How Being UNproductive Can Actually Boost Your Productivity

Updated: Dec 30, 2021


We All Need To Chill Out, Bug Out, And Get Bored Once In A While


It seems everywhere we look these days people are talking and writing about productivity: How to be more productive, productivity ‘hacks’, and how to ‘hustle.’ Books are written and published, apps are developed and launched, TikTok videos posted. And most of the tools, tips and tricks that are provided are great.


To some degree we get it: Learning how to be more productive is a wonderful thing that can truly enhance the quality of our lives. But the message that’s sort of implied — and in some cases directly stated — is that we are supposed to be productive and producing things all the time. It’s almost as though if what we’re immersed in isn’t deep and profound work, with the guarantee of a specific outcome, then it has no value to our lives.


Untrue!


This may be Western society reaching the next level in its insatiable love affair with and practice of "being busy." It’s no longer okay to just be occupied all the time, which has come to be strongly (and unfortunately) associated with importance and worthiness. Now we need to also be effective: Producing and creating "value" to others and the world around us, 24/7. Not only is this impossible, it’s an exhausting ideal! And it's literally probably killing us. Slowly... but surely.


Converse to the way we live in the modern society, there is real value in allowing ourselves to indulge in moments that are totally unproductive. Even to the point of the Boredom.


Boredom is a term that’s common in the Western world. The French have a word for it in their language too: “Ennui.” As a team here at NKS, we have wondered whether the term "bored" was one that was universal; i.e. A shared experience for which a word exists in most major languages around the world to describe it. Interestingly, after conducting a bit of research, we discovered that in many cultures and languages around the world, there isn't. In fact, some cultures have no definitive description for this state of mind at all.


Some cultures have no definitive description for the state of mind we refer to as "Bored" at all.


Dictionary.com defines Boredom as “feeling weary, listless, and discontent by dullness, lack of occupation, or excitement.” And it has very negative connotations in our parts of the world.


Also Read: The 4 Pillars of Good Mental Health


Here’s the thing: In being bored, we tend to experience total and utter release of our mental inhibitions. This allows us to think freely, more passionately, and with more clarity. Boredom can also be a very powerful incentive toward figuring out our next big move. Think about it: If we are bored — and therefore somewhat discontent and uncomfortable — we logically become motivated to eventually move out of that state of boredom and onto greater and more exciting things. Reaching a state of boredom is therefore an important stage in the creative process. Boredom as a conduit to increased productivity has been supported by scientific research.


A study conducted by Mann and Cadman (2014) at the University of Central Lancashire found that participants who had been intentionally led to boredom generated significantly more uses for a pair of plastic cups than those who weren’t. What’s more, their findings also showed that boredom felt during passive activities (like reading reports or attending tedious meetings) had an even greater positive impact to how creative one could be after feeling bored. While chronic boredom can be detrimental to our health and happiness, natural, sporadic boredom is actually a good thing.


From 2009-2010, our CEO - Natasha Sharma - worked in the child outpatient psychiatry unit at The University of Maryland downtown Baltimore as a Psychotherapist in training. After 10–12 hours a day of supporting kids through experiences so harrowing they could only be fathomed by some as tragic movie scripts, she would (according to her) drive 45 minutes back to her rented home, settle into bed, turn on mindless TV, and pick up In Touch magazine. Many a person might be inclined to be of the view that none of these things could be considered a "productive" use of time by. And yet, there was value to it because it restorative in its own way. It allowed both the body and my mind — to totally decompress and switch thinking gears - - in order to feel refreshed to take on the next day, and be there to meet the needs and support for such a vulnerable group of individuals all over again.


Let yourself be bored sometimes. The next time you experience it, sink into and try to figure out what that boring moment is teaching you. Be more outcome detached once in awhile. Create and then savour moments every day that are filled with absolute nothingness. Who knows: They might just lead to your next big adventure in life!



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