7 December 2014

Dang, I'm smurt!And now for something completely different…

The greatest “technology” you own is one you probably never even think about, although you do think with it: your brain!

Your mind is capable of solving all sorts of problems.

Usually, you use your brain the old fashioned way: you brute force your way through a problem.

This typically requires hours of concentration, struggling, and quite often much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

And let’s face it, if I tell you a fabulous way to make your computer do more for you, you’ll be happy as a clam.

Why not optimize your brain while you’re at it? So, how do you work smarter, and not harder?

Okay, first we need to define the general steps that you currently use to solve problems.

These problems can be anything: programming something, doing your taxes, designing an aircraft carrier, fixing a toilet, troubleshooting your lawnmower, sewing the perfect dress, etc.

Whatever your problem is, you need to solve it. Normally, you’d do that like so:

  1. Define problem to be solved
  2. Think of a way to solve it
  3. Gather knowledge of how other people solved the same or a similar problem
  4. Think some more of a way to solve it
  5. Start trying to solve the problem
  6. Struggle like a 2-legged goat on Mt. Everest
  7. Get really frustrated
  8. Work even harder
  9. Get even more frustrated
  10. Have a heart attack, stroke, or mental breakdown

Step #11 is of course when the nice Men in White Coats come to take you away, either to the hospital or to the psych ward. Which is nice.

But, nobody likes getting frustrated. Everybody likes solving problems and accomplishing things!

At this point, you are probably expecting me to introducing my FREE video that you can watch where I “reveal” a great secret by making you listen to me endlessly drone on about how to Get Smart with zero effort, only to finally be met with a button to click to purchase more videos of me droning on and on and on.

BUT NO!

Right here, right now, I’m going to tell you The Secret that made me into the Mental Tyrannosaurus you see before you! Except that you can’t see me, but whatever…

The secret is: Work smarter, not harder. You do this by letting your brain do what it does best: automatic, high-speed background processing.

It turns out that your brain is very much like a supercomputer in certain ways. Every second of every day, your mind is doing all kinds of hard work in the background, and you’re usually not even aware of it. If you want to read more about how this works, I highly recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink:

The trick is to make your brain’s “background processing” work for you. It’s really, really easy to do.

How to Work smarter, not harder

  1. Define problem to be solved
  2. Think of a way to solve it
  3. Gather knowledge of how other people solved the same or a similar problem
  4. Think some more of a way to solve it
  5. Start trying to solve the problem
  6. Start to struggle like a 2-legged goat on Mt. Everest
  7. STOP! Go do something else.

That’s it.

Well, almost. When you go do something else, there are a few things that must be true:

  • You must make sure the problem is well-defined in your mind, consciously
  • You must have tried different solutions
  • You must realize that even though all the previous attempts to solve the problem failed, you know there is a solution
  • You must believe that you can solve the problem

Pay close attention to the bold blue bits above!

You cannot just figure out a problem if you don’t know what the problem is. Thus, the problem must be well-known and clearly defined by your conscious mind. That means you must work and struggle a bit at first to try to solve it. This puts all the data necessary into your brain. Your mind can’t solve a problem if it doesn’t know what the problem is!

Next, you must know there is a solution. If you are convinced that the problem is impossible, you have pre-programmed your brain to not find a solution.

Similarly, if you believe you aren’t smart enough to solve the problem, you have again pre-programmed yourself to fail. Know that you can solve the problem. Do not make the mistaken assumption that other “experts” are smarter than you simply because they are “experts”.

How to “Go do something else”

Now, let’s precisely define Go do something else. This part is also easy. If you are sitting at your computer programming, go outside and dig a hole. Or go sew something. If you are sewing, go read a book, or edit a document. The key is to DO something else. You cannot just go lay down and relax and wait for inspiration to hit. DO something else.

If your problem is physical, do something mental. If your problem is mental and indoors, do something physical and outdoors. You get the idea…

Another thing you can do (which is my personal favorite), is to take a shower. I’m not kidding. Works like a charm!

There is another key to this “do something else” process: Do NOT consciously think about the problem. Do NOT stress over it. If the problem pops into your head, you can talk to yourself and say, “Dang, that’s really confusing. Well, I’ll figure it out…” and then push it out of your conscious mind.

Notice that you reinforced the idea that you ARE smart enough to solve the problem, and then you pushed it back down into the Background Queue in your brain.

Genius Strikes!

At some point, and after an indeterminate amount of time, you will suddenly have some “inspiration” – a flash of sheer brilliance! Go try to solve the problem again using the new idea. If it doesn’t work, repeat the process.

This method has several benefits. For example, you are not struggling and driving yourself mad. Instead, you are accomplishing other non-related tasks while your mind works on the problem in the background. This minimizes stress, and also allows you to literally do two things at once.

You are also no longer frustrated by difficult problems. The most common reason for struggling like a 2-legged mountain goat is because we begin to get frustrated, stressed, angry… In short, emotion clouds the mind, which means we can’t think clearly. That makes solving the problem even harder, which leads to more frustration, and so on. So, when that stage is reached, you know it’s time to work smarter, not harder. That’s your cue to fire up your brain’s Background Processing Queue.

The Stunning Conclusion

I more or less figured out this technique based on several books I read, other people’s experiences and methods, and a “Genius Strikes!” moment. I have solved the most difficult programming problems using exactly this technique.

Just don’t forget that you really must know that you can do it. Don’t believe – KNOW. If you need to mentally review your past accomplishments and pat yourself on the back to work up some mojo, do it. No one is looking.

Give it a whirl, and see what happens!

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Work smarter, not harder
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7 thoughts on “Work smarter, not harder

  • 7 December 2014 at 18:38
    Permalink

    Great article, thanks again Scottie!

    Reply
  • 7 December 2014 at 22:31
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    Very useful, as it’s almost New Year’s resolutions time!

    Reply
  • 8 December 2014 at 12:19
    Permalink

    I always called this put-it-off-until-I-can-figure-it-out. Thanks for legitimizing it Scottie.

    Reply
  • 8 December 2014 at 19:45
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    I’ve heard it said before – ‘go do something else’ – but now I know WHY and HOW I ought to go do something else!

    Reply
    • 8 December 2014 at 22:05
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      Yeah, that took me awhile to figure out. If you want to shift gears in your car from 1st to 2nd, you can’t do it by shifting from 1st, to neutral, and then back to 1st. šŸ˜‰

      And sometimes, it’s good to shake things up. If it’s not working, then do something different.

      Reply
  • 16 December 2014 at 20:49
    Permalink

    I wasn’t looking for this article, but I am keeping it close bye. Gosh, one never knows what they are going to find when they are hunting for something else and keeping an open mind.
    Love your site.
    Need help with this “comctl32.ocx” issue. Will keep looking. I am supposed to be job hunting, but need my Word files working properly to convert to pdf.
    Thanks again for keeping this site going.

    Reply
  • Pingback: How to code smarter ā€“ now with 50% less irritation! | Scottie's Tech.Info

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