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Doing Nothing and Nothing to Do: The Hidden Value of Empty Time and Boredom



In this article, I suggest that doing nothing and being bored can be invaluable to the creative process. In our present networked society, introspection and reflection have become lost arts. Instead, we are at risk of becoming victims of informational overload. The balance between activity and inactivity has become seriously out of sync. However, doing nothing is a great way to induce states of mind that nurture our imagination. Slacking off may be the best thing we can do for our mental health. Seemingly inactive states of mind can be an incubation period for future bursts of creativity. Keeping busy can be a very effective defense mechanism for warding off disturbing thoughts and feelings. But by resorting to manic-like behavior we suppress the truth of our feelings and concerns, consciously or unconsciously avoiding periods of uninterrupted, freely associative thoughts. Yet unconscious thought processes can generate novel ideas and solutions more effectively than a conscious focus on problem solving. I end by recommending some actions and conditions that can help achieve this state of mind.
Electronic copy available at:
Doing Nothing and Nothing to Do:
The Hidden Value of Empty Time
and Boredom
Manfred F. R. KETS de VRIES
Electronic copy available at:
Doing Nothing and Nothing to Do:
The Hidden Value of Empty Time and Boredom
Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries*
This paper can be downloaded without charge from the Social Science Research Network electronic
library at:
Electronic copy available at:
In this article, I suggest that doing nothing and being bored can be invaluable to the
creative process. In our present networked society, introspection and reflection have
become lost arts. Instead, we are at risk of becoming victims of informational
overload. The balance between activity and inactivity has become seriously out of
sync. However, doing nothing is a great way to induce states of mind that nurture our
imagination. Slacking off may be the best thing we can do for our mental health.
Seemingly inactive states of mind can be an incubation period for future bursts of
Keeping busy can be a very effective defense mechanism for warding off disturbing
thoughts and feelings. But by resorting to manic-like behavior we suppress the truth
of our feelings and concerns, consciously or unconsciously avoiding periods of
uninterrupted, freely associative thoughts. Yet unconscious thought processes can
generate novel ideas and solutions more effectively than a conscious focus on
problem solving. I end by recommending some actions and conditions that can help
achieve this state of mind.
Key Words: Busyness; Laziness; Boredom; Manic Defense; Stress; Incubation;
Reflection; Left-right Brain Activity; Creativity.
It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy
Henry David Thoreau
The busy bee has not time for sorrow.
William Blake
There is more to life than increasing its speed.
Mahatma Gandhi
John Lennon
   s call her Hélène). Hélène runs a
large organization in the educational field. I was curious about her working habits and
asked her how many emails she received each day. Five hundred, she said, then
continued in a rather upbeat manner,    read any of them. If I did, I
my country.       
on, of obtaining information. The
information overload. I need to have time to think.
Once Hélène elaborated on her information strategy, her way of dealing with it turned
out to be less dramatic than I had initially thought. She had an assistant who slugged
his way through all her emails and she spent a few hours every week discussing the
more problem   
in the manic behavior so many executives share, frantically processing email after
email. As she said,    
creative work at a cyber pace. Creative work has its traditional rhythms. To be
creative, you need a more serene state of mind. Over the years I have learned the hard
way that technology sometimes encourages people to confuse busyness with
effectiveness. I need quiet time to be able to function.
Hélène has a point. I have learned from experience that many people would be better
off if they did less and reflected more. Perhaps the biggest problem we have today is
Contemporary society provides ample opportunities to be busy but a lot of this
busyness, if we take a closer look at it, has little substance. When it comes down to it,
we are often prisoners of busyness rather than productively occupied.
With pressure in the workplace and in the general social domain to collaborate, speak
up, step forward, lean indo practically anything to be noticedthere is very little
said, other than negatively, about doing nothing. This is unfortunate, as doing nothing
can be the prelude to bursts of creativity. The ability to balance activity and solitude,
noise and quietness, is an excellent means to tap our inner creative resources. The
secret of truly successful, creative people may well be that they learned very early in
life how not to be busy
Hélène is not alone in realizing the value of doing nothing. More than 500 years ago,
we find another story about the perceived inactivity of Renaissance sculptor and
painter, Michelangelo. In 1466 Agostino di Duccio was commissioned to sculpt a
figure of David for the cathedral in Florence. He began work on a large marble block
from the famous quarries at Carrara in Tuscany but only managed to mark out the
shape of the legs, feet, and drapery before he abandoned the project for reasons that
remain unclear. For the next 25 years, the block of marble was left exposed to the
weather in the courtyard of the cathedral workshop until Michelangelo was asked to
revive the abandoned project. Although the marble had deteriorated, Michelangelo
According to the story, rumors began to circulate soon after that Michelangelo was
making very little progress. It was said that he stared at the marble for hours on end,
doing nothing. When a friend saw him and asked the obvious questionWhat are
you doing?Michelangelo replied, Sto lavorando. () Years later,
after the block of marble had become the great statue of David, he said, I saw the
angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.
