In my work I write a lot of reports for clients. At times that can be really hard. Sometimes I’ve talked with a dozen or more people over the course of weeks, and reviewed piles of written materials. I then have to tease out the relevant information, distill it into a document that is understandable, flows well, and makes sense to someone who know nothing about the situation (like an EEOC investigator, or someone from the press who has requested it as a public record.) And it’s often not easy to figure out how to do that.
Sometimes my left brain (and I am very left brained, logical, analytical) works on that challenge until I’m tired and frustrated and feel like I’m not getting anywhere fast. Has that ever happened to you? I get writer’s block. Then, what I do write appears awkward and strained (because it is.)
What I have learned over time is that when that happens the best thing is often to leave it. Stop. Go away. Do something completely different. Take a walk, or a nap. Though it seems counterintuitive to stop working when you need to get something done, in the end it’s often the most effective thing you can do. Why?
Brain researchers have repeatedly shown that the unconscious brain keeps working even as the conscious brain hits a wall or stops. And it’s this part of your brain that often finds the “aha” insight that solves the problem – based on lots of data processed intuitively. As a number of researchers have explained, our intuition has helped us survive over the eons, and can help with today’s roadblocks too.
Here are a few tips for accessing that unconscious part of your brain (even when your logical left brain tells you to put your nose to the grindstone and just work harder):
- Take up meditation. Regular practitioners have a much better connection to their intuition than those of us who only rely on logic to solve problems (I’m working on that…)
- If at work, take a break and get away from your desk. Play a game on your computer. Take a walk, read a magazine on a totally different topic. The answer you seek may just come to you!
- Write the problem down before going to sleep (a left brain thing to do). Your unconscious brain will work on it during the night, and may well come up with a solution by morning.
- Listen to music while working. It engages your right brain and helps it work on the problem together with your left brain.
So, back to those complex reports: when I get stuck, even (or especially) when a deadline is looming, I force myself to take a break (ignoring the little voice in my head screaming for me to push through). I do something completely different (like play a game of solitaire on the computer) and stop trying to reason out the problem. I can’t necessarily figure out how I get the answer, but often it just comes to me. Right brain, intuition at work.
Have you found a way to use your right brain – your gut feelings and intuition – to help you at work? Share your tips! ~Daphne Schneider