Overactive Imagination: How To Stop Daydreaming?
I will be the first to admit that more than half of the time I’m talking to someone, I struggle to pay attention and end up daydreaming during the entire conversation. Ironically, amongst my friends, I’m considered the best “listener.” I’ve been this way since I was a little kid. It’s actually so bad that my entire family has an inside joke about my overactive imagination that only a few select friends (and now the entire internet) know.
Even with all the jokes and difficulties it brings me, I don’t like to think of chronic daydreaming as a bad habit. I like to think of it as a gift. A person’s imagination is limitless and the ability to create entire stories inside your head is an incredible talent. But sometimes when a pressing task is approaching or deadline has to be met, my overactive imagination seems to be a bit of a curse.
Here are the five most effective ways to buckle down and focus when you have a grander imagination than most daydreaming children:
- Lists On Lists On Lists
I love making lists right before I know I need to spend a strenuous amount of time completely focused on one task. I find that making a list on a post-it note or a plain sheet of paper gives my overly-creative mind the signal that I have a lot of work to do. It’s like Batman’s Bat Signal. A switch goes off in my head and all I can think of is having to get everything on my list done by the end of the day.
If I’m feeling particularly antsy and whimsical, I spend about half an hour maximum decorating my list. I pick an aesthetic/color scheme that I am feeling that day and make the most gorgeous list imaginable. This takes a bit more time, but the act of drawing a border, writing in different fonts, and using different colors really works the creative part of my brain.
I’m allowing the imaginative portion of my brain to breathe a little through my overly-embellished To-Do list. Am I going to toss it into the trash by the end of the night? Probably. Did that half hour of doodling and excessive planning help me get into the work mindset and be more productive? Absolutely.
- Napping Queen
I find that people get weirded out by this tip. Whenever my friends are struggling to study or get something done, I almost always tell them to take a nap.
“But I’m not even tired!”
I’m not saying that you’re tired, I’m just saying maybe you need to relax your brain for a second. Getting into a productive mood takes a bit of relaxation. You have to get into the flow of working to truly get a lot of your responsibilities done. When your mind is racing with 500 thoughts or you can’t help but to daydream an entire universe for yourself in your head every time you look at your work, you might need to take a breather and try to sleep for a bit. Either take a power nap or try to rest for as long as you need. Calming down your brain will eventually end up helping you more than you think.
My only warning is to not oversleep. Oversleeping is the only downfall of this option because if you end up sleeping too much, you’ll be too lethargic and groggy to get anything done.
- Water And Snacking
Still, having trouble getting out of your personal fantasyland despite all your efforts? Drink a glass of water. Maybe it’s the calming effect of drinking or maybe it’s just the idea that you’re drinking this glass of water in order to focus that makes concentrating happen so much easier after this trick. Drinking water forces you to get out of your own head for a bit because you’re thinking about gulping down your water without choking. It also works as a refreshing little wake-up call to your body saying you need to start focusing.
I also find snacking to be incredibly helpful. As I’m studying or working on something important, I’ll have a bowl of fruits, nuts, or popcorn nearby to munch on as I work. Constantly eating as you work kind of gives off this numbing effect. Your brain is preoccupied with trying to eat while also working so it doesn’t have the capacity to drift off into your personal la-la land. Daydreaming is gone because this brain is way too busy trying to type and aim popcorn into my mouth all at once.
- It’s All In The Workspace
One thing I’ve noticed is that I cannot effectively work in a visually unstimulating environment. If it’s a boring place to be in then I’m bored and if I’m bored then I’m daydreaming and my imagination runs wild. It’s just science.
So I recommend adding personal touches to your workspace. Decorate it so that you’re visually and intellectually pleased, but don’t overdo it to the point where it’s difficult for you to concentrate. For example, I used to have string lights hanging around my desk. Big mistake. I would stare off into those string lights for hours. I probably burned off more of my retina than I got anything done whenever I planned to get work done there.
You can also go to cafes or book shops where there is a “white-noise” present. “White-noise” is a strange name for background noise such as mumbled chatting, the clattering of dishes, etcetera. I like to think of it as ‘nothing noise’. All of the auditory stimulation will get your mind wandering not into your own imagination but into your work. You’ll find it difficult to drift off into your own movie-producing head if you only have one thing in front of you and a lot of nothing-noise surrounding you.
This trick took me a while to find because I simply refused to go to the gym for such a long period of my life. But now that I know of it, I exploit it to my every advantage. After working out on a bit of a routine, I found that I wasn’t daydreaming as often as I used to. My schedule was structured between school, work, and the gym. I didn’t have time to diddle-daddle.
By the end of the day, I was exhausted and as I sat down to get all of my work done I found that it was easier for me to concentrate and get everything done on time because I wasn’t daydreaming. The combination of being physically and mentally tired (but not to the point of exhaustion) allowed me to think more clearly when it came to finishing up my responsibilities.
I couldn’t possibly daydream when I wanted to get everything done quickly enough so that I could relax. I use this tip the most during finals week or busy work weeks because I know that despite my tiredness, I will be more efficient in getting all of my studying or other work done. And I’ll get it all done without a minute spent on a daydream.
I love daydreaming and retreating back into the universe I created inside my head. I love it so much that if I could get paid to daydream, I would in a heartbeat. But when real life starts knocking on my door, I know that my imaginative tendencies are more of a distraction than a help. So to all of my fellow overly imaginative ladies, daydream on! (But only if you’ve got the time to spare).
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