I've always thought of free time as a weakness. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I like to quantify my success with the number of things on my to-do list. So, naturally, I've trained myself into thinking boredom is the enemy of productivity. However, recent studies have shown that reality is quite the opposite.
In 2014, researchers Sandi Mann and Rebekah Cadman tested how boredom affected creativity. They tasked half the participants in their experiment with completing a boring task before attempting a creative one while the other half went straight to the creative task. The subjects primed with boredom were found to be more productive and imaginative when it came to the creative task.
Rather than seeing boredom as a sign of weakness, it should be seen as a time to recharge. Though productivity is important, it's pointless if your actions lack the creativity and clarity that only boredom provide. More than that, boredom is a means of revolution. Societal pressures teach us that constantly staying busy is the key to success. When we're busy all the time, we tire super quickly and have less time to think. We have less time to think about our goals, how we're being treated, and what we want to change about the world. By falling into the trap of equating business with success we maintain the status quo.
Don't believe me? Try Forbes Coaches Council - "an invitation-only organization for successful business and career coaches." Coach Sherry Swift of Swift Transitions, Inc. calls boredom a time to, "use your inner ear and hear from yourself." She advises young professionals to use boredom, "as a measure to do more, be more, and move forward." Likewise, Coach Cori Burchell, founder of Dear Miss Millionaire, tells her readers to use boredom to ask themselves, "Where in my life am I comfortable but unsatisfied?" Then ask, "What am I going to do about that?"
That being said, boredom is easier to talk about than it is to do. Especially in college, the pressure to always "be on" is prevalent every single day. Bowing out from the competition to take some unstimulated me time is a sign of weakness- or at least that's what I thought. I realized my self-condemnation for boredom was born of my deep insecurity about what people think of me. I thought that if I was perceived as lazy or taking time for myself by others, my reputation would diminish and people would no longer see me as the "successful student, leader, and friend" image that I tried so hard to maintain for myself. But the reality is that no one cares about you as much as you think they do. And even if they do care, their opinion is irrelevant. If I'm taking time for boredom to stimulate my creativity, that's my business and no one else's.
In college, I've found that it's important not only to prioritize your boredom but to put all of your needs first. These last two paragraphs probably sound a little cliche, but I don't think a reminder will hurt. It's imperative that college students spend these fleeting four years concerned with themselves and their futures. What you need to function as a happy, independent, and be a critically thinking person is of utmost importance. Boredom should be at the top of that list; so schedule time in your planner, take walks, disconnect, and have time to think. You'll be endlessly better for it.