You're Not Daydreaming at Work -- You're Brainstorming in a Different Way

Is your mind wandering during that dull meeting? You're not lazy, and you don't lack focus. In fact, you might be on the verge of creating something great.

A recent study by Harvard psychologists Daniel Gilbert and Matthew A. Killingsworth showed that people daydream 47 percent of the time. Awesomely, they measured this by designing an iPhone app that contacted people at regular intervals throughout the day to ask them what they were doing. (We assume they invented it during a long, boring afternoon collating spreadsheets.)

Fortunately, scientists seem to be firmly on the side of the wandering mind these days. Jonathan Schooler at the University of California says that daydreaming is when his test subjects invent new ways to solve problems in the lab.

"We always assume that you get more done when you're consciously paying attention to a problem," Schooler told me. "That's what it means, after all, to be 'working on something.' But this is often a mistake. If you're trying to solve a complex problem, then you need to give yourself a real break, to let the mind incubate the problem all by itself. We shouldn't be so afraid to actually take some time off."

Companies like Google and Facebook must agree. Both organizations famously offer perks like nap rooms and foosball -- arguably the best possible way to let your mind wander at work.

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(Photo Credit: Victor1558/Flickr)


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