While today was in some ways busy and hectic, I also received an unexpected blessing: some time to think. I arrived at my part-time job to find my boss already there. Usually at that time she is dropping her children off at school, but she had forgotten that their vacation extended an extra day. She had decided to spend the day with them, so I was left by myself for most of the day. As I packed up orders of spices, a task which doesn’t involve a lot of complex thought, my mind was free to run hither and yon as it pleased, darting from one subject to another.
I came to a conclusion about a decision I had been considering. New ideas for my business percolated. I imagined possibilities for my future. I brainstormed ministry plans.
All within the space of a few hours.
How often do we give ourselves the time and space to just let our minds wander, to really think, to allow our imaginations to stretch? I admit I am guilty of grabbing my phone and scanning Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram–anything I can think of!–the minute I have an ounce of downtime. I’ll listen to podcasts or Pandora while washing dishes (on the off-chance I’m not simultaneously mediating drama from the offspring). I rarely allow myself to be bored, and I don’t think I am alone in that habit.
Yet, as the studies shared in this Harvard Business Review article show, boredom can increase our creativity, in multiple ways.
We constantly find ways to avoid boredom, to occupy our time, our minds, and our senses, and by doing so, we lose opportunities for prayer, wondering, or just plain thinking.
I find my best thinking happens in two situations: when my body is occupied by a task which doesn’t require a lot of engagement of my mind–such as shoveling snow, digging in the garden (oh, dear God, let me have less of the former and more of the latter very soon!!), doing basic crochet, etc–and when I’m riding in the car. I have always been one to stare out the windows and observe the world, and I still am.
We need to give ourselves time to think. In our busy lives, we may have to schedule it in–fifteen minutes every day with screens (and notifications) off, books closed, sounds muffled. Maybe it means leaving the headphones behind when you go for a run, or sitting quietly with the first (or third) cup of coffee in the morning before anyone else is awake. Maybe it means parking the car at the edge of a field or on a city street and just observing the world around you.
No agenda. No interruptions. No entertainment.
It might get a little scary sometimes. Many of us keep ourselves from our minds for a reason. We’re avoiding our thoughts and feelings as hard as we can, and letting them surface…well, that’s risky, for sure. But ultimately, so good.
Look, it’s a new month, heading into a new season, and smack in the middle of the Christian practice of Lent. All great reasons to give boredom a shot.
This month, give yourself some time to think. You’ll be glad you did.