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A boring blog about doing nothing

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A boring blog about doing nothing

This blog embraces boredom. 

It contains the antithesis of a call to action. 

It asks you to do nothing. 

Still want to read on? You should. 

Why? Because it provides a watertight, unarguable case for laziness. For daydreaming. For being boring.  


The battle of busy

How’s your creativity these days? Feel like your brain is zinging with new ideas and inspiration? 

Thought not. 

How many of us can reasonably claim we’ve got the time and headspace for thinking and being creative in the insanity of day-to-day work and life? 

We’re losing the Battle of Busy, as the brilliant DO Lectures have christened it. 

When someone asks you how you are, what’s the standard response? 

“Oh, you know, busy busy…” 

Busy has become our default. Something to be applauded and celebrated. It means we must be doing great work. 

Hmmm. We may be getting a lot of work done, but are great ideas fuelling it? 

Because busy is where average ideas breed – if they have time to germinate at all. 


The power of the showerillustrations of Rubik's cube and planet with the text 'busy is where average ideas breed'

Think about when you have your best ideas. When those moments of inspiration pop into your head. 

Is it when you’re sat at your work station, in front of a screen? When ploughing through the unremitting emails? When on your soul-sapping sixth Teams call of the day? 

Or is it when you’re out for a walk? In the shower? Driving or cycling? Or even just sat waiting for a train or bus? 

Yeah, it’s those isn’t it? 

And there’s a very good reason for that – a reason that should inspire us all to embrace boredom and nothingness. 

It’s about giving our poor overloaded brains a moment’s peace. 


Screensaver mode for the mind illustration of bust head and roman column with the text 'the default mode network is our minds screensaver mode'

The scientific case for giving our brains a break is simple but compelling.

It’s centred on something called our default mode network. This is our mind’s screensaver mode. 

It’s when your brain is not being forced to focus on difficult work or being force-fed information but instead is given licence to wander. 

When in this screensaver mode, wonderous things happen in our brains. Thoughts collide. Memories are recalled. New ideas are formed. 

And research recently published in National Geographic has shown that this default mode network is most active when we engage in more passive tasks and our mind has the opportunity to wander. 

So places like the shower become fertile ground for new ideas – nothing else to do or see, white noise in the background, allowing our unconscious mind to steer the ship. 

As Benedict Carey puts it in his book How We Learn: “The mind works on problems offline, moving around the pieces it has in hand, and adding one or two it has in reserve but didn’t think to use at first.”


Celebrating laziness and boredom illustration of ladder with text 'to reconnect creativity, we need to destigmatise laziness'

So, to reconnect our creativity and start to generate new ideas, we need to destigmatise laziness, author Andrew Smart argues in his book, Auto Pilot. 

“We categorise people who sit in contemplative moods as flaky, spacy or lazy.

“But for your brain to do its best work, you need to be lazy. 

“If you want to have great ideas, you must stop managing your time.” 

And that means getting bored too. Allowing ourselves time to let our imaginations take over. 

How many games did you come up with as a kid in a garden or woods with just a stick or a rock to inspire you? 


Give your brain a break

Our brains are bombarded with 2 billion bits of data a second. It can process 147 of those. 

We need to give it a break. Fight the battle of busy. Put the smartphone down for a while. Let thoughts settle and connect. 

There are more neural connections in our brains than there are stars in the known universe. 

That means they are capable of incredible thoughts and ideas. They can feed our creativity if we just give them the chance. 

So key take-homes from this blog, if you want to power your creativity and great new ideas? 

1.   Daydream 

2.   Do nothing 

3.   Get bored 

Told you it was worth getting to the end. 


By James Morton


Worth another look

Infographic: Where do you have your best ideas?

Infographic: Beating Busy

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Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

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Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

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Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

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Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

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Thank you again for all the work you have done with us!”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead - Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA)

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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