Bored already? Good - it could help your creativity

New research suggests dealing with dull tasks first makes you more creative later on

Boredom and creativity are usually assumed to be opposites. However new research papers suggest that boredom leads to daydreaming, which is at the route of creativity, writes David Burkus in the Harvard Business Review.

A study at the University of Central Lancashire tasked a group of people with copying numbers from a phone book, whilst another group were given no task. Both groups were then asked to generate uses for plastic cups, and the phone-book copiers generated significantly more uses, i.e. they showed more creativity.

The study was then repeated with more groups and levels of difficulty, and the most bored and passive group, who now just had to read a phone book, still outperformed the supposedly more engaged groups. A different study at Penn State University suggested that not only did boredom enhance divergent thinking, but also convergent thinking; this creativity could be channelled into finding single, correct answers.

The explanation, suggests the Burkus, is that “boredom boosts creativity because of how people prefer to alleviate it. Boredom, they suggest, motivates people to approach new and rewarding activities. In other words, an idle mind will seek a toy.” 

So these studies won’t help you be less bored, but they might have a role in setting your schedule. Those dull hours answering emails might have some use after all.

Read Burkus' original article here.

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