Between the constant buzz of technology, competition in the wings and economic volatility, an entrepreneur's plate is always full of vital tasks and considerations. It may seem like the only way to keep everything in order is to remain in a constant state of focus. We literally cannot afford to let our minds wander.
However, in my career as a neuroscientist and small business leader, I've learned that when my task list grows long and my thoughts are flying around, allowing my brain to unfocus and daydream is actually what saves the day.
In fact, I strongly believe daydreaming helped me graduate at the top of my class in residency at Harvard Medical School, and later, it helped me gain clarity on how my training in music, psychiatry, neuroscience and executive coaching could be combined to create a successful startup.
The words "daydream" and "unfocus" come with negative connotations—and for good reason. Non-strategic, uncontrolled daydreaming can lead to guilty or depressive ruminations that distract us from our goals.
I am, however, advocating for a more strategic version of unfocus that all entrepreneurs could benefit from embracing and instilling throughout their teams: positive constructive daydreaming (PCD).
Adding Unfocus to the Agenda
When your day is filled to the brim with wall-to-wall meetings and urgent tasks, it's hard to find the time to allow your mind to wander from the mishmash of activities on its plate.
Here are three creative ways to add it into your company culture:
When the mind meanders, it stimulates deeper reflection. At NeuroBusiness Group (NBG), we build a moment of reverie into even the most urgent meetings. Rather than focus solely on the immediate tasks at hand, we consciously stray away from the main thrust of the conversation to reflect upon, explore, or wistfully revisit old experiences to see what we can learn from them. Often, these deeply thoughtful moments inspire new concepts that make our meetings much more productive. Try beginning every meeting with a five-minute period of silent reflection, and watch how it stirs up a deeper level of productivity
Encourage employees to build in daily time for daydreaming with two big caveats: It must be pre-planned, and the process must begin with playful, wishful imagery—like running through the woods with your dogs or lying on a beach. These two key steps can convert distractions into brain journeys of productive discovery. At NBG, we strive to build an imagination component into every interaction. This helps us break thinking patterns, make powerful associations and form new ideas that drive our company toward success.
Unfocus doesn't require a serene environment or a zen-like mindset. In fact, simultaneously engaging in a low-key activity—such as knitting or coloring—can be a great way to spur nondirective periods of reflection that activate the brain's unfocus network. At NBG, we rarely remain still—even during meetings. Knowing that walking on meandering paths allows for greater creativity than walking in a rectangle, I will often get up and walk around the room while we're trying to solve a problem. Not only does this give me a break of sorts, but it also allows my creative mind to get a jump-start. Encourage your employees to do this as well.
Make unfocus an integral part of your company culture. Show and tell your employees that a wandering mind can be more likely to unearth innovative ideas.