Boredom for beginners

Writing in the Washington Post, Brigid Schulte, a time-use researcher and author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, quotes an article in a 1959 edition of the Harvard Business Review saying that: “boredom, which used to bother only aristocrats, had become a common curse.” Similarly, in 1960, the US broadcaster Eric Sevareid thought the gravest crisis facing America was: “the rise of leisure”, although this, is an old argument indeed – “Idleness and lack of occupation tend―nay are dragged―towards evil” as Hippocrates observed in Decorum. But we should be careful not to confuse being lazy with being idle. What might be termed ‘strategic idleness’ can pay dividends, as Jack Welch, former CEO of one of the world’s most admired companies, General Electric, would attest. Welch famously spent an hour each day looking out of the window, while Lord Melbourne, a former Prime Minister of Great Britain, praised the value of what he termed “masterful inactivity.”

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