Mind Wandering

Your mind was born to wander. According to some studies, as much as 50% of our waking hours are spent in some form of mind-wandering whether we want to or not.  That is, people spend half of their life wandering in their own minds, thinking about something other than the task at hand.

We mind wander, by choice or accident, because it produces tangible reward when measured against goals and aspirations that are personally meaningful. Having to reread a line of text three times because our attention has drifted away matters very little if that attention shift has allowed us to access a key insight, a precious memory or make sense of a troubling event.

Giving yourself time to let your mind wander is important to the creative process. Everyone’s had their aha! moments, flashes of insight when an answer springs up (seemingly) out of nowhere, just like the light bulb over a cartoon character’s head. But where do these answers really come from? And how can you help them along?

The best way to encourage out-of-the-box thinking is to take a break and spend that time working on a mundane, undemanding, somewhat boring task. Sweep the floor. Hang the clothes. Mow the lawn. Make the bed. Working at an undemanding task helps people find creative solutions to problems that they’ve already been thinking about.

Summing-up: There’s a time and place for everything. Having your mind wander at the wrong time can be both painful and embarrassing. But the next time you are wrestling with a seemingly unsolvable problem, try spending some time on a mundane task. Mind wandering is why so many solutions seem to ‘appear’ out of thin air.

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