The chances of an epiphany coming to you from the depths of a blank Word document? Not high, Schooler says. One of his recent studies found that when students had a period of time to think before completing a task that required creative thinking skills, they outperformed students who were asked to complete the task right away. Mind-wandering lets the brain disengage from the present and retrieve associations from the past, to better imagine how events could unfold in the future—to “play” with ideas, Schooler says.
But, “daydream” does not mean “sleep.” Think nondemanding activities that are easy and pleasant—like taking a walk or listening to music—that allow the mind to wander to get the most creative results.