Is there room for a little boredom in your obsessive time management methods? According to the latest research, there definitely should be. While psychology professor Dr. John Eastwood is the first to admit, “The science of boredom is really in its infancy,” he’s not the only brainiac who thinks you don’t need to be stimulated 24/7/365.
Eastwood conducts research on productivity in what’s literally called the “boredom inducement lab.” He believes that when we’re bored, we’re more likely to take risks. Boredom expert and psychologist Dr. Sandi Mann also believes that quiet moments are necessary for innovation, telling CBC News, “It could lead to that eureka moment” on that tough IT problem you’ve beaten your head against for days … or weeks … or months.
This latest research exists in sharp contrast to the hyper-productive culture many IT teams have adopted. Is there a point in time in which agile principles, like holding short meetings every five seconds and testing software every day all day, could make your organization less innovative? At the very least, it’s worth digging into.
Love it or hate it, agile is now used by more than 76 percent of global organizations to manage their IT team’s time. There are some definitive benefits to this approach—namely, a reduced risk of custom-building a piece of software that’s a complete failure. By collaborating with your business users, testing constantly, and generally practicing collaboration, your chances of nailing business requirements are higher.
But when you’re operating under the agile methodology, what happens when you finish a sprint? Well, you organize your way into tackling another user story, daily stand-up meeting, and more testing. Where’s the room to get bored in between sprints of firing off more code?
Look, we’re not saying you should scrap the agile method entirely—studies reveal that your chances of producing an app that isn’t stupid are three times higher with agile than waterfall. We’re just saying it’s hard to daydream in meetings that last no longer than five minutes. Your best ideas can sometimes come from ignoring what your CIO is saying. If you get called out for staring into space, point out that research shows our best ideas can arise during passive activities, like reading or not paying attention during work meetings.
2. Pareto Principle
We’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule. Way back in 1897, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto determined that it represented “predictable imbalance.” He advised his followers to do things like trash 80 percent of their reading material and focus on the 20 percent that was actually driving value. He also pioneered the famous 80/20 time management concept, which Google loosely adopted to let their employees pursue tasks that interest them.
The Pareto principle isn’t to be confused with the Pomodoro method, but they have a few things in common. Both Pareto and Pomodoro emphasize not being 100 percent productive all the time; it’s about creating space for things you actually care about and giving your brain little breaks.
Time management methods that emphasize balance and downtime, like Pareto and Pomodoro, aren’t likely to cut a huge chunk out of what you get done in a week. As it turns out, people who aren’t pushed to deliver stuff 24/7 aren’t only happier and more likely to smile, they’re also primed to set and achieve goals.
3. “Getting Things Done”
Wait, there’s a time management method called, “Getting Things Done“? Absolutely, and it’s a popular approach to stress-free productivity in a business setting. Pioneered more than a decade ago by management consultant David Allen, GTD involves five steps to make sure you operate like a machine—capturing ideas, clarifying needs, organizing your tasks, checking your lists twice, and blazing through tasks in order.
The real problem Allen’s method aims to solve, according to technologist CM Smith, is closing loops. These are tasks or projects we need to get done, but haven’t taken concrete action on. Allen believes that by writing down your “loops,” you can exclusively focus on the task at hand.
In contrast, Harvard Business Review‘s David Burkus is a firm believer in the science of passive problem-solving. By allowing yourself to feel bored, you could be amazed at the problem-solving potential you develop. This is the reason you come up with your best ideas in the shower, when your mind is wandering. If you only focus on the precise task at hand, you won’t make progress on anything else.
The solution? Get less done
Trying to turn yourself into a productivity bot with agile time management methods may result in more user-friendly software, but it’s probably not the right tool for a really creative organization. While we can’t promise enterprises will immediately stop, drop, and adopt a culture where boredom is permitted, we can point to some very real science behind the idea of getting less done. Scrolling mindlessly through your Facebook feed may be a more effective way to solve your toughest IT problem than super-focused work.