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The Good Things About Daydreaming That No One Will Tell You , So I Will

The Good Things About Daydreaming That No One Will Tell You , So I Will
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As a daydreamer myself, I know all about the positives. Unfortunately, the stereotypical daydreamer is often portrayed as that guy or girl sitting in a classroom, blankly staring out a window with no regard for anything his or her teacher is saying.

The reality is completely different. Daydreamers might miss a detail here or there, but those who do it often gain one thing that is frequently missing in society: imagination. I created so many stories in my head, as a kid and now as an adult, that I absolutely have to write them down sometimes. At times, the impulse becomes so unbearable that I’ll write something, anything. Not only does daydreaming compel you to create interesting fictional tales, but it’ll develop your mind, since you’re always imaging new worlds, situations, figures, and stories. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Below you’ll find a list of a handful of the benefits that daydreaming has.

1. It makes you a better thinker.

Daydreaming is closely tied to reading. Those who are illiterate, or rarely read books, are less likely to have the same thirst for knowledge and imaginative capacity that fuels daydreaming when compared to their bookworm counterparts. According to author Neil Gaiman, when reading “we exercise our imaginations.” In turn, when daydreaming, your brain wrestles with these thoughts and improves itself.

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In that same article linked above, Gaiman talks about how companies like Apple are filled with imaginative thinkers, and that one of the unifying factors tying them all together was that they read science fiction as children. Not surprising, in my opinion, as these books really make you think about our future and how we can improve society in the present. In other words, they make you unsatisfied with what we have right now and more likely to find ways to improve.

Perhaps this explains why daydreaming turns on the brain’s problem-solving functions. You aren’t thinking about random things; you’re trying to rectify an issue that you’re having. Without big dreamers, what kind of world would we live in today? The answer is: a bleak one.

2. It makes you more empathetic.

According to the experts, your brain either focuses on analysis or empathy, depending on the situation. Both have their uses, as the former will help you get work done and the latter will assist you in dealing with people.

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If you have trouble connecting with other humans, take note: studies have shown that daydreamers have more empathy than others. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially given what I talked about in regard to how reading and daydreaming are closely tied. When you are constantly thinking about different scenarios and trying to solve complex human issues in your head, you’ll necessarily feel more of a connection to those around you.

3. It alleviates boredom.

This makes complete sense when you realize that daydreaming stems in large part from the fictional stories we read, and the imagination that those stories foster. The journal Psychology Today noted way back in 1987 that most people performing relatively repetitive or otherwise uninteresting tasks reverted to daydreaming to spice things up a bit. I used to do this all of the time when practicing my shooting form for basketball. Usually, that’s an insanely boring task, even if you like the sport. I made it more fun by imagining I was shooting a game-winning shot every time. I do this in the present as well, especially when I’m doing something like washing the dishes. My made-up daydream stories are way more interesting than a soapy sponge and greasy plates, let me tell ya…

4. It makes you want more.

One study published in the journal Science back in 2010 revealed that daydreamers were more likely to be unhappy while mind-wandering. Before you connect daydreaming to unhappiness, allow me to explain. As I discussed earlier, daydreaming is in large part connected to your imagination. If you have a powerful imagination, and dream big, then it makes complete sense why daydreaming would make you a little bit unhappy, since you’re probably only doing it because you are dissatisfied, either with society or your life in some way. This, however, has its benefits. If you can recognize a problem while daydreaming, then you can tackle it when your mind is focused. Those of us dreaming about utopian societies all of the time will probably fight harder for that imagined future than those of us completely content with what we have now.

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5. It will improve your memory.

Flash cards are one way to help you remember things, but daydreaming might be even better, at least when it comes to broad concepts or ideas. The relationship between mind-wandering and memory retention has been established before, and it makes sense. Actively trying to remember something rarely works. Thinking about a book abstractly, or imagining the historical figures you’ve read about, works much better in helping you recall information. As the study notes, your brain solidifies memories in its resting state, which is why you might find that you remember things much better the morning after a session with flash cards than you did the night before.

Tying this back into the whole spiel I gave about reading, it would seem that taking information and re-purposing it for use in your own personalized daydreams is a great way to absorb lots of information. As a history major I did this all of the time, often using my imagination to think about how the figures I studied lived and dealt with the problems of their era. When the time came for us to take a midterm or final, I knew the information like the back of my hand since I had romanticized it all and daydreamed about it so much.

Want to tap into the powers of daydreaming yourself? Read something you enjoy, boost your imagination, and let your mind do the rest. Your head will be in the clouds along with the rest of us dreamers faster than you can say “Steve Jobs.”

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Featured photo credit: Thinking of You/Fabiana Zonca via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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