THE PROS AND CONS
OF MENTALLY WANDERING
You may believe that you are wasting time when you are wandering. On the contrary. While you are awake, your brain doesn’t
rest. Quiet activities like meditating, knitting, going on walks,
or exercising, all activate brain circuitry called the default
mode network. During this type of wandering, new ideas are
generated because your brain is unfocused and more prone to
tangents and what-ifs. It’s what your brain does when you’re not
paying attention to one specific thing. When you wander, try to
capture your thoughts, and you may uncover the beginning of a
life-changing idea. You will thank yourself for purposefully letting your mind do what it is exquisitely designed to do. Imagine
On the flip side, not all wandering is good. If you don’t turn
o; your prospection, it can become harmful. Without discipline,
you may end up trying to multi-task through your day, which is
e;ectively, multi-failing. Your brain can hold only one thought
at a time because it is a linear processor. When you attempt to be
cognitive about two things at once, you cheat them both.
And you need to figure out when focus is required. Focus
helps with tasks that require accuracy. You want to be serious when balancing your finances, for example. The moment
you feel—Squirrel!—your accuracy may su;er because you’ve
switched into the creative default mode network.
As professional speakers, this has tangible implications as we
strive to produce quality content on a regular basis. “One thing
at a time” should be our mantra because it is what the brain
is chanting as we attempt to juggle multiple items. When you
try to take action on multiple great ideas—create video blogs,
learn new technology, redesign your marketing; and then, on
top of that, rewrite a speech from scratch—you are courting an
anxiety-stricken, chaos-driven unfocused mess of a mind that
will negatively a;ect your business. Research published in the
Harvard Business Review shows that companies that have fewer
priorities, have higher stock value.
My bias follows this research. Do fewer things better. It’s
brain friendly and more profitable. ■
In order to focus well for about 50 minutes, the brain needs to be:
WELL;RES TED. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
FED COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES. Eat small amounts every
one and a half to two hours while working.
H YDRATED. Dehydration leads to distraction and bad moods.
Drink a glass of water each break.
CSP, CPAE, is
a writer and longtime
educator of business
people worldwide. He
focuses on effective
performance through the
lens of neuroscience. His
neuro-musings can be
found in Entrepreneur
magazine and Huffington
Post. Scott is the author of
Activate Your Brain, a Wall
Street Journal best-selling
book, and Be a Shortcut:
The Secret Fast Track to
process) are neural
networks at odds
with each other that
do not operate at the
same time. Make
time for both.