Ever shot up in bed, probably just when you’re about to drop off, with that bloody name you couldn’t think of at the time you needed it? I have woken up with solutions to problems as well as doing this and quite often (not always by choice!) use this technique.
In design terms we call it “off time” and it is very effective. Sometimes we are just too close to something to be able to see it clearly and being able to step back away from it gives us that better perspective. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and I think this can also be applied to the brain.
You might think, ‘hold on a minute, you were talking about rolling up sleeves and getting stuff done before!’, and you would be right, I did say that. But, there are times when we are not as effective as we could be and these are the times when we need to stop, walk away, let the dust settle (or let the information sink in) and give our minds a chance to develop a solution.
We are pretty clever beings and can always come up with a solution to a problem. No matter how difficult, there is always a way – this is a belief I try to instill in my students.
A practical way to problem solve is to very simply trick yourself. If you want to figure out how to do something, instead of asking yourself “how the heck am I going to do this?”, you ask yourself “how did I do this last time?”. Straight away you are thinking about it positively and have convinced your mind that a. it can be done, and b. you’ve done it before! I promise you it works.
Anyway, ‘off time’. If you feel like you are beating a dead horse, stop beating it. Walk away – I literally like to go for a walk to clear my head, or if we go anywhere and my wife drives I just sit in the passenger seat and think: these are the times when I come up with my best ideas – take a time out and come back to it in a more relaxed state.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is nothing at all.
I’ve often got so much stuff going around in my head that I’m convinced I’m not being as effective as I could be. So switching off from time to time is often the most productive thing to do.
If you ever struggle to get to sleep at night because you have so much going on then I suggest writing it down on paper before you go to bed. I will quite often write my to-do list the night before so that I am clear what I want to get out of the next day; transferring it from my head to the paper seems to work for me most of the time and would recommend it.
So there you go, two pieces of practical advice (tricking yourself and writing things down) and the suggestion that putting the kettle on, putting your feet up and having some chocolate will help you problem solve! I’m not endorsed in anyway by the chocolate factory but I’ll say it anyway, have a break, have a Kit Kat!