Have you ever had the experience that your greatest ideas come to you when you’re not focused on them?
Like you’re standing in the shower thinking about a work challenge and suddenly you come up with a solution. Or, you’re on vacation, laying by a pool, sipping a cocktail and suddenly you know what direction to take your business in. Or, you go to bed in a tiff with your partner not knowing what to do and wake up with clarity and the actions to take to settle the dispute are obvious?
It’s because you do. Your brain is making critical connections when you’re not focusing your attention on a task, when you’re letting your mind wander.
Why more time spent doing nothing will make you more productive
When you are doing nothing your brain goes into a mode of thinking called your Default Mode Network (DMN). This is opposed to the mode it’s in when you’re focused on a task, which is your Task Mode Network (TMN). Using both these modes of thinking is critical. But most of the time we are using too much of our TMN and not enough of our DMN. When you’re in your DMN, that’s when creativity, rejuvenation and magic happens.
So if you get anything out of reading this post, get this: Relax more, work a bit less and you’ll be more productive, efficient and effective in everything you do.
Relaxing more = increased productivity
Massively successful people like Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, Einstein and artist Salvador Dali were smart enough to notice this about themselves. They learned that their creative brain was most subtle at certain times. They didn’t necessarily know why — as neuroscientists are beginning to understand today — but, it is said that both Edison and Dali used to fall asleep with large objects in their hand so that the moment they were in deep sleep they would drop the object, wake up and would have a solution or a stroke of creative inspiration.
Einstein went as far as to say that: “imagination is more important than knowledge”. Stimulating useful creativity really involves being able to embrace and use a childlike inclination for play as an adult.
I want you to understand how useful your daydreams are. They are not just useless fantasies. They contain valuable information about what you authentically want and the actions you should be taking to move you in the direction of a future that inspires you.
Eric Klinger is a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota who devoted his career to understanding daydreams and in his book, Daydreaming, he writes:
“We think of daydreams as scatterbrained and unfocused, but one of the functions of daydreaming is to keep your life’s agenda in front of you; it reminds you of what’s coming up, it rehearses new situations, plans the future and scans past experiences so you can learn from them.”
If you’re willing to place value on your daydreams, to notice them, allow yourself to daydream you can extract valuable information from them about your authentic self and what you deeply desire.
Successful people are big daydreamers. And they use daydreaming very strategically whether they unconsciously see that they are doing this or not. They respect and use their daydream thinking and many learn at young age that when they key into the things they think about and use it in reality it benefits them.
This is especially tough for many of us to do today. We live in the era of information and our environment is constantly demanding our attention and taking up the time we spend daydreaming. Most people go to bed and wake up with their cell phones.
There’s a focus on being productive, being efficient. In fact, it’s how we are conditioned. We are conditioned to work and get things done and not to daydream.
So today, when you’re in the mode of go-go-go take a moment to reset. Even if it’s just for five to ten minutes. Sit down, get quiet. Think. Daydream. Imagine. See what comes up. See if this relaxation time amplifies your output and makes you feel more joyful and connected.
And start honoring your daydreams. Ask yourself:
What is this imagery telling me about what I want and need to do?
Then don’t push it aside. Use it. You are the only owner of your dreams. You’re the only one that has the power to grow an idea, a dream, that you have for yourself. On the flip side, you also are the only one that can stomp out your dream and stop it from becoming a reality.
So, today, take some time to chill. Relax a bit more this week and see how beneficial it is to your life and your goals.