Research shows that one of the most effective ways to spur creativity is to allow your mind to wander and to follow it without judgment. But science also shows why that is tougher than it sounds.
In 2010, two researchers working at Harvard University began exploring how people feel about and experience mind wandering. They did so by interrupting people at random times of the day by sending texts to cellphone numbers they'd gathered, along with the consent to interrupt. They got responses from 2,250 adults.
The text messages they sent asked a handful of questions. One was, "What are you doing right now?" and that question could be answered with a number from 1 to 22 that corresponded to various common, everyday activities—taking a walk, working, grooming/self-care, doing housework, taking care of children, making love. (First off, let's dispense with the joke that for many people sex is not nearly as everyday an activity as they might like.) What's of note about making love is that it was by far the least likely time for a study subject's mind to wander. People were, as they say, on task.
That was not the case, though, for so many other activities.