Cultivating Boredom

One of the hardest parts about running a business is that my work is never done. There is always more to administer, to plan, to discuss. I can always be networking more, writing more, creating or upgrading our products & offerings, bonding with my team, learning… There is no end. 

This isn't just in the consulting world. My first work was running a dump truck company for a small Northeast Portland, Oregon company, and even there—especially there—I was consumed with doing

It's okay to have incomplete thoughts—but they may never be output if you create space in your day for them to coalesce.

It's okay to have incomplete thoughts—but they may never be output if you create space in your day for them to coalesce.

Recently, an article came out (which I haven't made time to read, though I dutifully added it to my queue) about how iPhones and other smartphones actually kill creativity, because they do one of their jobs too well: killing boredom. 

What I didn't realize, but which now makes perfect sense to me, is that the hyper-optimization of my time, my information diet, my meetings-within-meetings-with-lunch-with-an-errand schedule, while making me very productive, gave me no time to wait for something new to arise. 

So now I cultivate boredom. I'm writing from a quiet back patio of a littler garden cafe in Cole Valley, here in San Francisco. I don't commute to work any more, running our company from my home here in the city and through my quite-capable team in our Portland offices (so grateful for them!). I don't take on the slew of eager small businesses who come in. I don't manage our extensive project management system. I still have plenty more to do than I will ever get done alone, but I come to one or the over the cafe most mornings and just sit. 

I might read an article or two, a few pages from a book, but I've found the challenge of perching my laptop or iPad on the table in the sunlight is too much trouble, so I just sit. I pray over my food, practice eating it slowly, and maybe kibitz with the server, listen to the babies and mamas at the next table learn how to talk. Since I started, I've reduced the stress in my body, calmed my responses to lots of Urgent, Important, Must-Happen-Now emails and conversations, and eaten less. I smile more, laugh with neighborhood acquaintances about the funny old farm truck parked on the street, all of it. 

Somewhere in there, perhaps because of the the babies and mamas learning each others' languages, or the question from the server about what exactly I which allows me to sit at a cafe most mornings, I've written more than I have in quite some time. So I invite you to consider where you can give yourself and your team some space to Not Do—to cultivate boredom—and see what insight arises just because you are present with your thoughts.