nudge you to do some serious soul searching every time you click one of his links. This one was a post about the iPad.
To be honest however, it was more than just an iPad post. Peter Bregman in his post on why he returned his iPad in less than a week, talks about the importance of boredom in your life. He explains:
The brilliance of the iPad is that it's the anytime-anywhere computer. On the subway. In the hall waiting for the elevator. In a car on the way to the airport. Any free moment becomes a potential iPad moment.
The iPhone can do roughly the same thing, but not exactly. Who wants to watch a movie in bed on an iPhone?
So why is this a problem? It sounds like I was super-productive. Every extra minute, I was either producing or consuming.
But something — more than just sleep, though that's critical too — is lost in the busyness. Something too valuable to lose.
Being bored is a precious thing, a state of mind we should pursue. Once boredom sets in, our minds begin to wander, looking for something exciting, something interesting to land on. And that's where creativity arises.
My best ideas come to me when I am unproductive. When I am running but not listening to my iPod. When I am sitting, doing nothing, waiting for someone. When I am lying in bed as my mind wanders before falling to sleep. These "wasted" moments, moments not filled with anything in particular, are vital.
They are the moments in which we, often unconsciously, organize our minds, make sense of our lives, and connect the dots. They're the moments in which we talk to ourselves. And listen.
To lose those moments, to replace them with tasks and efficiency, is a mistake. What's worse is that we don't just lose them. We actively throw them away.
"That's not a problem with the iPad," my brother Anthony — who I feel compelled to mention is currently producing a movie called My Idiot Brother — pointed out. "It's a problem with you. Just don't use it as much."
Guilty as charged. It is a problem with me. I can't not use it if it's there. And, unfortunately, it's always there. So I returned it. Problem solved.
Go ahead, click the link and browse through the entire post if you haven't done so already. The valid point Peter seems to be making here, is about slowing down. Giving your brain some boredom so that it can figure out creative, genuinely fun and innovative things to do to avoid that boredom.
It's more than just the iPad.
I have talked about this before. Firefighting for instance gets you in a mode where you are least creative.
With a zillion gadgets, MP3 players and twitter on our phones, we are insanely connected to random people all around the globe but it does the exact same thing to your brain that firefighting does. It gives you an easy convenient way to make yourself busy and indulge in activities which are 'seemingly productive' but result to nothing other than a truck load of time getting wasted in the long run.
If you work in a field which involves creative work or are connected with the process of building software that is supposed to make big or small dents in the universe, the first thing you need to do is slow down and give your brain some boredom.
Boredom is important, because when your brain experiences boredom and feels restless, it starts thinking of productive ways to keep itself busy. That's when some of the best ideas and solutions emerge. The last time I checked, ideas and amazingly interesting solutions to complicated problems, typically don't emerge when you are watching an action movie or a soccer match for instance.
Go ahead, slow down.
Experience a little bit of boredom today.
Use this boredom to let you mind wander and come up with a genuinely innovative idea or two.
I wish you good luck.