As these examples show, it can be beneficial to do nothing and make an effort to fit
quiet time into our daily lives. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to find space
to enjoy quiet time in our high-tech cyber world. It is not encouraged. In fact, people
In this article I suggest that boredom and doing nothingseemingly non-productive
activitiescan be invaluable in nurturing our creativity. Our lives have become
defined by busyness. Look around when you are at a rail station, in a café, even
walking down the street: most people will be glued to a mobile handset or tablet. We
are in danger of becoming victims of informational overload, with very little time left
for excursions into our inner world. In our networked age, introspection and reflection
are becoming lost arts and the balance between activity and inactivity is becoming
seriously out of sync. Yet it can be well worth our while to make efforts to be not
busy. Doing nothing, having nothing to do, and even being bored may be good for
our mental health.
This is because busyness can be a very effective defense mechanism, deployed to
ward off disturbing thoughts and feelings. But what we lose sight of in this process is
            lows no
periods of uninterrupted, free-associative thinking, creativity, and insight. However,
allowing unconscious thought processes to surface can be more productive than
consciously focusing on problem solving.
We all know that the compulsion to be busy starts very early in life. How often did
our parents or teachers ever suggest we sit still and do nothing? And how often do our
  
told to work harder, be diligent, and stay on the ball. We associate doing nothing with
irresponsibility, being on the wrong track, or even worse, wasting our life. Most of us
In a world dedicated to distraction, silence and stillness terrify us. We protect
ourselves from such situations by creating noise and frantic activity. Busyness can
become a developmental trap.
But what are we really busy about? Jane Austen once observed, Life seems but a
quick succession of busy nothings. Perhaps, while we are so busy with nothings,
things that do not really matter, we leave no time for the things that are important in
life. Many of us delude ourselves that busyness is synonymous with productivity but
this is frequently not the case. A lot of our busyness is ultimately meaningless, which
can be a hard fact to face.
My mind, [Holmes] said, rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me
work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and
I am in my own proper place. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants.
But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is
why I have chosen my own particular professionor rather created it. Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four
Not many of us would volunteer to be bored. Most of us want exactly the opposite
and do what we can to push the dark cloud of boredom away. 
out was opium. Many of us prefer unrelenting busyness. But although being busy may
give us a temporary high, the danger of all this busyness is that we may lose our
connections not just with one another but also with ourselves. We may become
strangers to our own feelings and needs. We may become alienated from ourselves,
and lose sight of who we are.
Doing nothing and boredom are closely intertwined and both get a bad press.
Complaints of frequent and persistent boredom are typically viewed as a sign of a
           re bored?
Because boredom, when we look at it more closely, has some unique values.
When we are bored we are subsumed by the feeling either that there is nothing do to
or that what we are doing is an unrewarding non-activity. We are swamped by the
urge to engage in something satisfying but are unable to do so. (Vodanovich, Verner
and Gilbride, 1991; Fisher, 1993; Eastwood et al., 2012). Phillips (1993) sums up the
            
accounts f      Boredom is a real factor in many
aspects of domestic life and in jobs with limitations, e.g. highly repetitive service,
functional, and assembly line work, and we need to be able to tolerate it. In fact, we
are handicapped if we cannot deal with boredom constructively. People, who respond
to boredom reactively, with a continuous need for stimuli and thrills and a paucity of
inner resources, can wreak havoc in the home and workplace.
In many instances, boredom can be a prelude to something. It can be a trigger for
          
            It might
indicate a desire to seek out new and potentially more interesting and stimulating
avenues. Reframed differently, boredom can be seen as a liminal space, a critical
resource that pushes us to seek the unfamiliar. Being bored can help us to develop a
rich inner life and become more creative.
However, most of us do find it hard to tolerate boredom, especially as boredom is
often associated with depression. Instead, we keep busy, and push our troublesome
demons awaybusyness makes us feel better and even virtuous. But what are we all
busy about? Why     
The stress of busyness
Busyness and stress disorders are familiar companions in contemporary society. The
danger of burnout has become increasingly imminent in our cyber age, with its
constant onslaught of stimulation. Mobile technology alone means that we are never
out of  reach and have an almost limitless selection of entertainment and
distraction literally to hand. The new reality is that too many of us run around doing
things that are counter-productive and in the process burn ourselves out. Often, being
busy can be a poor excuse for living an unhealthy life. Busyness can be as addictive
as a drug.
