The Wall Street Journal reports studies by universities as diverse as University of Memphis, University of Toronto, and Harvard that indicate daydreamers may be some of the most creative people, and best problem solvers. In an age where we spend so much time on productivity, being UN-productive may actually be a useful tool. The bottom line is that people who are easily distracted don’t have the ability to “tune out” the outside world. But rather than hurt, it actually helps, because they’re getting input from a wide variety of sources. The result is a richer variety of experiences. As Jonah Lehrer writes in the Journal: “Because these people struggled to filter the world, they ended up letting everything in. They couldn’t help but be open minded.”
Certainly focus is good. In the classroom, at work, or listening to instructions, it’s important to tune out distractions. And all this isn’t to say that A.D.D. or A.D.H.D. isn’t a serious problem for a lot of people.
But the research is a great reminder about the power and importance of daydreaming. In my own case, I’m almost obsessed with “Getting Things Done” programs and productivity apps. But if had I known this 30 years ago, I would have spent a lot less time feeling guilty, and a lot more time being creative. Letting your mind wander can bring enormous new information and ideas to the table. So maybe it’s time to cut back on the Red Bull, worry less about focus, and more about easing up. As Lehrer concludes: “Sometimes, the most productive thing we can do is surf the Web and eavesdrop on that conversation next door.”
I’d love to know your experience….