Picture: istock
Picture: istock

People often say they make their best decisions not while actively thinking about a problem but while, say, taking a shower, knitting or working out. How can you make these seemingly random flashes of insight happen more often?

Research supports four steps you can take.

1. Notice quiet signals. No matter how busy you are, do your best to take breaks between meetings and find some alone time. Go to an empty conference room or, better, leave the office and take a walk outside.

2. Look forward. Once you have found a quiet spot, try to focus on your inner thoughts and ignore what’s going on around you. Zone out rather than glance at your buzzing phone. Turn your devices off for several hours a day — or several days a week if you can. This way your mind will be truly free to wander, and your brain won’t miss the next lightbulb moment when it happens.

3. Be positive. If you are feeling grumpy when tackling a complex decision, do something to lift your spirits. Recent research shows napping is a good way to deal with frustration. Take a daily snooze to feel your best — your hardworking brain may thank you by sprouting a perfect solution after you wake up.

4. Make less effort. Taking a break from thinking about an important decision may enable people to unravel unconscious thought — hidden yet powerful cognitive processes outside their conscious awareness. So take a break from any decision-making process. And once you are taking it, focus on something else.

(Adapted from Four Steps to Having More Aha Moments at HBR.org.)

Harvard Business Review

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