CEO Insights: Stay Bored

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When was the last time you were bored?

You probably had to think about it, didn’t you? In this world of constant connectivity and an app to fill every spare moment, it’s hard to be bored. Most of us have more to do than can be completed in a day.

You might even be thinking, “Kerwin, why are you talking about boredom? I don’t have time to be bored.”

Well, I started thinking about boredom after a conversation with Pauline Kariuki, director of operations for The Women’s Bakery. Pauline was telling me about how she ended up where she is now, and four or five times, she said, “I was bored with what I was doing.” And every time she was bored, she did something new that led to her next step. I jokingly told her she needed to stay bored as it has led to great things both for her and the baking industry.


Boredom benefits

Turns out, the comment I made in jest isn’t far from the truth. As scientists study the brain, they’re discovering that boredom is key to creativity.

In a TED Talk titled “How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas,” journalist and podcaster Manoush Zomorodi investigated the benefits of boredom.

“I started talking to neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists, and what they told me was fascinating. It turns out that when you get bored, you ignite a network in your brain called the ‘default mode.’ So, our body, it goes on autopilot while we’re folding the laundry or we’re walking to work, but actually that is when our brain gets really busy.”

According to Zomorodi, that default mode is important.

“I learned that in the default mode is when we connect disparate ideas, we solve some of our most nagging problems, and we do something called ‘autobiographical planning.’ This is when we look back at our lives, we take note of the big moments, we create a personal narrative, and then we set goals and we figure out what steps we need to take to reach them.”

If we never allow ourselves to get bored, we aren’t giving our brains the opportunity to solve problems that we’re struggling with or to come up with new ideas.

kerwin brown

Renewed focus

For many people, the beginning of the year is a time of renewal, a time to make changes that improve their lives. They make goals and plans. At BEMA, our first quarter focus is on the word “renew.”

Understanding the need to allow our brains time to shift into default mode can be part of that renewal process. Building time into our days to let our brains rest and work on problems and new ideas is a great way to help us reach our personal and business goals for the year.

kerwin brown

Plan for boredom

“But, Kerwin,” you might say, “how do you plan to be bored?”

I wondered that, too, so I checked out what some of the experts have to say, and it turns out one of those experts spoke at Convention in 2023.

Our keynote speaker Jeff Havens gave several suggestions for things you can do to allow your brain time to sink into default mode, including:

  • taking a shower,
  • taking a walk,
  • going for a run, or
  • taking a drive.

One big key to allowing our brains to reset is to put down our phones. With our devices providing constant stimulation and distraction, most of us never have to be bored. We can always find something to entertain us, but science tells us that setting those devices aside helps us innovate and lets our brains come up with creative solutions.

What if the next big innovation in baking can come from you putting down your phone for 30 minutes a day to let your mind wander? Wouldn’t 30 minutes of boredom be worth it?

Everyone needs time to rest, time to dream, time to innovate. So, set those electronics aside, take a walk, let your brain slip into default mode. Stay bored. Who knows what you might come up with.

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