Dream & DayDream Journaling

Dream Journaling – Checklist for Idea Brainstorming and Power Daydreaming

By Thomas B. Cross

The purpose of this article is to provide the reader with a new tool in their “brainstorm” skills. Too many executives are faced with “in the box” thinking and action when continuing to pursue the same strategy while fruitful today will be fruitless in the future. All too often executives realize the “ship has sailed.” Worse they dismiss the new market player as someone who really doesn’t understand what is going on. We have found that you cannot predict the future, react to it, you must act to direct the future to your strategy. However, few have the vision of Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos and others. The purpose of this short article is to explore how you can incorporate a dream journal and incorporate your sleeping dreams into your daily waking moments in the form of brainstorming. In the paper “Assessing the Dream-Lag Effect…” by Blagrove and others, there is strong evidence to “point to a memory consolidation function or mechanism that is specific to REM sleep.”[1] This suggests that both during waking time and while at sleep there is the reappearance of features from events occurring on the immediately preceding day often called the “dream-lag effect.” Whether this may appear as deja vu or in a day dream it gives rise to the idea of how we brainstorm. Brainstorming in this context encompasses all ideas, interactions, problem-solving and other mental or even physical activities undertaken. This may also mean that dreams can be realized into actionable activities rather than just dismissed or ignored.

As Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams said, “For the present I will merely say that they are intended to depreciate the importance of what is being dreamed.”[2] It is the dilemma of the dream within a dream in which the dream continues to dream after waking. “It may therefore be assumed that the part “dreamed” contains the representation of the reality. The real memory or the continued dream contains the representation of what the dreamer really wishes,” noted Freud. Freud refers to day dreaming as “there are dreams which consist of the presentation of such a day fantasy which has remained unconscious” or “the (night) dream is the faithful repetition of the day phantasy.” In other words, day dreaming may more of a dream within a dream than a dream with a purpose. However, we find that the day dream is a “directed dream” which the person starts when they want to, directs like a movie director, the purpose and function of the dream, however may control the ending.

Flower field and blue sky with sun.

Another view of day dreaming comes David Foulkes who writes “In wakefulness, information is being processed too continuously to permit complete cross-tabulation (cross referencing).” However during dreaming, “such cross-filing goes on during sleep.” He adds “…our dreams indicates that re-processing is occurring for day dream experiences…, knowledge is being addressed (mapped or resolved), accessed and reorganized. Its (day experience) would lie in its pattern of potential connections with knowledge already in storage.”[3] Very recent thinking published in 2012 by Bogzaran & Deslauriers about dreaming suggests that “Rather than assuming that waking consciousness is more qualified to ponder the dream experience, we propose that the dreaming mind is creation itself.” They also “calls the day world style of thinking is often linear and literal and may limit meaning, leaving aside the much larger sphere of multidimensional world of dream.”[4] This means that “sleeping on” a problem gives puts the mind to work on a wide range of solutions that conscience deliberation may not have considered. However, note the so-called dream-lag effect which means the resulting dream may not appear for many days up to a week. As Blagrove and colleagues noted, “The physiological basis for the dream-lag effect is suggested as being due to the relocation of memories from the hippocampus to the neocortex over a time period of approximately one week. Regarding this relocation, Walker proposes that sleep firstly strengthens individual memory items, and then, over a longer time course, connects memories together.[1]

Meanwhile, you are not here for the exhaustive research we did on this subject but to use this concept is making your day-night dreams into actionable efforts in your waking hours. Here are some of the key points to track in your dream diary and resulting brainstorming development.

1 – Write down whatever you remember; whenever you can and use the diary during the day to add additional thoughts or ideas. Don’t worry about making sense of it all at the moment. Get the salient points you remember. You really can’t wait to write it down. You can also revisit the dream as it may appear more than once. That is, “sleeping on” means it may take more than one night to resolve the issue and the “dream-lag” effect may take up to a week.

2 – Keep track of all kinds of details, colors, scenery, physical surroundings, faces, places and each kind of sensory information including smell, movement and sensation.

