There’s something about live events that motivate us more than stale, old ones, and it’s tied to the effects of suspense. Even if you don’t know how something is going to turn out in the end, when you know the answer is easily obtainable you’re going to be less-motivated to find it the hard way. This can cause problems.
Writer Chuck Klosterman noticed this when wondering why he was much less interested in watching a sports game he recorded on his DVR once the game had already ended:
It doesn’t matter how much I sequester myself or how thrilling the event is – if I know the game has finished, it’s difficult to sustain authentic interest in what I’ve recorded. I inevitably fast-forward to the last two or three minutes (even when I have no vested interest in the outcome). Since I’m watching the game purely for entertainment, it shouldn’t be any different from the real thing. It should, in fact, be better, just as it’s more enjoyable to watch self-recorded episodes of Frontline or Storage Wars or any other traditional show that lives inside my DVR. In theory, I should be able to enjoy every single game I want to see, on my own schedule – all I need to do is avoid the Internet for a few hours and not glance at the ESPN ticker on public TV screens. But it never works: I get home, I start watching the recent past, and I find myself rushing toward the present.
This phenomenon is applicable to more than just sports. For example, you’ll find writers who hate outlining because it ruins the organic discovery of the writing process. Mundane jobs become boring because they’re always the same. That’s just another way of saying there’s no suspense, and the outcome is always known. When you don’t know what’s going to happen, things are a lot more exciting and you’re more motivated to find out.
Practically speaking, if you’re bored with your work you should try to find ways to make it more capricious. Embrace change. Massive change is scary, but if it happens slowly over time it can create just the right amount of suspense to keep your interest — unlike the sports games on your DVR.
Space, Time and DVR Mechanics [Chuck Klosterman]