I believe that our e-efforts at productivity may have a very dark side. To be able to
function well psychologically and physically, we need periods of calm. Our frenetic
activities in cyberspacea world of multitasking and hyperactivityhelp us to
delude ourselves, however, that we are both virtuous and productive. Although such
delusionary thinking may have its place, being a work addict leaves very little time
for the things that really mattersuch as making love, making conversation
(especially listening to others), listening to music, playing sport, seeing a play or film,
taking a leisurely stroll in the country, or simply doing nothing.
balance between action and reflection, we may
become a casualty of psychological burnout. We can be so busy making a living that
we forget to make a life. Perhaps our motto should be better lazy than crazy.
The novelist and poet Christopher Morley wrote in his essay On Laziness:
It is our observation that every time we get into trouble it is due to not having
            
The lazy man does not stand in the way of progress. When he sees progress
   
(in the vulgar phrase) pass the buck. He lets the buck pass him. We have always
secretly envied our lazy friends. Now we are going to join them. We have
burned our boats or our bridges or whatever it is that one burns on the eve of a
momentous decision (Morley, 1920, p. 244).
I realize that generation Z (the generation born just before the millennium), may find
it hard to conceive that there was once a time when we had to do without
smartphones, tablets, or computers and that not so very long before that most
communication was done by post. Once upon a time there was no such thing as
instant replay, instant response, or the ability to pause. There were no interruptions
from emails or conference calls. Multi-tasking was rare. We lived at a more leisurely
rhythm and had the luxury of periods of uninterrupted time in which to reflect and
think. We could even be bored.
Now, most executives spend a large percentage of their time responding to emails,
taking and making calls, and networking. All this activity takes more and more mental
space. Sometimes, watching a member of generation Z migrating simultaneously
between a television set, computer game, and texting and searching on a mobile
phone, I wonder if they ever think to look away from their screens and simply up at
the sky. Do they ever play for real, rather than in cyberspace? Can they ever just do
              but
drowning and that the incessant flow of our compulsive communication has become a
kind of manic defense.
The manic defense
The key question is whether our frenetic activities in cyberspace are really good for
us. It is debatable whether all this activity adds to our creativity and productivity or
actually constricts them. All the innovations that we are so familiar with may have
made it easier to bother each other rather than developing our own resources, an
ineffective way of dealing with our loneliness.
Busyness can become a manic defense (Klein, 1940; Akhtar, 2007). Typically, people
who use this defensive strategy spend all of their time rushing from one task to the
next, unable to tolerate even short periods of inactivity. Even their leisure time is a
series of shoulds and have tos, things to be ticked off an actual or mental list.
These people distract their conscious mind with either a flurry of activity or feelings
of euphoria, purposefulness, and the illusion of control.
Being busy is a great way to ward off disturbing thoughts and feelings. But busyness
busy allows us to push away feelings of helplessness, despair, and depression by
drawing on opposite feelings. People resorting to the manic defense search out
busyness to ward off the demons of loneliness, separation, depression and (above all)
death anxiety. For these people, inaction breeds doubt and fear. From this perspective,
cyberspace has been a boon for the manic defense. But such denial of the vicissitudes
of our existence will only work for a limited period of time. As is often the case, what
we push out of the door may come back through the window. Increased anxiety leads
to increased activity, which instead of having an anxiety-reducing effect, leads to
even more activity, enslaving the individual to some unhealthy behavior patterns.
Unfortunately, in contemporary organizations, work addicts are highly encouraged,
supported and even rewarded. Often, the insidious development of the manic defense
is difficult to counter because such behavior is useful to organizations. Ironically,
many people seek out this manic defense, behaving like the proverbial rats on a
treadmill, while an entire management industry exists to spin the treadmill ever faster.
This dynamic can ultimately create tension and chaos in the workplace.
            
p between working hard and working
smart. And a workaholic environment may contribute to serious personal and mental
health problems, including low morale, depression, substance abuse, workplace
harassment, relationship breakdown, and above average absenteeism.
Of course, all of us use the manic defense to some degree but work addicts go a step
too far, finding it difficult to cope with even short periods of unstructured time. When
the manic defense predominates, the action-reflection balance becomes strained. But
 and these defensive maneuvers
take up an enormous amount of energy. Eventually, something has to give.