3 – Then note the purpose of the dream, talking, sitting, eating, falling, swimming, sky diving, working, arguing, having fun, fighting or running away. Also note if any of the images related to the issue or problem troubling you.

4 – Later when you have a moment to yourself, review your notes. It may not make any sense at all when you start but you will find that after a week or so, you will see some patterns emerge of people, places, events, emotions and more.

5 – Then use other diary pages for organizing your realizations of these day or night dreams. You may want to share them with those you remember in your dreams though the dream may have nothing with the dream or your own analysis of the dream.

6 – Before building an ideas list and create a mind map of your dreams and how they have influenced your life so far. This is important to incorporating your dreams as tools in your life. The approach is what was said of Einstein, he did not invent mass, energy or light, he combined them to form a new approach. Whether a salad or a car strategy, it is combining the basic elements in a new way. Starbucks did not invent coffee; they re-thought coffee resulting in redefining the coffee business. The Apple iPhone is a simple combination of two different devices. However, the iPhone could have an iKey and incorporate door, car and other keys. That is, cross map these ideas together. This is the way the mind works every night or even during the day, combining and recombining ideas together like the way Einstein, Jobs and others have done. You just have to rethink or let the mind “work through” an idea. Of course the ultimate test is to unleash that creative thinking and take action.

7 – From this vantage build an action items-goals list of what you think the dreams mean to you and what actions you want to take.

8 – At this point, you will have new diary of day-night dreams and possible their meaning so you shouldn’t stop writing and continue to add to your diary (journal or log if you prefer).

9 – You are ready to pursue an advanced approach to your dreams. This means you explore and realize new connections. In Erik Mueller’s book page Daydreaming in Humans and Machine, he references other thought leaders on recognizing and pursuing new connections. He references Mednick’s “the novelty of the combination of two remote ideas can be similarity of two ideas and through a third idea in common with the two. He mentions Koestler’s creative acts result from bisociation – the coming together of two previously unrelated contexts such as math and music. Rothenberg defines “janusian is two or more opposite or antithetical ideas, images or concepts leading to the articulation of new ideas.” Now these theories are just theories, that you should really want to take this to the next level and create your own dream theory as no is stopping you. Importantly you learned that any theory is meaningless unless you take action if only to share it with another. Mueller points out in a reference to another theory that “beginning around the tenth year of life, daydreams are no longer accompanied by external actions.”[5] This means that you may have stopped taking action on your dreams a long time ago and now it is a good time to start again.

10 – Expand this concept to working with others. This does not mean expecting them to follow your dream patterns/theory or even understanding it. However, if you build your system and create the means to explain it to others; then there is the possibility of them understanding your theory. That is, it is not just in your mind but sharing that mind with others and then being able to not just understand it but take action on it with you. No doubt they will certainly have their own dream theories and you can use the ideas in Step #9 of combining two theories together even if they are even antithetical to one another. Then start at #1 again.


Being creative means organizing the tools you have available to you and being open to your own imagination. The brain works in many different known and unknown ways and differently for each person. However, what emerges is that when we “sleep on” a problem we often come up with very creative solutions. Using that concept let the mind come up with its own way to be creative. Then take notes on these thoughts and build a mind map on where your idea can go. Then unleash the idea and be determined enough to see it through.


(1) Assessing the Dream-Lag Effect for REM and NREM Stage 2 Dreams by Mark Blagrove, Nathalie C. Fouquet, Josephine A. Henley-Einion, Anna C. Davies, Jennifer L. Neuschaffer – Plosone.org

(2) – The Interpretation of Dreams by Dr. Sigmund Freud, MacMillan 1913, on pages 228, 393-3(3) Dreaming: A Cognitive-Psychological Analysis by David Foulkes, Lawrence Erlbaum, 1985 on page 23.

Integral Dreaming – A Holistic Approach to Dreams, Bogzaran and Deslauriers, SUNY Press, 2012, on page 219.

(5) Daydreaming in Humans and Machines, Erik Mueller, Ablex Publishing, 1990 on page 124.