If you catch yourself zoning out during a long meeting at work, don't beat yourself up over it. Letting your mind wander could help your brain work better once you’re back at your desk, according to new research from the University of Central Lancashire in England.
The British researchers conducted two studies that suggest that boredom isn’t always a bad thing. In the first experiment, 40 people were asked to complete the god-awful task of copying telephone numbers out of a directory before moving onto a job that required a bit more creativity—brainstorming uses for a pair of Styrofoam cups. Another group of 40 people jumped right into coming up with ideas for the cups. Study participants who had suffered through the mundane task before turning on their thinking caps presented more creative ideas. Why? The scientists suggest that daydreaming during a boring job primes your mind to better tackle a problem afterward. (We’re kind of curious about what these workers were daydreaming about, but we like the sound of this.)
In a second experiment, 30 people copied numbers out of a telephone directory, while another 30 participants were tasked with simply reading the numbers. The readers were more creative in coming up with uses for the cups than those who had to write the numbers, too. The bottom line: the more passive a task, like reading, sitting through a presentation or listening in on a conference call, the more time your mind has to switch off and the better your ideas will be when it’s go time.
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