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10 Benefits to Daydreaming!

10 Benefits to Daydreaming!

The sound of my heels on the hard floor, I find myself on stage, my face hot and eyes slightly squinting from the bright golden lights. I’m bowing before a standing ovation given to me by a much bigger room than I expected, full of admirers. The applause is overwhelming, and pride in my presentation bubbles up through my core. A wave of gratitude washes over me as I realize that my cheeks hurt from the work of smiling, then, suddenly, I am snapped back to my living room where I am writing an article on my Mac and the little cue card that pops up in the right upper corner notifies me of another reminder I had set weeks ago. So I collect my thoughts and continue my work.

We are mostly aware of the proven benefits of taking vacations. We are repeatedly and painfully reminded that our obsession with keeping up with the Jones’ and impressing our bosses is taking its toll on our efficiency, creativity, performance, and even our health! If we insist on leaving a couple vacation days in the bank each year, however, could taking a periodic trip to la-la land also be beneficial?

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    Daydreaming, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a pleasant visionary usually wishful creation of the imagination,” and by that definition, it is proving to be like a mini-vacation that carries with it more than just a handful of scientifically proven benefits!

    1. You can exercise your brain (not your mind)…

    Neuroscientist Dr Muireann Irish says that daydreaming is hard work and serves some very important functions. The capability to remember the past and imagine the future is a very complex form of thinking—as far as we can tell, we are the only species with this remarkable ability. The way in which you daydream and think is actually the effect of your brain’s physical structure, which, in turn, is constantly changing in response to new information in the form of new neural pathways due to neuroplastisity!

    2. You can give different parts of your brain a break.

    There are two main systems in your brain: the decision-making analytic part and the relatable empathetic part. When you get really involved in one, there isn’t much room for the other to play. Daydreaming allows for a natural and fluid, almost cyclical movement between these two parts of your brain, turning one on and the other on and off as it imagines.

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    3. You may find yourself to be more creative.

    A lot of creative celebrities, including Woody Allen and JK Rowling, credit daydreaming with their best ideas. This is because when you daydream, your mind travels through different parts of your brain and collects bits of information that it may then be able to connect! These connections often end up being the beginnings of new and creative ideas!

    4. You can practice being more empathetic, open minded, and understanding.

    Like being able to remember the past or think into the future, your ability to imagine someone else’s perspective, as far as people know so far, is unique to humans. A person spends up to half of their waking hours daydreaming. If you could practice spending just a portion of that time to contemplate what someone else might be thinking or feeling, it could change your interactions with people and create great opportunities for improved communication and connections.

    5. You can feel more love and connection to the people closest to you.

    Speaking of closer connections, research has shown that certain kind of daydreams—namely the “approach-oriented” social kind involving loved ones with whom you have a significant relationship—results in more “happiness, love, and connection” in relation to those people. “Approach-oriented” just means that the daydream is associated with attaining something positive instead of avoiding something negative which would be “avoidance-oriented.”

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    6. You will have improved working memory.

    Working memory is your brain’s ability to store and then recall information in the face of distractions. Recent research out of the University of Wisconsin and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science shows a correlation between high levels of this particular kind of memory and daydreaming!

    7. You will likely experience improved performance/productivity.

    This correlation is probably the most proven! A Cornell study showed “improved performance” with daydreaming, and Bar-Ilan University found that “spontaneous, self-directed thoughts and associations,” how they defined daydreaming, “have a positive, simultaneous effect on task performance.”  There are even more examples that prove that the assumptions of your elementary school teachers were wrong when they thought that your little lapses in attention were detrimental.

    8. You can be healthier!

    Research has proven that daydreaming is kind of like a low-level self hypnosis. In doing so, you may find that you experience lower levels of stress, translating to a physiologically healthier you. Another way to lower stress with the use of daydreaming is to practice in advance. If you have a new experience coming up (perhaps a presentation at work) you can go through it in your mind and be better prepared for the actual event. That’s not all. Daydreaming is also linked with a healthier brain. Patients who suffer from autism and Alzheimer’s disease are unable to participate in this form of self hypnosis. Daydreaming can also help you sleep better, provided your dreams aren’t too structured and serious. Let your nightly mind wander to playful, wild places instead.

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    9. You can achieve your goals!

    Between being more creative, improving your working memory, increasing performance, and lowering stress levels, it is easy to see how you can have an easier time achieving your goals with the help of daydreams. But there is research that proves this as well! When you let yourself slip off to la-la land, your brain’s problem solving network is actually more active than when you are focused on routine tasks. So set your goals, make plans to achieve them, and let your brain help you when you run into obstacles!

    10. Most importantly, you can be happier!

    With all of the benefits of daydreaming, it’s little surprise that you can find yourself happier by letting yourself indulge in a little mental play. Another reason for this correlation is that hope and anticipation are both strongly related to joy and tend to be byproducts of mind wandering.

    Be warned that not all daydreams are created equal. To really tap into the potential benefits of your daydreams, try to free yourself from the worry or fear-based “day-mares.” We all do this, so there’s no shame. But if you catch yourself biting your nails, lost in another imagined horror plot of how your next date could go wrong, or what your boss could have meant by that statement, simply redirect your mind to more positive thoughts and let your brain take you for a joyride—creating new neural pathways along the way!

    Featured photo credit: autumn leaves boy/ Philippe Put via flickr.com

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    Published on January 16, 2019

    How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

    How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

    We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

    You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

    You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

    That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

    Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

    1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

    Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

    We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

    To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

    At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

    The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

    2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

    Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

    The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

    In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

    It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

    It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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    So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

    • Are you a great strategist?
    • Are you an effective planner?
    • Is Project Management your strength?
    • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
    • Are you the ideas person?
    • Is Implementation your strength?

    Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

    3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

    One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

    Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

    Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

    Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

    4. Take Time for Planning

    “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

    One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

    You can take the time to think about:

    • What’s the purpose of the project?
    • How Important is it?
    • When does it need to be delivered by?
    • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
    • What are the KPIs?
    • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
    • Who is working on this project?
    • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
    • What tolerances can I add in?
    • What are the review stages?
    • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

    Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

    5. Focus on Priorities

    Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

    Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

    One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

    1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
    2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
    3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
    4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

    James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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      The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

      If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

      If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

      6. Take Time Out

      To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

      If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

      Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

      In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

      Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

      7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

      Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

      I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

      Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

      If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

      8. Stop Multitasking

      Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

      So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

      When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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      If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

      9. Work in Blocks of Time

      To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

      I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

      Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

      Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

      Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

      Then take another 10-minute break.

      Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

      By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

      10. Get Rid of Distractions

      Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

      “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

      Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

      If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

      11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

      You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

      Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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      Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

      12. Take a Time Audit

      Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

      Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

      You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

      Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

      Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

      At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

      If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

      13. Protect Your Confidence

      It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

      When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

      Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

      When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

      Final Words

      A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

      The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

      If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

      Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

      Reference

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