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10 Creative Hacks to Fight the Boredom Pandemic

Updated: Oct 14, 2022

Whether it is "quiet quitting" or reimagining what purposeful work looks like, every leader needs a creative growth strategy to fight the insidious effects of boredom. Boredom used to be an ambiguous study under the umbrella of motivation, but fast-forward to today following two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and there are new insights and emerging research that can bring actionable steps to both leaders and organizations. As a creativity and growth executive coach, the findings support the underpinnings of the TAPE Framework that looks at aligning the right actions and connections to drive growth.

Break the Tape Leadership is committed to providing leaders and organizations with the tools to become not only their best selves, but to become agents of creativity for a less boring world. Because "less boring" means "more meaning." With all the attention on burnout, chronic boredom or "boreout" is one of the many factors behind the current workplace disruption and the need to rebalance the meaning of work. Lotta Harju, an assistant professor of organizational behaviour at EM Lyon Business School, France, found that chronic boredom “increased the likelihood of employees’ turnover and early retirement intentions, poor self-rated health and stress symptoms”. With that in mind, we took the top 10 symptoms of boredom and paired them with our favorite creative hacks. Enjoy!

  1. Wanting: There are some definitions for boredom that describe it as as an absence or void of something, i.e. "I have nothing to do." In fact, the book Out of My Skull: The Psychology of Boredom describes it as an active wanting or hunger for activity but having no outlet. It isn't a low motivation state, but just the opposite. People get bored when they have extra capacity and nowhere to direct it. BTTL's Hack Co-Creation: What connections can you make that tie to your leadership or organizational purpose/values? Ask yourself or your high performers -- If you had additional capacity how would you like to use it?

  2. Unstimulated: In a bizarre set of experiments boredom was studied as the absence of external stimulation. People could not spend 6-15 minutes in a room focused on their own thoughts without resorting to alternatives that included choosing an electric shock or cheating. BTTL's Hack Ideation: Who are your external connections that get you excited about work/project/future? How can you call them in to help you come up with your best ideas?

  3. Lack of Engagement: Sandi Mann, Ph.D and author of The Science of Boredom: Why Boredom is Good argues that there is a positive side to boredom through rechanneling disengagement. Doing so can be a catalyst for humor, fun, reflection, creativity and inspiration. BTTL's Hack Retrofit: When you are stressed and overstimulated, ask what actions could I take to make this more boring? Who helps you (or your team) disengage from constant doing?

  4. Strengths Untapped: The authors of Out of My Skull: The Psychology of Boredom also suggest that redundant tasks that don't tap into our unique strengths leave us feeling mentally undernourished or bored. BTTL's Hack Assessments (i.e. CliftonStrengths): Do you know what your strengths are and those of your team? How could you redesign the work or tasks to connect to your or your team's strengths?

  5. Voice of Conscience: Lars Svendsen, Ph.D. author of "A Philosophy of Boredom" sees boredom as a voice of conscience. Boredom is a wake-up call asking you to come to terms with what you care about and what brings you meaning? BTTL's Hack Listen: Notice when you are bored (or your team is bored) and ask yourself (or your team) what do you care about? What brings meaning? What connections are missing in my work/life?

  6. Emotionally Unaware: With increased emphasis on emotional intelligence in the workplace, there has been a link established between being emotionally unaware and boredom. BTTL's Hack EQ Training: What EQ learning and measurement programs can I make available for leaders and teams? How can we bring more EQ connections into our work?

  7. Lack of Agency: Boredom hits people differently. Studies on adolescents found that lack of agency or the inability to control or influence outcomes increases boredom. BTTL's Hack DEI Engagement/Affinity Groups/ERGs: How can you bring the voices outside the management group to the table? What connections inside and outside of the organization are missing?

  8. Not Caring: Apathetic boredom is often defined as boredom without antsiness and is uniquely subjective. What brings meaning to one may bring disengagement to another. This type of boredom is often associated with "achievement" settings. BTTL Hack Measure What Matters: How can you use self-reflection to connect to what matters most for you as a leader? What connections are you making to your individual team member's purpose? What role is "achievement" playing in your culture?

  9. Spin-Cycle Solutions: What if I told you that the #1 reason that high performers look for a new job is boredom? When work experiences stop feeling novel or new, they can become redundant and no longer require critical thinking. It's often seen in work cultures that recycle the same solutions or playbook without reflection. BTTL Hack Job Crafting: What percentage of your work/work flow is redundant (or never changes)? How could you connect your purpose to recrafting your job description? For your team?

  10. Scrolling/Digital Distraction: Despite the ability for smartphones and digital devices to connect us to an never-ending trove of connections and ideas, research has shown that rather than stimulate us, it produces a wanting hunger for "more" (see #1) and makes us more bored. And more lonely. BTTL Hack Digital-free Zones: What actions and outcomes could you accomplish easier without a digital device? How can you connect those actions/outcomes to a digital free zone? What characteristics does your Digital-free Zone have: Is it a place? Or is it an experience? Or is it a measure (i.e. time)?

Break the Tape Leadership helps leaders unleash creativity and potential in themselves and the organizations they lead to generate meaningful momentum. (And we are passionate about creating a less boring world.)

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