When I have an important (or tough) problem to solve, I often afford myself the luxury of shelving it for a few days, even if I think I can already see a solution. During this time, I don’t think about it and it does not weigh on my mind – I’m busy doing other things. Although I’m not consciously thinking about it, it percolates away in my subconscious, and a solution often announces itself when I least expect it.
If a few days pass without a magical solution bubbling up, I’ll start thinking about the problem again. However, I quite often realize that there’s a better way to define the problem – and this time it’s much easier to solve.
I am often amazed by the simplicity and elegance of the solutions I arrive at using this method. Each time this happens, I’m quite sure that I would not have been able to produce the solution deliberately using a linear, logical thought process.
The time that I’m most prone to receiving these insights is when I’m not working, and usually doing something physical rather than cerebral. My morning run or a long drive often offer up solutions to such problems.
This has highlighted for me the importance of not spending every waking moment on work. I admit that this is a constant battle, but the fact is that my creativity and the quality of my work suffers significantly unless I regularly engage in non-work and non-cerebral activities. The mind needs to rest, and I now understand the true meaning of “healthy body, healthy mind.” I imagine that I’m not unique in this respect, and I’m convinced that today’s typical overloaded employee who works a 60+ hour week could achieve more by working less.
When will companies start noticing that this overload is adversely affecting their bottom line?