How Daydreams Improve Productivity

Last Updated Mar 11, 2011 1:12 PM EST

Serious people know we are supposed to imagine what could go wrong with our projects. That way we can plan for complications. We can fix weak spots before they result in horribly overvalued deals, delayed product launches, military campaigns gone awry, etc.

But sometimes we go too far in that direction. We spend so much time thinking through what can go wrong that we fail to spend an equal number of our 168 hours imagining what can go right. This pessimism makes us unable to see the chance opportunities that psychologists find are key to making our own luck.

The key is to strike the right balance. If you're a glass half empty type, here are a few questions to start thinking on the bright side.
  • If the CEO of your company called you into her office tomorrow and said she was so impressed with your work that she wanted to put you in charge of your dream project, what you would ask for?
  • If you got an unexpected $10,000 tax refund check, what would you do with it?
  • An editor says she'd like to meet to discuss book ideas; a TV producer wants to discuss pilots. What would you pitch?
  • A non-profit you admire asks your advice on how best to use a $100,000 grant. What would you suggest?
  • You and a colleague always joke that you should start a business together. She calls on the weekend because she just got a rather large inheritance and wants to talk ideas. What kind of business would you like to start?
  • Your dream client sits next to you on a cross-country flight. What would you say?
Most likely these scenarios will never happen. But thinking about them is productive anyway. Figuring out what you'd tell the CEO helps you imagine the best direction for your career. Asking what you'd do with found money helps clarify your financial priorities. And sometimes fantasizing helps you get through tough patches, envisioning a future that inspires you to work toward a better life. If you ask me, that's time well spent.

What's been your most productive fantasy?

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Photo courtesy flickr user, judepics

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