Daydreaming could be key to solving complex problems, say neuroscientists

Daydreaming could help you find creative solutions for complex problems, and maybe we should start to think of it as time well spent.

The modern world is focused on productivity, where founders work long hours intensely focused on their startup and taking few breaks. We think that the more hours we slave away in front of a laptop, the more chance the business has to succeed, but in reality we should all be working smarter, not longer.

The myth that successful people only sleep six or less hours per night has finally been dismissed as hogwash, but the idea persists that to launch a unicorn we need to spend every waking hour working. In reality, founders need to solve complex problems and that means giving your brain the space to work its magic – and we now know that means giving yourself time to daydream.

Solutions often come to people when they are in the shower, cooking, exercising, or doing anything else but the task at hand, and that is for good reason. The brain needs time to process and reprocess information, to create new pathways and find its way to the answer. And this is done when we daydream.

A recent study found that several areas of the brain associated with complex problem solving are stimulated during daydreams, including the brain’s command centre known as the “executive network”. Daydreaming gives you time away from the tunnel vision of work, time to relax and detach yourself from the immediate situation, and reflect in a broader scale. This time offers the potential to create connections between ideas and concepts that you had otherwise forgotten or pushed to the back of your mind as irrelevant.

It allows your mind to relax – to think beyond the task at hand. When you detach yourself from the immediate situation, you’re able to reflect internally. This reflection makes you more receptive to ideas generated within your subconscious, giving you the potential to create connections between ideas and concepts that you may not have otherwise recognized.

According to a recent survey of British adults aged 18-65, 65 per cent of people daydream for around 30 minutes a day. Young people aged 18-24 were the most likely to daydream, with nearly a third of respondents (61%) saying the office is their favourite place to daydream, followed by in bed (34%) and in the shows (33%).

It is said that both Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs were daydreamers – maybe we should start to embrace it?

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