Neuroscientists show that when you get bored, this can be the most productive and creative time of your day. Yet with social media and smart phones we have removed this time. When we are folding the laundry or walking to work, but that is when our brain gets really busy. Once you start daydreaming your brain moves from the conscience to the sub-conscience and this allows different connections. In boring time, you can solve some of the most nagging problems. But now, we chill out on the couch, watching TV while replying to email at the same time. Neuroscientists tell us when we multitask, doing 4 or 5 things at once, we are not multi-tasking, but using more energy to shift between different tasks and we have a limited supply of energy. Dr Gloria Mark says when people are stressed, people shift their attention more often. As people get less sleep, the more likely they are to check Facebook. We are in a habitual cycle.
What would happen if we broke this habitual cycle?
Research Manoush Zomorodi helped to create a project “Bored and Brilliant” to break this habitual cycle.
One participant Tina discovered she was spending 150 to 200 minutes on her phone every day and picking up her phone 70 to 100 times. Tina is concerned as this time could be used more productively doing something more creative and more productive.
The “Bored and Brilliant” project asked participants to start doing tasks that put their phones and devices away. But one participant, Amanda, discovered this quite difficult. Amanda felt an itching. But the technology is built to trigger these itches. The Social Media companies Facebook, Netflix or Google’s have at least 1000 engineers’ whose jobs is to get more attention from you. A Google Designer Tristan Harris stated that one of their biggest competitors was “Sleep”. One Designer stated that the only people that refer to their customers as “users” are Drug Dealers and Technologists. The Average person will spend an average of two years on Facebook.
Creativity means different things to different people. Deleting Apps from your phone like Games, Facebook Netflix, and Twitter can cause an emotional reactions. By not having these Apps on your phone. This empowers people. Young people in the project said, “that discovered emotions that they have never felt before” because they had grown up with Social Media always in their lives.
An IBM survey identified “creativity” as the number one leadership competency. We need creativity to tackle big issues like climate change, massive economic disparity, and massive cultural differences.
The results of this “Bored and Brilliant” project found that 70% of people got more time to think, people slept better and they felt happier. One participant said, “he was waking up from a mental hibernation”.
Teaching people, especially kids, to regulate their device use, needs to be part of digital literacy. Remember if you don’t decide how to use technology the platforms will decide for you. Ask yourself, what am I really looking for? If it is to check email, then do it and be done. But if it is to distract yourself from the hard work which comes with deeper thinking, then take a break.
By doing nothing and by being bored, you are actually being your most productive and creative self.