Have you ever wondered why your best ideas come in the shower?
How often have you been worked on a new business idea, an out-of-the-box marketing strategy, or writing the book you’ve always wanted to write, to find yourself stuck. You stare at a blank screen, read and re-read your notes, and nothing. Your mind starts to wander and you quickly discipline yourself to stay on task. In school our teachers would often tell us to pay attention and quit daydreaming, so we’re trained to interrupt our daydreaming and re-focus our attention to the task at hand.
But did you know that daydreaming is actually fundamental to creativity and productivity?
Daydreaming happens in the right hemisphere of our brain, and when the daydreaming phase is activated, seemingly unrelated thoughts are able to be formed into a coherent new whole. A second or two before this revelation, there is a burst of gamma waves, binding together disparate neural networks. But, in order for this to occur, the relaxation phase must be attained. Hence, why so many insights come to us in the shower or on our morning run.
As Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, adjunct professor of psychology at New York University states:
“Daydreaming is where things like problem solving, creativity, goal driven thought, future planning, seeing the perspective of another person, and so on—find space to exist.
Aha moments don’t come from directed and particular focus on a task, but by letting your mind wander and open up to other possibilities.”
In other words, insight comes when we let our minds wander. This is why it is so important to allow ourselves breaks throughout the day. Whether they’re scheduled breaks or simply taken when you’re beginning to feel frustrated or overwhelmed, allowing yourself to take a break is crucial to your overall success. As entrepreneurs we tend to work ourselves to the very limits because we have so much riding on the success of our businesses (and because we’re passionate about what we do!), but not allowing ourselves permission to let our minds wander when necessary is simply counterproductive to our overall mission.
Daniel Levitin, Neuroscientist, said it best:
“The processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited…If you want to be more productive and creative, and to have more energy, the science dictates that you should partition your day into project periods.
…Several studies have shown that a walk in nature or listening to music can trigger the mind-wandering mode. This acts as a neural reset button, and provides much needed perspective on what you're doing.
Daydreaming leads to creativity, and creative activities teach us agency, the ability to change the world, to mold it to our liking, to have a positive effect on our environment.”
It’s important to note that the distracted mind-wandering mode I spoke about last week is not the same as creative daydreaming or mind-wandering. When in the creative daydreaming mode, your brain is making connections between thoughts, ideas, and information it couldn’t otherwise make. Distraction mind-wandering results from knowing that you have things left undone and your brain is expending energy trying to remember the mental list you created.
Everyone requires a mental break, time to daydream and to let our minds wander. Give yourself a break and you might just be amazed at how much more productive you become!