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Editor's Note: This post was originally created by Spredfast before Spredfast and Lithium merged and became Khoros.
It was back in 2015 that Manoush Zomorodi, host of WYNC’s podcast Note to Self, led tens of thousands of listeners through an experiment. The original Bored and Brilliant project eventually spun into a book of the same name—one we can’t wait to hear more about when Manoush joins us on stage at our Khoros Engage Event.
The reason we’re so excited to hear from Zomorodi? It’s a bit of a paradox, the lives of our customers (and our own lives): we’re busy social marketers, people who very likely understand more than anyone else the far corners of the internet or a social media platform’s ability to drown five, 10, 95 minutes of your time before you’ve noticed it. In fact, making compelling content that captures attention is, of course, a critical part of our smartest customers’ work—and, ideally, our own. But that doesn’t mean unplugging and cultivating boredom isn’t a critical part of their lives—and it doesn’t mean being bored and taking a break can’t ultimately make their marketing efforts better.
When our minds wander, Zomorodi explains, we activate something called the “default mode.” This is “the mental place where we solve problems and generate our best ideas,” she writes. Plus, we also engage in something known as “autobiographical planning,” which is how we make sense of our world and lives and set future goals. Sounds like something you worry about your team having time and space to do, right?
While businesses would rather you never look away from your screen—or turn off your notifications—the truth is that a little blank space is actually necessary to access the parts of our brain that can help us be incredibly creative, generative, and, yes, relaxed. Zomorodi is not the first to lament our phones, specifically, as co-opters of our attention. She found plenty of people willing to take part in her initial experiment: “Self-regulation is a backlash to products co-opting our attention spans,” Zomorodi writes. “[The listeners who embarked on the Bored and Brilliant challenge] not only felt like they wanted to reclaim the space to think instead of bulldozing over it with various forms of entertainment, but they also wanted to do it as soon as possible. The imperative comes from the fact that the longer we mindlessly use our devices, the more control they have over us. The effects are cumulative.”
A little blank space is necessary to access the parts of our brain that can help us be incredibly creative and generative. — @jaimenetzer
So what, then, is a busy marketer to do to carve out time to be bored? First step: join us in Austin for Khoros Engage to learn more from Zomorodi about her specific advice for cultivating boredom and brilliance. But second, take in the following five tips, gleaned from our own busy team members. Share them with your team, and encourage them to unplug:
“I'm not sure I can point back to a specific good idea but definitely make time for myself to think. For me, it's not folding laundry but washing dishes. Not having a dishwasher for a few years helped build this routine and now I do it voluntarily. Repetitive and easy task put my mind in cruise control and gives me the freedom to think. Sometimes it's nothing. Other times I'll simply reflect on the day, plan for the next, think about something I read or just toss around whatever is on my mind.” — Daniel Vidal, Social Media Strategist, Spredfast
“I build time into my schedule each week to disconnect by way of group exercise. For that hour a few days each week, I'm forced to leave my phone behind and be in my own head in a completely different way than when I have a screen in front of my face. Sometimes I use that time to think through challenges going on in my professional or personal life, sometimes I focus on how much I hate what I'm doing in that very moment, occasionally I can simply be present and feel great. No matter where my head lands, I always feel recharged and occasionally have worked through an issue or come up with a creative idea that wouldn't have likely happened while scrolling through the guilty pleasure that is the #apartmenttherapy hashtag on Instagram.” — Adrianne Gallman, Senior Strategist, Spredfast
“One of my best practices is banning screens after 9 p.m. during the week. I either use the time for chores or read a book, both of which put me in a better headspace before bed. I also have book clubs and a writing club with different groups of friends who hold my brain and creativity accountable.” — Katherine Wagner, Solutions Consultant, Spredfast
“I carve out space to disconnect by remembering that passive activity doesn't equal productivity. My version of boredom is committing to something from which there is no "easy" escape. I like to grab things that are tangible—for example, when I'm looking to disconnect, I pack up my journal and a book and head to the park. When I've finished a book or can't think of anything to write about, there's no quick switching of feeds or scrolling for something more exciting. I'm forced to think about what I just read, wonder why I'm having trouble communicating, or take in what's going on in the lives of the dozens of other real people around me.” — Priyunka Maheshwari, Social Media Coordinator, Spredfast
“Instead of mindless scrolling, I challenge myself to read a book, call and catch up with a family member, or tell myself it's okay to just sit there and people watch those around me. Sometimes staring at a wall in boredom can be a breath of fresh (digitally disconnected) air, even though it's challenging.” — Blair Petitt, Social Media Coordinator, Spredfast