Sunday, August 20, 2017

Weekly Inspiration: Bored and Brilliant

The title of this TED Talk caught my eye in my weekly TED e-mail: How Boredom Can Lead To Your Most Brilliant Ideas. It caught my eye because I am NEVER bored anymore. I am the ultimate multi-tasker (even though I have heard the research that we are less efficient when trying to do multiple things at once), if I am not on my laptop, then I am listening to books or podcasts on my iPod, and for the past year or so, it has felt to me like I have NO free time, like every single minute is packed full.

This brief talk, by Manoush Zomorodi, is excellent - not only thought-provoking but also funny:

The interesting thing for me is that Manoush's talk focuses on how people today are so controlled by their phones...and even though I don't even own a smartphone (gasp!), everything she said is still applicable to me. Because technology does rule my life, and I never give myself quiet time to just think. In fact, everything she says here is a big part of the reason WHY I don't have a smartphone (besides the outrageous price of phones & data plans) - I know I am already too connected too much of the time, and it would certainly get worse if I had everything on my laptop on a hand-held phone that I carried with me everywhere.

The funny thing is, though, that the end result is the same. I spend much of my waking hours on my laptop. Some of that is work - writing - with all my social media windows closed and my focus 100% on what I am doing. But, much of my daily time with my laptop is spent going through e-mails (I never seem to catch up!), reading and/or posting on social media, and generally - as Manoush points out - filling every available moment with technology. During those boring tasks that can free your mind that she mentions - walking, driving, doing laundry or dishes - I almost always have an earbud in my ear, with an audiobook or podcast broadcasting directly into my mind. Don't get me wrong - I get a lot of enjoyment from audiobooks and podcasts - but I am not leaving myself any quiet time.

I suspect it is the same for many of us living with chronic illness. Even though we are often housebound, and some are bedridden, technology makes it possible to stay connected 24/7 for all but the worst off. I know of many people with chronic illness who are constantly posting on social media (I know because I am reading all those posts! And posting my own). Granted, the ability to connect with others online is hugely important to those of us who can't go out much and used to live with such loneliness and isolation...but it can get to the point where we are never bored or quiet.

I do block out tech-free time for myself every day to read and watch TV with my husband (and to nap and sleep, of course). I set a laptop limit for myself years ago and set it aside by 7:30 pm every evening (though it used to be 7 pm!), and my husband and I watch two TV shows together. I'm pretty wiped out by then anyway and need to lie down, plus we enjoy that time together to immerse ourselves in our favorite shows. We turn off the TV at 9:30 every night and go up to bed, where we spend an hour reading. That evening time is certainly a wonderful break from technology, though my mind is still fully occupied - with TV and then with my book. I don't have any moments of boredom or quiet in my days.

I do occasionally experience a complete technology break. In the talk, Manoush describes an experiment to help people spend less time on their phones. When we vacation, we take our camper and are off-line. Since I don't have a smartphone, the break is pretty complete: I will check for texts or calls on my regular cell phone from my kids or my father-in-law, but otherwise, we spend our time reading, taking walks, kayaking, and even sitting around the campfire at night just talking or watching the fire. I have to admit, I feel a little bit lost the first day or two and find myself thinking I need to post something, but that fades quickly, and I enjoy the lack of pressure and the presence of quiet time. My problem is that I need to find ways to incorporate a little quiet time into my everyday life and not just a few times a year on vacation.

What do you think? Are you constantly online or on your phone? Are you ever bored? And how about Manoush's hypothesis: do you find that you come up with creative ideas when you ARE bored?

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. I know I definitely need to make some changes!

Manoush Zomorodi has also written a book about her experiment and this concept:

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