Productive Daydreaming while Reading

By: Abby Marks Beale

Myth – Any daydreaming while reading is not good. Why should it concern you when you daydream while reading? Because it affects concentration, slows your reading speed down, and ultimately can hinder your ability to comprehend.

Truth – Some daydreaming is good! Knowing the difference between good and bad daydreaming is helpful for all readers to understand.

Just what is daydreaming? Also called mind-wandering, it is when your mental focus gets interrupted – mostly very briefly – by another thought that is either related, or unrelated, to what you are reading. It is a natural human event that all readers experience, though more so with slower readers.


There are basically two kinds of daydreaming while you read: effective and ineffective.

  • Effective daydreaming, also called “active” mind-wandering, is when you are mentally applying what you are reading to something you already know. For example, if you took a trip to Italy several years ago and you were reading a magazine article about the art preservation activities there, your mind will most likely “wander” back to your trip. You will mentally relate what you personally experienced with the information presented in the article. This type of mind-wandering is good because this is how you learn. You build bridges of knowledge from what you know to the new material on the page.
  • Ineffective daydreaming, also called “passive” mind-wandering, is when you are thinking about a million other unrelated things, such as reminding yourself to call the vet for an appointment for your pet, or thinking about the party this weekend or thinking about __________. You fill in the blank! Too much passive mind wandering will slow you down, prevent you from getting good comprehension and waste your time.


So how can you encourage the effective daydreaming while discouraging the ineffective? Here’s a few ideas:

  • Identify the type of daydreaming you are doing. If it is effective, and a good use of your time at that time, keep doing it. If it is ineffective, you might need to unclutter your mind by writing your thoughts down, ask yourself if this is really a good time to be reading, or relocate to a place where your concentration is not interrupted.
  • Set a goal. By setting a time goal – “I will read for 30 minutes and stop” – or a quantity goal – “I will read through page 80 and stop” – you have a better chance of staying focused than if you think you have all the time in the world to read.
  • Learn to read faster! People who read over 300 words per minute, and faster, daydream less than those who read fewer words per minute. They have specific, useable strategies that help them get what they need quickly without wasting time and increases their focus.

Wishing you more good daydreaming!

About the Author:  Abby Marks Beale is founder of The Corporate Educator, a professional
speaking and training company specializing in helping with busy people work smarter, faster and
just plain better. Go to