Thinking about nothing in particular is very appealing. But—as chiding researchers always remind us—it won't make you a happy person. Instead, you have to be attentive, goal-driven and conversationally substantive while constantly having a smile plastered on your face. Or, at the very least, you must make more money than your co-workers.
All of which requires you not to be distracted. As several news outlets have been reporting, Harvard psychologists have devised a clever study in which they contacted subjects through an iPhone app (more on that here) and asked them how they are doing, thinking and feeling. Responses indicated that nearly 47 percent of our waking time is spent thinking about anything other than what we're actually supposed to be focusing on. This is not, apparently, good for our well-being.
"Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people's happiness," researcher Matthew Killingsworth told the Harvard public affairs office. "In fact, how often our minds leave the present, and where they tend to go, is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged." Maintaining real focus on whatever you're doing, whether it's unpleasant or pleasant, was the better predictor of longer-term happiness.
Just something to ponder during the work day.