When we were young and desperately bored as the long rainy Sunday afternoons stretched into eternity, we were told one thing about boredom by our parents.
‘Only boring people get bored’.
This is of course absolute rubbish. Being bored is a quality of the interesting, the quick and the clever. The truth is that only interesting people get bored.
And that is because interesting people tire of stimulation far more quickly than the terminally dull.
I was introduced to a business and climate leader recently with the warning that he had a terrible lack of attention and would get bored easily. Like this was a problem.
We think of boredom as an affliction. Constantly jumping from one subject to another. We call it a short attention span. In the young we blame Tik Tok.
I think of it as a superpower.
Your abject boredom means something.
Usually, it means that you simply aren’t interested in what is being said or the way it is being presented. And that means it’s probably not interesting to anyone else.
Our business depends on being interesting.
The aim of what we do is to interest people, usually our customers, so that they do something to our benefit. And I think there is cascade of interesting. If the strategy is interesting, then the brief will be interesting. If the brief is interesting, then the creative people will be interested. If the creative people are interested, then the work will be interesting. And if the work is interesting, bingo.
Your boredom is an early warning system, a canary in the coal mine, that is telling you to call a halt to proceedings and do something less boring instead.
Occasionally your boredom means something subtly different. That you are full. Or rather the subject is so interesting and engaging that your mind has gorged on it and needs time to go away and process what it has been thinking. You aren’t bored with the subject, far from it, but you don’t have any bandwidth to listen to or absorb anything else.
Your boredom is telling you to stop talking and listening and go and think. Think and do, to put into motion all the things that the conversation has sparked in your mind.
Of course, sometimes you may be bored with something that everyone else finds absolutely fascinating. This kind of boredom is telling you that you are in the wrong place completely – you need a new challenge or a new job. The advice is still to get the hell out of that meeting.
And this year I want to suggest something hugely unpalatable. That we should declare our boredom more often.
How much of our lives are spent in meetings, discussions, presentations and conversations where we are bored? Where we are either lack any interest or we are so fascinated we are full.
But we soldier on. The meeting is scheduled for an hour or three so that’s the allotted time that must be filled. We drift off, start looking at our emails, whatsapping other people in the meeting saying how bored we are or maybe ordering some more bin bags on Amazon.
It’s time to call time on this nonsense. Imagine the time you would win back if you left that hour long meeting after 42 minutes to do something else because you were clear that you were bored.
It doesn’t necessarily mean stopping the meeting in its entirety but bowing out yourself with the words, ‘I’m terribly sorry but I am now bored and I’m going to do something else’.
Or if you find that a little rude, and I struggle to think why since it’s not you who is being boring, you might say ‘I have found this conversation so interesting that I am now completely full and need to go and process it’.
Imagine how much happier you would be.
Imagine the productivity boost to you, your company and the country.
So, this year embrace boredom as a superpower. Celebrate it. Shout about it. Use it to power up your professional life.
I’m bored of writing this now.
Image courtesy of Cheryl Colan