The most effective executives are those who can both act and reflectwhich means
making time to do nothing. Doing nothing involves unplugging ourselves from the
compulsion to keep busy, the habit of shielding ourselves from certain feelings, the
tension of trying to manipulate our experience before we fully acknowledge what that
experience is. Doing nothing gives us the opportunity to look at the dark side of our
nature, a domain of great energy and passion. But it takes courage to go to the regions
of our usually busy avoiding.
Doing nothing and creativity
What explains our reluctance to do nothingto make the effort to rely on our inner
resources, rather than technology of one kind or another, to pass the timewhen we
know that doing nothing could be good for our intellectual and physical health and
In an age when we can watch a movie, download music, bid in an auction, and buy
any type of goods with just a few clicks of a mouse, the one commodity we either
is quietness, and the inner stillness beneath it. For
many of us, being alone with ourselves can be scary. Journeying to regions of the
ays like entering will bring our existential anxieties to the fore.
And yet taking a journey into our own interior is more important for our mental,
physical and spiritual health than almost anything else.
Many people fear the consequences of silencing the noises that bombard them.
Distraction-inducing behaviors, like constantly checking email, stimulate the brain to
shoot dopamine into the bloodstream, giving us a rush that can make stopping so
much harder. But if    ourselves periods of uninterrupted, freely
associative thought, personal growth, insight, and creativity are less likely to emerge
(Ghiselin, 1952; Arieti, 1976; Gardner, 1994; Amabile, 1996; Sternberg, 1988, 1999;
Runco, 2007). If we never permit ourselves to be bored, we will never have those
periods of reflective thought that are the preparation for creative processes.
Left- versus right-brain activity
Consideration of distraction and boredom brings us to left- and right-brain activity.
Neuroscientists have noted that left-brained people tend to be more logical,
analytical, and objective, while right-brained people are more intuitive and
reflective (Sperry, 1961; Hamilton, 1998). The left side of the brain appears to be the
seat of language and logical and sequential information processing. The right side
tends to be more visual, and processes information intuitively, holistically, and
randomly. And although the right hemisphere lacks the major elements of verbal
language (processes controlled by the left brain), it uses the language of pictures,
music, and emotions, which plays an important role in the creative process. The two
sides of the brain need to work together, however, to perform tasks.
Keeping in mind this left-right brain division of labor, our more humdrum, daily
activities are more dominated by the left side of our brain. Busyness and left-brain
activities are closely allied. Going though our usual routines in our waking hours (and
under most circumstances), the more cognitive processesof the generally dominant
 that there
is no simultaneous right-brain activity      
inactivity (when we are doing nothing or are being bored) that the right hemisphere
seizes the opportunity to express itself. It really gets to work in situations of
relaxation, meditation, hypnosis, fantasy inducement, or daydreaming (similar to what
happens during the night while we dream). Thus, although right hemisphere processes
are always hovering about, these do not have much opportunity to assert themselves
when we keep ourselves busy. Doing nothing, or having nothing to do, are valuable
opportunities for stimulating unconscious thought processes.
Compared to conscious thought, unconscious thought excels at integrating and
associating information and is capable of carrying out associative searches across a
broad database of knowledge. In this region of the mind, we are less constrained by
conventional associations and more likely to generate novel ideas than when we
consciously focus on problem solving..
Although the unconscious may be better at associative search, the outcomes of these
unconscious thought processes might not always enter our consciousness
immediately. Initially, they may incubate in the unconscious. They may remain
unconscious and dissipate, or emerge later into consciousness in the form of sudden
insights, surfacing as tacit cognitive or affective recognition of patterns, coherences,
or themes (Hélie and Sun, 2010).
The suggestion here is that doing nothing might turn out to be the best way to resolve
complex issues. Slacking offmaking a valiant effort not to be busy and letting our
mind wandermight be the best thing we can do for our mental health. I realize,
however, that m         
contemporary life and from an impression management perspective looks pretty
negative. But just sitting in a café, strolling in the park, lying on the
beach, or even staring into space while everyone else is running busily aboutmay
be one of the most creative things we can do.
Incubationthe unconscious recombination of thought elements, associated with
doing nothing and boredomhas not been a popular topic of research and has been
largely ignored. But letting go of a problem for some time helps dissolve whatever is
blocking the solution. Subsequently, and seemingly miraculously, the solution will
come out of the blue when we are thinking about something completely different.
