It’s no secret that most of us daydream at least once throughout the day, but what you might not have known is that daydreaming is actually GOOD for your daily productivity.
The news we’ve all been waiting for — justification for having our heads in the clouds. No, I’m not talking about taking an all-expense paid vacation to Mt. Everest, but the daydreaming that takes us to Mr. Everest while looking out the window at the busy street below. You may be thinking, “Sure, tell that to my boss!“, but I’m going to make it even easier for you… Send this post to your boss to read. (and I’ll make sure my boss reads it too!)
Is Daydreaming Programmed Inside Us?
When researching for this post, I came across an extremely interesting study by two Harvard psychologists, who were investigating the relationship between our wandering minds and happiness. [So interesting, in fact, that I actually joined in their research.]
In order to do so, they created an iPhone app to collect a database of real-time reports of thoughts, feelings, and actions of a broad range of people as they went about their daily activities. The Track Your Happiness App sends notifications at completely random times of the day/night and asks you to answer certain questions, such as:
- How are you feeling right now?
- What are you doing right now?
- Are you thinking about something other than what you’re currently doing?
From asking questions at various times and analyzing the answers, they were able to reveal 3 daydreaming facts:
- Minds wander frequently, regardless of what we are doing… an astounding 46.9% of all cases.
- Most minds were more likely to wander to pleasant topics (42.5% of samples) than to unpleasant topics.
- What people were thinking about was a better predictor of their happiness than was what they were doing.
As you can see from the graph, a large portion of our daydreaming happens mostly when we are at work. So whether your boss likes it or not, daydreaming is going to happen. What he/she needs to realize is that it can really be a good thing. Let’s see how:
When was the last time your amazingly creative idea came from sitting at your desk? Personally, for me it doesn’t happen much. If I need a burst of creativity and inspiration, the last place I get it is at my desk. And many successful companies realize this. Daydreaming – aka creative thinking – is a highly-valued trait, because it leads to highly-valuable ideas.
Take Google, for instance. Without a doubt we can say that Google is one of the most successful companies today, yet their employees have what is called “20 Percent Factor“. 20% of their workday is allowed for whatever personal activity they deem important. (And from that 20%, Google has produced some amazing projects.) Not to mention services including a professional masseuse, a hair salon, and a gym to get the creativity pumpin’.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, is notorously famous for his “off the beaten path” ways, so it’s not surprising that he gives his employees quite a great amount of freedom at work. His work philosphy is a bit different than the typical “slave driver” mentality. When describing the environment he provides at his company, Branson states,
“By giving employees the same freedoms that the senior managers and I give ourselves, our team can successfully take on projects that other brands can’t, such as Virgin Galactic and Virgin Oceanic — tourism companies set to expand travel to space and the ocean depths. This policy also helps our employees to succeed because they can pursue their passions.”
Both, Google and Virgin, are examples of companies who have turned daydreaming into a quality worthy of making an exceptional product. It’s hard to argue with the fact that these two companies just might have opened the key to employee productivity, using creativity and freedom.
Daydreaming Can Boost Brain Power
Here’s the proof we’ve all been dying to see! Actual scientific backup that gives us the ammo we need to let our brain wander from time to time. Drumroll…..
According to a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, daydreaming can acutally lead to a boost in brain power. Breaking down the findings into English we can all understand, here are a few highlights of the findings:
- Mind wandering (daydreaming) evokes a unique mental state that may allow otherwise opposing networks in the brain to work together in cooperation.
- Mind wandering (daydreaming) can be enhanced externally using brain stimulation, and the frontal lobes play a causal role in mind-wandering behavior.
And to quote Professor Moshe Bar, Scientist at Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, Bar-Ilan University, who was involved in the research:
“This cross-brain involvement may be involved in behavioral outcomes such as creativity and mood, and may also contribute to the ability to stay successfully on-task while the mind goes off on its merry mental way.”
Bottom Line: Daydreaming = Stimulation in the Brain = More Creativity
How to Effectively Implement Daydreaming at Work
Now that we see how important daydreaming can be for our creativity and brain stimulation, the question is: How do we integrate daydreaming moments into our workday (without getting caught deeply staring into nowhere)?
For those of us not working at Google or Virgin, and don’t have access to daily massages at work, here are a few effective ways I have come up with for letting my mind wander throughout the day:
Take a small walk. If I’m really stuck and just need some new scenery, I will take a small walk around the office. If you have the luxury of getting outside for your mini-break, even better. Just streching the legs and getting the body moving helps to get the blood flowing.
Go for a potty break. All bathroom jokes aside, but I sometimes get my best ideas hanging out in the ladies room. Maybe it’s the fact that I actually have some peace and quiet in there without any disruptions that clears my mind, but for some reason it works. Try it, you just might be surprised!
Find a great view. I’m lucky that my office sits on the 15th floor, with a view to die for! Taking a few minutes to look outside and see what is happening all around me helps clear my mind. (And watching sailboats on the sea doesn’t hurt either!) Not everyone has such a view, but find a place that you enjoy looking at to free your mind of work.
Sometimes it’s the little things that make a huge difference in our workday and performance. To be at the top of your game, you need to take care of your mind and body. It might sound silly to most, but daydreaming is just one of the little nuggets that add tremendous value to our day — and that’s coming from a notorious daydreamer!