So, you’re sitting there in class, reading a book or listening to a lecture, and suddenly you find yourself on a tropical island beach sipping a pina colada as the waves caress your toes. Then, just as suddenly, you snap out of it when the teacher calls on you. We all do it, but did you realize that there may be a productive purpose behind it? Did you know that daydreaming improves creative problem solving?
Scientists estimate that most of us spend up to a third of our life spacing out. It helps explain why, at the end of a day, you could ask yourself “Where did the time go”? Contrary to what your teacher would say about you wasting time, at least as far as creativity goes, you may actually be putting that time to good use.
But if you want to make good use of your daydreaming time, you have to “capture” those daydreams. Just like regular nocturnal dreams, daydreams need to be written down and followed up on. This is why I always keep a pen and pad of paper handy everywhere I go. You never know when a great daydream idea will hit you. And if you don’t record it in some way, you most likely quickly forget it. Studies have shown that people who catch themselves daydreaming tend to be the most creative. People who are creatively prolific know how to sort through random ideas and piece together the ones that are valuable.
Usually the most creative ideas tend to be those unconscious ones that are simply floating around waiting for us to grab them. These are the kind of “aha” moments that appear when our brain is in a more relaxed or playful mode. Aha moments can’t be forced.
Most people don’t spend their lives daydreaming about tropical islands, but about immediate problems that need solving, like how they’re going to ask their boss for a raise, or how to get their kids to sleep. This is why daydreaming is so valuable to creative problem solving. You could force yourself to come up with solutions, but a better way is to simply daydream to solve the problem. It’s easier and a lot more fun.
So, the next time someone chides you for daydreaming, tell them you’re busy solving problems.