Many of us have discovered that passive, unfocused moments are necessary for these
Eureka experiences to occur (Isaksen and Trefflinger, 1985; Smith, 1995; Dodds,
Ward, and Smith, 2003; Dietrich, 2004).
Associative processes do not thrive under conscious direction. In fact, conscious
thought can actually subvert the search for creative solutions. Novel connections or
ideas often insinuate themselves into the conscious mind when our attention is
d         
described this process very well:
I turned my attention to the study of some arithmetical questions, apparently
without a suspicion of any connection with my preceding researches. Disgusted
with my failure, I went to spend a few days at the seaside, and thought of
something else. One morning, walking on the bluff, the idea came to me: the
arithmetic transformations of indeterminate ternary quadratic forms were
identical to those of non-Euclidean geometry.
Most striking at first is this appearance of sudden illumination, a manifest sign
of long, unconscious prior work. The role of this unconscious work in
mathematical invention appears to me incontestable, and traces of it would be
found in other cases where it is less evident. Often when one works at a hard
question, nothing good is accomplished at the first attack. Then one takes a rest,
longer or shorter, and sits down anew to the work. During the first half-hour, as
before, nothing is found, and then all of a sudden the decisive idea presents
itself to the mind. It might be said that the conscious work has been more
fruitful because it has been interrupted and the rest has given back to the mind
its force and freshness. (P.)
          
novel ways, and this combination is performed largely unconsciously, by what he
calls the subliminal self. The problem solver continues to work unconsciously on the
problem after abandoning conscious work. A creative solution is found by working
intermittently on the problem while attending to mundane activities (such as taking a
shower, or driving).
Because switching attention from doing nothing to the incubated problem is very
rapid, we forget episodes of work on incubated problems, and only remember the
final step. Of course, the preparation phase in real-world situations can be very long
and tediousincluding getting bored. We might feel drained, having been unable to
solve the problem and hitting a number of dead ends. The best strategy, when this
happens, is not to make matters worse by forcing a solution but to focus our attention
elsewhere, including trying to do nothing.
An incubation period provides room and space that allow us to be creative, pursue
less likely solutions and respond to details and hints that might have gone unnoticed
without priming from the unsolved problem in our long-term memory.
Perhaps the Italian painter Giorgio Vasari was thinking of his friend Michelangelo
and the genesis of his David    
         -known examples of brilliant
unrelated or indeed nothing much at all, from Archimedes in his bath, and Newton in
his Lincolnshire garden to Paul McCartney, who woke up one morning having
    p. Sometimes, a link is made between
the creative process and bed, bath, and bus, an idea allegedly from the philosopher
Ludwig Wittgenstein (Shank, Lyras, and Soloway, 2010). The point is that we often
get ideas or solutions to problems when we are taking a shower, lying in bed, or
travelling, periods of time when we are removed from the constraints of routine
activities. In all these situations, our attention tends to be unfocused, or even semi-
consciousand we rarely have access to pen, paper, or computer.
Doing nothing is often a welcome release from overload of one kind or another. In
this state of mind the brain can turn down the volume, switch off the screen and recast
the outside world in productive and creative ways. we have been
wrestling with an idea or problem for a long time, to consider relaxing, and letting the
subconscious take over. Creating inactive periods and deliberate distractions (such as
day-dreaming, making music, having a drink, having sex) can actually make us
smarter and more focused in the long term. So to a certain extent, susceptibility to
distraction can be a real plus. When we are not busy being busy, we are more open to
associative thinking.
Stimulating creative inactivity at work
The time may have come for more organizations to recognize the power of doing
nothing and the positive value of boredom. To be more effective, we need to allow
others and ourselves regular disconnection from busyness and schedule times in our
days when we are completely free to reflect and think.. Any activity that takes our
mind off the problem at hand, that allows our thoughts to roam freely or helps us
focus on an entirely different activity, might do the trick. Incubation time 
the specially gifted        unthinking can we really arrive at
new, creative ideas.
Incubation time can be introduced in many ways. For example, a number of
companies have turned to mindfulness and meditation practices to help their
employees tap into their creative potential. Companies such as 3M, Pixar, Google,
Twitter and Facebook have made disconnected time, or contemplative practices, key
             -
awareness, self-management and creativity. They want them to work smarter.
Working hard, or working smart?
How do we recognize that we could do more nothing in our life? Often, the main
give-away that we are working hard but not working smart is when we find ourselves
in a place w, never enough time to do it, and no time to
relax. Ironically, once we are in this trap, we fool ourselves by thinking that if we do
just one more thing, we will finally be able to relax. However, this thinking is
delusional. Either our to-do list will continue to lengthen with new additions or we are
left feeling we could do things just a little bit better. If we get stuck in this mindset,
   Feeling stuck is a good indicator that we are not
doing the right thing and not operating at optimum capacity.
