Just like:

If you want to be loved, love

If you want to be more productive in the whole day, do nothing – meditate for 20 mins in the morning is a promising suggestion

So maybe, if you want to focus, you might consider to actively plan for mind-wandering time.

This idea is pitched in an excellent book “Stolen Focus” by Johann Hari, as he let his mind wander to all directions during his “digital detox” in Provincetown, a small coastal resort in Massachusetts.

After that, he actually went to discover the true benefits of mind-wandering, the thing that is usually considered as detrimental in our insanely productivity-focused world nowadays.

And I believe they are quite convincing:

  • First, mind-wandering helps one slowly make sense of the world. I guess you can understand this one by thinking about your dream, where what seem to be crazy random stuff get together in your mind. But it’s actually the way your brain merge things together and find connections between them, and with that derive a sort of conceptual framework about the world. Or, like reading books, slowly you draw together the different parts, in order to make sense of the key theme.
    • Second, which is relatable to the first, when these new connections are made, suddenly your creativity thrive. A new solution for your problem, a new technique that you might want to try to improve your … productivity, or, of course, a new idea for your writing emerges. In fact, when you read and study the history of science, most of the breakthroughs don’t happen during periods of focus – they actually happened during mind-wandering time. As the famous German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking”.
      • And finally, during mind-wandering, your mind will engage in “mental time-travel”, where it both looks back at the past and tries to predict the future. Freed from the pressures of narrowing focus to a single task/point, your mind will start to think about what might come next – and then help you to prepare for it. That’s why several research have confirmed that mind-wandering is key for future planning.

        With that understanding, the author has come to actively plan for an hour walk every day, as one of his action strategy to regain his focus and control of his life.

        Now, as a person who also deliberately keeps my “10000 steps” goal every day, I would hope to add a word of caution here. Over the past year or so, I’ve attempted to multitask by listening to podcasts while walking. I think this habit has started to become normal nowadays (well, if you don't believe me, go out and look at people who do running or walking in the park, on the beach, etc., always with their headphones on).

        But what I’ve just recently realized is that whenever I did it, I tended to look down on the road right in front of me. And after listening to Andrew Huberman, I’m now aware that it’s when my mind is actually focusing, not wandering at all (more specifically, Dr Huberman said your vision and your mind’s attention affect each other, so when you focus on something you will see your vision is very narrow, while when you relax usually it’s much wider).

        So by listening to podcasts while walking, thinking that I’m using my time effectively and productively, I’ve actually ruined what seems to be the only time in the day my mind has a chance to wander.

        And therefore, I’ve decided to stop it. I might not be able to listen to as many podcast episodes as I did, but after reading “Stolen Focus”, I believe setting my mind free in these walks will be much more beneficial in balancing my life.

        A Dreamer