The Upside of Downtime

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How seven days of boredom could boost your business.

Overhead View of a Woman in a Swimming Pool

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We live in a culture where boredom is avoided at all costs – it’s why the entire entertainment industry exists after all. But, are we undervaluing an emotion which could be an entrepreneur’s secret weapon? As a new book examines the upsides of downtime, here’s how a seven day ‘boredom diet’ could improve your business – and your life.

 

MONDAY: DON’T BE ENTERTAINED.

Every emotion has a purpose, says Doctor Sandi Mann, author of new book, The Upside of Downtime, who calls boredom “an adaptive mechanism against societal noise or information overload”. Translation? If we were in a permanent state of excitement, we’d be exhausted. Before bed, watch a TV show you’re half interested in or read a book that doesn’t grip you, to help you unwind.

 

TUESDAY: BE A LONE LUNCHER.

Don’t feel unpopular – there are benefits to solo dining. Research shows that conversing whilst chewing makes us more likely to overeat and also gobble too quickly (not good for digestion or our waist lines). Take a tip from Google who host ‘silent lunches’ so employees are forced to eat mindfully and appreciate their food.

 

WEDNESDAY: TRAIN WITHOUT TECH.

If you want to out-think your colleagues, turn off your gadgets on your morning commute. Researchers from Pennsylvania State University found that participants who were bored outperformed those who were relaxed or elated in creativity tests. Spark your imagination by looking out the window or people watching instead.

 

THURSDAY: TOP UP YOUR TRIVIA.

Does Darth Vadar have a wife? When is World Penguin day? These are the kind of tit-bits shared by The Dull Men’s Club, a Facebook page dedicated to “appreciating the ordinary.” Why should you care? Every big business deal begins with small talk, according to Bernardo Carducci, director of the Shyness Research Institute. These facts can fill any awkward silence.

 

FRIDAY: BOREDOM = PROGRESSION.

A study from Texas University found that boredom at work pushes people to seek out new goals by increasing “autonomic arousal” which makes us look for alternative projects. When bored, browse the Internet for advances in your industry (Trendhunter.com is a good resource). It may spark a big idea.

 

SATURDAY: SET THE SCENE.

Dr Teresa Belton, from the University of East Anglia says children need to have “stop and stare time” because being constantly overstimulated could hamper their imagination. The same could be said of adults, so in your spare time set the scene for boredom – lay a picnic blanket in the park or turn off music on a car journey. Allow your inner child to create their own fun.

 

SUNDAY: PREPARE, TEDIOUSLY.

President Obama says his practice of ‘routinising his routine’ (he only wears gray or blues suits) helps him to focus on other important decisions, like running a country – even though his kids call him dull. Make a dinner plan for the week and even decide on your outfits. You might be yawning at the thought but you’ll be thankful by hump-day.

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