The best thing we can do at this point is to take a break. And surprisingly, very often
after a period of disconnection, the problem will look quite different. In fact, we
might discover that the answer was there right along, staring us in the face.
Carpe diem
Although most of us would prefer not to overwhelm our lives with work, we
frequently push ourselves because we have our eyes on a long-term goal. Of course,
to sacrifice much of our present well-being for a later good, we need to be sure that
      Are our aims aligned with what we really
want from life? For example, if having a family is one of our top priorities, but
achieving our long-term goal might compromise that, all our busyness might lead to a
place where we will not be truly happy.
We also run the risk of becoming too fixated on the way things would, should, or will
  very easy to get caught up in a race toward a fantasy tomorrow that will
inevitably fall short of our expectations. Dreams may disappoint, and may in any case
have more to do with avoiding the present than building the future. We need to
remember thatregardless of how things might be once our efforts pay offlife
always takes place in the present. We never know what the future holds, whether
  be in good health, or the people we love will still be around. The
opportunity to enjoy what we cherish is in the here and now, so we need to seize the
day and engage with them while we can, even if it can only be in small doses.
Maintaining relationships
           
something larger than ourselvesfamily, friends, or the community. We need
meaningful contact with other people to feel fully alive. The quality of our
relationships correlates directly with our overall sense of happiness. We are social
animals and relationships stand central to a successful life. If we accomplish all our
material goals but do not attend carefully to our relationships, we are likely to end up
miserable and alone. Family reminds us what is truly important in our lives, in
particular our children. But maintaining our relationships needs interaction,
engagement, and time out.
Saying no
None of us wants to disappoint other people, and on some level we all want approval.
Saying no is hard when we want to please but if we are going to maintain a modicum
of private space we have to learn to do so. Being able to saying no is one of the most
useful skills we can develop. Saying no to unimportant requests can free up time for
more important things; and resisting daily distractions can give us the space we need
to focus on what really matters.
Saying no is not necessarily selfish and by the same token, saying yes to every request
is not healthy.         
-quality time to them. If we
are unable to say no, everyone ends up frustrated, ourselves in particular. We need to
take care of our   
           -down and
may even get sick.
Managing sleep habits
In a perfect world, we should all sleep eight hours a night. Sleep is essential for
personal growth and creativity and c  not     
dropping with fatigue. When we sleep, our brains are actively
           of sleep
impairs creativity.
Most of us have probably experienced some form of sleeplessness at some stage in
our life, but chronic and prolonged sleeplessness leads to mental and physical health
issues. More usually we experience poor sleep, rather than insomniadifficulty
getting to sleep, waking earlier than usual, prolonged periods of wakefulness, and
feeling tired on waking in the morning. However, poor sleep is has been linked to
high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart failure, heart attack and stroke, diabetes,
and obesity. If that were not bad enough, poor sleeping habits also inhibit the creative
process. the treadmill of busyness.
Making time for nothing to do
This essay is a plea for us all to dare to make time in our daily life to do nothing
even be boredand indulge in some quiet reflection. For busy people, that idea may
seem worthy of only a very hollow laugh. So many of us are so action-oriented, or
action-addicted, that time for reflection is no longer part of our make-up. Each day,
we are carried away by yet another project, yet another activity, and allow little or no
time to stop and look at what is happening to us and the people around us. Yet our
compulsive and relentless communication and our obsessive activity may be the
emotional and intellectual equivalent of fast food and just as bad for our health.
It may seem counterintuitive but stopping for a while and stepping off the treadmill
can actually help us progress more quickly and effectively. Confucius once said,
Learning without reflection is a waste, reflection without learning is dangerous.
There should be nothing laughable in getting away from it all and asking ourselves
who we are, where we have come from and where we are going. The answers might
reveal that we have been so concerned with an idea of what we ought to be that we
have failed to take into account the things that make us who we really are. We may
realize that if we just go forward blindly, creating more unintended consequences, in
the end we may fail to achieve anything substantial.
our interior lifewhen we are out of sync with what really matters. And when we
turn away from that inner exploration and look outside ourselves for answers, it
becomes very hard to avoid or correct that disconnect. Taking time to do nothing,
however, will make us more productive and creative. As the saying goes, sometimes
we need to fall from the mountain to realize what we have been climbing for.
