How can walking away possibly be an effective problem-solving tool? That sounds an awful lot like quitting. Instead of quitting, think of it as taking a break from trying to solve the problem you are working on.
A short lesson in Psychology 101 explains that your mind works on two separate levels, the conscious and the unconscious.
The conscious level is the part you have control over, and when you are frustrated with a problem, it can seem like you are hitting your brain against a wall. On the other side, you have absolutely no control over your unconscious brain, except for one crucial part: turning it loose to do its thing.
Believe it or not, we do most of our thinking and processing in our subconscious mind. The majority of the things we do and come up with rise from the subconscious and we of often completely unaware.
The one problem with getting things from the subconscious is that it does not work well when our conscious brain is working. Sometimes it stops completely. It is like your brain has 2 tracks and you can only go down one at a time. When you are actively working on something, anything, your subconscious slows down or switches off.
It is when you are unconsciously engaged in a task that your subconscious springs to life. When you are washing dishes, walking the dog, working out, and most of all, sleeping, is when your unconscious comes into its own. That is why you hear about people getting sudden bursts of inspiration while seemingly doing nothing. I can’t tell you how many ideas and solutions have come to when taking a showerl
The question, then is how can you put this into action to help you solve problems creatively? One simple answer: walk away from the problem for a bit. Put it aside and work on something else. Take a short break. Go for a walk, have dinner, take a shower, and do your best not to think about it for a while.
When you return, your brain will be refreshed, and your subconscious will have new information and connections that can help you solve the problem, if you didn’t come up with the solution while you are away.
Walking away is not always viable, and it will not solve every problem but is a great skill to master and include in your problem-solving toolkit.