The Benefits of Scheduling Time to Think: How Mindfulness can Improve Productivity
Most of us have a pretty set idea of what mindfulness is. Generally, it conjures up a particular image, perhaps of someone sitting in the lotus position while calming music plays in the background. And of course, that type of mindfulness has its own merits, but I’m here to tell you about a different kind of mindfulness – a type which will enhance your productivity and boost your wellbeing in one broad stroke.
This particular brand of “mindfulness” is better known as daydreaming. Unlike other mindfulness practices, this technique is not about connecting with the present moment, but literally filling your mind with free-flowing thoughts. Why? Well, because in evolutionary terms, mind wandering is a key part of efficient cognition and heightened creativity – two things which are crucial for real, high-quality work.
Multiple studies have linked the process of daydreaming with a number of positive cognitive traits, including: creativity, productivity, elevated mood and lessened stress. Not bad as an incentive for letting your mind off the leash from time-to-time. The problem is, of course, few of us actually do…
Once upon a time, opportunities for daydreaming were ample. Whether it was doing the washing up or standing in line at the shop, the lack of general technology meant there was little but our own thoughts to entertain us. Today, that’s no longer the case. We carry devices more powerful than the Apollo 11 rocket with us everywhere we go, and everything from work to entertainment is immediately at our fingertips. The result of this is less time spent daydreaming – which also means less creativity, and more stress.
The only real way to remedy this is to purposefully schedule time to think, carving out specific periods which are solely for mind-wandering. Done correctly, the rewards of daydreaming can be not only general, but targeted. For example, if you’re struggling with a particular work problem, reacquainting yourself with the information surrounding the issue before a “focussed” daydream session makes you much more likely to produce a novel solution. And don’t just take my word for it, this was exactly the findings of a daydream study conducted by the University of British Columbia.
As for the daydreaming state itself, this can be achieved in a number of ways. Most find that a mundane, and repetitive task is their best bet as it keeps them occupied enough to pursue other forms of entertainment, while still leaving their mind free to roam. But something more active such as walking or another form of exercise also works well in kickstarting the daydream process.
The real trick is to let your mind fill with free-flowing thoughts, moving from concept to concept like a frog jumping over lily pads. There is a clear distinction, for example, between true daydreaming and merely dwelling on a single subject. It is the former which allows the subconscious mind to light up, forming new creative connections while also offering respite for the focussed mind.
So, next time you’re tempted to push through with a problem or creative project, you might just be better served by stepping away from the desk and letting your mind off the leash, instead.