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... (Torbenfeldt Bengtsson, 2012). Doing nothing can generate frustration but, in different circumstances, can also foster reflection, a sense of well-being and creativity (Kets De Vries, 2014). Moreover, meaningful contact with the natural world is increasingly recognized as an effective therapeutic tool (e.g. ...
The lives and experiences of those on probation supervision are often invisible and dismissed as unimportant or worse as ‘an easy option’. This article reviews two different studies in England and Ireland which utilized an innovative technique, Photovoice, to foreground the experiences of probationers on their journey towards desistance. The difficulties they face such as stigma, social judgement and exclusion are explored as well as their need for emotional calm, and support and understanding from their supervisors and the wider community. Photovoice as a methodological and creative tool is revealed as a novel and expressive means to develop insight into probation supervision and an effective technique for undertaking cross-national research which can communicate across cultural boundaries.
... Work underload is defined as having little or no work to do and is thought to contribute to feeling bored at work (de Vries, 2015;Fisher, 1993;O'Hanlon, 1981;Reijseger et al., 2013;Shackleton, 1981;van Wyk, de Beer, Pienaar, & Schaufeli, 2016). A qualitative study by Fisher #14363 8 (1987) of over 500 university students demonstrated that the most frequently cited reason for being bored was "having nothing to do." ...
... They have to bear it and must wait for its effect on them." Indeed, Kets de Vries (2014) argued that boredom has played a crucial role in many great artistic and scientific breakthroughs. For instance, Descartes is alleged to have "discovered" the mathematical concept of x and y-the basis of every graph-while lying in bed staring idly at a fly crawling around the corner of the ceiling. ...
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Positive psychology has become increasingly amenable and open to critical perspectives, including with respect to the very notions of “positive” and “negative.” This problematizing of the “positive” has been referred to as “second wave” positive psychology (Lomas & Ivtzan, 2015; (Ivtzan, Lomas, Hefferon, & Worth, 2015)—and previously as positive psychology “2.0” (Wong, 2011)—as elucidated in the introduction to this section. The rationale for these labels is that the initial “first wave” of the field was essentially founded on a binary positive–negative construction: Certain phenomena were viewed as positive, and hence desirable, with others therefore being negative, and hence undesirable. However, it is increasingly clear that such categorical appraisals are far from straightforward: ostensibly positive phenomena can be detrimental to wellbeing, while seemingly negative phenomena may be conducive to it. To some extent, this critical appreciation was implicit within the field from the beginning (e.g., Seligman, 1990). However, this more nuanced appreciation tended to be missing from the overarching “message” of the field. Now, though, there is a growing recognition of the complex “dialectics” of flourishing, involving an intricate interplay between seemingly negative and positive phenomena (e.g., Kashdan & Biswas-Diener, 2014). This chapter provides an illustration of this second wave approach in the form of a case study on an emotion that is generally regarded as negative and undesirable, namely boredom.
... Developing mindfulness skills means we can free ourselves from the myriad of distractions, in order to pay attention and to focus. Mindfulness speaks to the challenges of our times, because it calls for greater kindness and compassion and releases us from the "prison of busyness" (Kets de Vries, 2015). ...
Purpose The paper aims to inspire practitioners to look critically at how and in what ways mindfulness can enhance emotional intelligence interventions. The paper also aims to provide practical and evidence-based guidance on what and how to design, implement and evaluate mindfulness-based emotional intelligence (EI) programs. Design/methodology/approach This paper adopts a critical, practitioner-perspective on mindfulness as it transitions into the workplace. The author draws on her own work in the field of EI practice and research and the experiences of peers who have implemented mindfulness-based interventions to offer insights on how to navigate the “mindfulness phenomenon” to enhance EI interventions. Findings A series of practical steps on how to implement organizational mindfulness-based interventions (O-MBIs), distilled from case studies, entitled “top ten tips from the field”. Research limitations/implications The author argues that whilst organizational scholars debate as to whether mindfulness is a topic worthy of interest, practitioners are already engaged and generating practitioner-led research. Practical implications Mindfulness is rapidly capturing development and learning practitioner attention, yet there is little empirical work that is initiated by practitioners and shared with practitioners. This paper goes some way to helping peers navigate what has been described as the “mindfulness phenomenon”. Social implications Many commentators have noted that we operate in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world. We are trapped in a “prison of busyness”, and the author argues that the popularity of mindfulness, not only in the workplace but more broadly in society, is indicative of the need to equip people to cope and a desire to create more compassionate and mindful organizations. Originality/value The paper summarizes themes captured in what has been described as a seminal book in the practitioner literature on mindfulness in the workplace. It is designed to provoke readers into looking critically at their existing EI programs and examine how and in what ways, a holistic, embodied practice (mindfulness) can hone the skills of attention, focus and presence. With the intention of facilitating kinder and more compassionate individuals and organizations, potentially leading to more mindful and ethical societies.
