The Development Source
In 1990, a young researcher for Amnesty International was stuck on a train between London and Manchester, staring out of the window for hours as the other passengers busily read newspapers, books, and magazines and tried to work. No doubt many thought this individual was a dreamy, unproductive person with nothing better to do than to look out the window.
They were wrong, really wrong. This young woman became world famous under the name of J.K. Rowling. She said that in those hours daydreaming on the train, the Harry Potter series “fell into” her head.
What happened to J. K. Rowling is not unusual for humans. The physicist Richard Feynman came up with his Nobel-prize winning theory on quantum electrodynamics while watching students spin plates in the school cafeteria. And Einstein said that he developed his theory of relativity while riding around on his bicycle.
These stories should remind us that daydreaming and idle time are critically important for thinking, for creativity, and for problem-solving. When our minds seem the most relaxed and idle, they are actually the most active.
We spend approximately 50 percent of our waking hours daydreaming, but this is hardly idle time. Instead, many experiments and research studies have demonstrated that when we daydream, we activate the “executive function” portion of our brain that can help us find the answers to life’s big questions and life’s little questions that might be discussed at the upcoming meeting of the red team.
Daydreaming actually increases our productivity by enabling us to develop innovative solutions, insights, and plans from out of the interaction between our conscious and unconscious minds. As one researcher noted, “to be most creative, you need this oscillation between deep study with focused attention and daydreaming, which is why you may have great ideas when you’re in the shower. They come into your consciousness when you’re not busy.”
Short of asking your proposal colleagues to take showers at work, there are several things we all can do to be more productive:
•Take a leisurely walk during the workday and carry a notebook to capture your important thoughts and ideas. Walking will make you healthier and happier, and it may lead to new and better ways of doing proposals.
•Ensure that proposal professionals have the office space and privacy to daydream. War rooms are definitely out!
•Don’t overschedule your proposal team. Give them time to be “idle.”
•Take time off during the workday or evening to free yourself of texts, emails, phone calls, and other job distractions. You may find that “idle times” are one of the most productive times for original or creative thinking.
Daydreaming does not necessarily mean that you are being unproductive. Quite the opposite. Having your mind in the clouds (as opposed to the cloud) may make you a better proposal professional.