They'll Bring Out Your Inner Rube Goldberg
You have two minutes. How many uses can you think of for a brick? Chances are, you'll generate more ideas—creative ones—if you stop to daydream first than if you stay focused. When volunteers in a study at the University of California at Santa Barbara tried this, they were a shocking 41 percent more prolific. As in REM sleep, the daydreaming mind is doing more than just undressing your neighbor or accepting a Nobel Prize. Unconsciously, it's working on a solution, recombining bits of information and making unexpected connections. Try the study's drill: Ponder your problem, and then let yourself space out (watch objects drift on a screensaver, for instance) for 12 minutes before refocusing.