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Boredom is almost universally regarded as a dysphoric mental state, characterised by features such as disengagement and low arousal. However, in certain quarters (e.g., Zen Buddhism), boredom is seen as potentially having great value and even importance. The current study sought to explore boredom through a case study involving introspective phenomenology. The author created conditions in which he would experience boredom for an hour, and recorded his experience in real-time using a variant of the Experiencing Sampling Method. The data were analysed using an adaptation of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. The results indicated that the state of boredom contained three main sources of value: (a) altered perception of time; (b) awakened curiosity about the environment; and (c) exploration of self. Consequently, the paper offers a re-appraisal of boredom, suggesting that rather than necessarily being a negative state, if engaged with, boredom has the potential to be a positive and rewarding experience.
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Our central goal is to provide a definition of boredom in terms of the underlying mental processes that occur during an instance of boredom. Through the synthesis of psychodynamic, existential, arousal, and cognitive theories of boredom, we argue that boredom is universally conceptualized as "the aversive experience of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity." We propose to map this conceptualization onto underlying mental processes. Specifically, we propose that boredom be defined in terms of attention. That is, boredom is the aversive state that occurs when we (a) are not able to successfully engage attention with internal (e.g., thoughts or feelings) or external (e.g., environmental stimuli) information required for participating in satisfying activity, (b) are focused on the fact that we are not able to engage attention and participate in satisfying activity, and (c) attribute the cause of our aversive state to the environment. We believe that our definition of boredom fully accounts for the phenomenal experience of boredom, brings existing theories of boredom into dialogue with one another, and suggests specific directions for future research on boredom and attention. © The Author(s) 2012.
An integrative introduction to the theories and themes in research on creativity, the second edition of Creativity is both a reference work and text for courses in this burgeoning area of research. The book begins with a discussion of the theories of creativity (Person, Product, Process, Place), the general question of whether creativity is influenced by nature or nurture, what research has indicated of the personality and style of creative individuals from a personality analysis standpoint, and how social context affects creativity. This wide-ranging work then proceeds to coverage of issues such as gender differences, whether creativity can be enhanced, if creativity is related to poor mental or physical health, and much more. The book contains boxes covering special interest items, including one-page biographies of famous creative individuals, and activities for a group or individual to test or encourage creativity, as well as references to Internet sites relating to creativity. Includes all major theories and perspectives on creativity. Consolidates recent research into a single source. Includes key terms defined and text boxes with interesting related material. Single authored for clarity and consistency of presentation.
Like E. Paul Torrance, my colleagues and I have tried to understand the nature of creativity, to assess it, and to improve instruction by teaching for creativity as well as teaching students to think creatively. This article reviews our investment theory of creativity, propulsion theory of creative contributions, and some of the data we have collected with regard to creativity. It also describes the propulsion theory of creative contributions. Finally, it draws some conclusions.
Reviews the book, Creativity: Theories and themes: Research, development, and practice by Mark A. Runco (see record 2007-00543-000). This book consists of 11 chapters with the following titles: "Cognition and Creativity," "Developmental Trends and Influences on Creativity," "Biological Perspectives on Creativity," "Health and Clinical Perspectives," "Social, Attributional, and Organizational Perspectives," "Educational Perspectives," "History and Historiometry," "Culture and Creativity," "Personality and Motivation," "Enhancement and the Fulfillment of Potential," and "Conclusion: What Creativity Is and What It Is Not." Beyond this all-encompassing content, the volume is crammed with illustrations and with all those "boxes" that are so characteristic of introductory textbooks in psychology. Each chapter also begins with appropriate quotations and a didactic "Advanced Organizer." Finally, Runco closes with 63 pages of references and a 15-page subject index. The reviewer has one major complaint: Runco seems to have adopted an "open the floodgates" approach that sometimes results in the almost willy nilly insertion of ideas and material. One consequence of this tendency is that the illustrations and boxes are at times less useful than they ought to be. Another repercussion of Runco's leave-nothing-out approach is that it occasionally leads to the presentation of ideas with minimal if any discussion or commentary. The reviewer does assert though, that for someone in the market for a text for use in an introductory creativity course, a book that is wide-ranging and most current, Runco's Creativity is a good choice. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)