When faced with any problem our natural instinct is to go directly at it by listing out goals, brainstorming ideas and detailed action planning.
These are important parts of any problem-solving process, but anecdotal evidence backed by scientific studies indicate that including times of inaction is just as (if not more) important!
Those “A-ha!” moments which spark the most brilliant and unexpected solutions best arise when our minds are quiet and our consciousness is resting (not actively engaged in thinking deeply or intensely).
These moments can be deliberately cultivated by practicing the following 4 habits as illustrated in the one-page summary illustration you see here:
1. Take Quiet Time Alone
Your subconscious needs undisturbed time of silence and solitude to surface it’s insights, which often cannot be heard amongst the noise of our everyday lives. Even just 15-20 minutes of meditation or a power nap each day can make a major difference in quieting our minds so that insights can rise to the surface and be heard.
2. Let Your Mind Wander
Developing the capacity to focus on your own inner thoughts means ignoring whatever is going on around you, including the dings of post notifications, pings of emails, chatter of co-workers or worrying about upcoming events on your to-do list. Turn off your phone and allow yourself to zone out a bit so your mind can wander, then write down any ideas, questions or (even seemingly unrelated) thoughts that come up during this time.
3. Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Anxiety is the main enemy of insight; but feeling good enhances brain activity which promote those eureka moments. Both the big life-altering ones, and even the little ideas like what to make with those leftovers in the fridge. So before tackling that big hairy problem or making a major decision, make sure you do something to lift your spirits, like having a great workout, talking to a friend, playing with your pet, taking a walk outside, or whatever works for you.
4. Take a Mental Break
Once we’ve activated the brain by asking it to work out a solution to any given problem, our subconscious continues to work away at it while we go on about our day. We can help out our brains by focusing deeply on the specific issue at hand for some time, then deliberately stepping away and distracting our minds with a simple, unrelated task such as a walk, shower, doing some household chores, taking a drive, etc. This will enable the subconscious mind to work away at solving the problem in the background while you complete some unrelated, relatively undemanding activity.
Usually our ego speaks pretty loudly, while our intuition is the whisper who’s insights can only be heard in those quieter moments. By intentionally creating time and space for it to be heard, you’ll cultivate access to more and better ideas and insights.
Ultimately you’ll then be able to solve more complex problems faster, something we all want! So whether it’s creating a business marketing plan, solving a client’s problem, handling your personal relationships effectively or painting a brilliant masterpiece, try incorporating these 4 habits into your day, even if just of for a few minutes.
Do you already make time in your day for these practices? If so, tell us about it in a comment below!
If not, try one or more of them and let us know how it goes!
This illustration was created as a one-page on the HBR article “Four Steps to having More Aha Moments” By David Rock and Josh Davis.
If you are writing an article or book, report or proposal and would like a own custom one-page summary illustration of your key message like the one you see here, I’d love to create one for you – shoot me an email and we’ll make it happen!