When you’re in the midst of working on an important paper or assignment, its deadline looming over your head like a giant anvil in one of those old Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons, it seems like it would be detrimental to your success to shift your focus to anything else. Your bracket in the March Madness office pool. The great weekend trip you have planned with your family. The latest celebrity news on your favorite gossip website. But a recent article from The Wall Street Journal entitled “Bother Me, I’m Thinking” suggests that distractions are actually an essential part of the creative process.
The article notes that “…the inability to focus helps ensure a richer mixture of thoughts in consciousness. Because these people struggled to filter the world, they ended up letting everything in. They couldn't help but be open-minded.”
With this information in mind, it might actually be helpful to start on a major project sooner than you had otherwise planned. This will not only ease the stress from the impending deadline, but it will also allow you more time to daydream and gain new insight. Who would’ve thought that daydreaming could actually be good for you? When you think about it, it makes sense. When we daydream, our minds usually wander to the most pleasant of thoughts, and, back in reality, the paper we’re writing may or may not provide us with the same level of pleasure. Juxtaposing our “happy place,” so to speak, with the task at hand can make the task seem more possible, more exciting, and less like a chore.
Of course, that’s not to say that we should spend endless hours on Facebook or parked in front of the television, but, when hitting your nose to the grindstone, don’t try to focus too hard. That little distraction you find a nuisance now may actually inspire you in the long run.