The Simple But Effective Way to Solve Problems Better

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When you’re wrestling with a tough decision or you’re trying to solve a hard problem, you might assume you just need to think harder. But concentrating harder won’t force a ‘eureka moment’ when you’re experiencing a mental block.

Instead, your best option might be to step away from your project and busy yourself with another task. Clean the house, pay some bills, or take a nap and you just might experience a spark of genius as the solution seems to magically come to you.

The Incubation Period

For more than 100 years, scientists have studied the “incubation period.” Studies have found that the best ideas often come to people when they aren’t actively trying to develop a solution.

Instead, individuals often experience a spark of genius or eureka moment when they’re busying themselves with a task unrelated to the issue they’re trying to address. 

What the Research Shows

In a 2010 study published in Psychological Science, researchers examined how an incubation period affects choices. In the first experiment, participants were asked to evaluate profiles of potential roommates given to them by the researchers.

One group was asked for their decision immediately following their evaluation. The other group was asked to complete an anagram before weighing in.

The participants who were asked to complete an unrelated task—and wait several minutes before making a decision—made better choices.

In a second experiment, participants were asked…

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