How to Daydream

June 22nd, 2013

THERE is nothing wrong with spending vast quantities of time fantasizing about imaginary realities far away from the cheerless hardships of modern life. The problem is that people are daydreaming incorrectly. Because of widespread misuse, daydreaming has achieved the rank stigma of slothful procrastination.

But when used correctly, by following these simple guidelines, it can reduce stress, improve productivity and ensure that you stop being a miserable jerk the rest of the day.

What Is Daydreaming?

When most people need a break, they take out their cellphones and begin pushing buttons to command avatars to run, jump and shoot other avatars. This is not daydreaming. Your brain is tired, tired in subconscious ways you cannot even fathom. Forcing it to survive labyrinths or shootouts or car chases serves only to wear it out even more. And television, Web browsing, scab and fingernail landscaping — these are simply distractions. It counts as daydreaming only if you are staring into space or at the nearest wall.

When to Daydream:

Never schedule your daydreaming. Rather, allow it to occur organically, like drooling. A good time to daydream might be just before lunch, or during a meeting, or in the middle of a conversation that has hit a lull. Let’s say about 91 percent of conversations become boring after about seven seconds. This is a good time to give your brain a rest and start daydreaming about robotic slave armies, or new candy bar flavors, or pig-tuna hybrids — are they best consumed as sushi or bacon? Most speakers, consumed with their own self-importance, will continue talking while you take a well-needed timeout.

Where to Daydream:

Daydreaming is best accomplished in the midst of stillness and should be banned from public transportation. Sociologists would agree that a majority of stabbings on public transportation — a result of people’s standing in front of subway doors or mindlessly taking up more than one bus seat — can be traced back to incorrect daydreaming coordinates. Daydreaming should also be banned from any waiting line. Waiting to purchase opera tickets, order lunch or deposit coins for a vending-machine snack — these all are hazardous daydream locations.

Bathrooms are good daydream spots, mostly because you can take off your pants. Also beneath one’s desk is a secure area to allow the mind to drift.

Health Concerns:

Daydreaming is contagious. All traffic jams are a result of one person daydreaming, which spreads from car to car. “Do you want me to stab you in your lungs right here on this highway?” is a phrase closely associated with daydream pandemics, which typically occur when two lanes are merging near construction sites.

What to Daydream:

“I want to daydream more, but I don’t know what to daydream about,” a lot of people probably say. For that reason, they keep rehashing the same old daydream scenarios:

THE LOTTERY You aren’t going to win the lottery. Stop fantasizing about the cars you’ll buy, the vacations you’ll take, the house you’ll build. Stop imagining quitting your job, the speech you’ll make while systematically destroying office property. You wouldn’t have the guts to do that even if you did win, which you most certainly will not. What you need to be doing is daydreaming about better ways to do your current job. If you weren’t spending so much time incorrectly daydreaming, you’d probably have earned that promotion by now.

SEX By all means, have sexual fantasies. Sleep with better-looking people. Have intercourse in trees. But under no circumstances should you daydream about fornicating with nearby co-workers. Colleagues can tell when you’ve been daydreaming about having sex with them, and it’s an unprofessional way to spend company time. Some whiz kid is probably months away from inventing an app that can decipher whether you’re fantasizing about co-workers, or whether you’re just fantasizing about normal people who will never have sex with you.

Jon Methven is the author of the novel “This Is Your Captain Speaking.”

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