Wander Woman

Guidance for the goal-driven woman

The Secret to Accessing Your Brilliance

How to find new and amazing solutions to your problems.

There is a slight difference in the structure of the brain between men and women. The bundle of fibers that connect the right and left hemispheres is wider in women, making it easier for movement across the hemispheres to occur faster and more frequently than in men. Although there is debate to the actual effects of this difference, many studies suggest both benefits and disadvantages for women. Whether this is true or not, the advice that has come out of these studies is very useful for decision-making.

For one, women tend to shift their thoughts more frequently, leading to multitasking and processing information by accessing many ideas at once. We may seem scattered when in truth, we are considering numerous possibilities and outlying influences. This can serve to accomplish many tasks at once, and to give a broader, more strategic perspective to an issue.

Yet multitasking can keep you from giving 100 percent to one particular task. You may miss details or lose track of some good answers. Analyzing everything in terms of who will be affected, how it occurred last year, what your friend warned you about, what time of week would be better than others for implementation, and why some people will react poorly while others will succeed can actually keep you from missing the major point in the moment. You lose your brilliant idea as your thoughts get lost in the threads of information passing through your brain.

When it comes to discovering a brilliant solution to a problem, you need to be able to access three other brain states: 1) Focus, 2) Purposeful Wandering and 3) Empty.

Whether you are facing a technical problem or a personal issue, the following steps will help you come up with brilliant solutions for problems you have been mulling over way too long.

#1: Focus.
At times, you need to zoom in and compartmentalize your thinking. Define the problem you are facing. Write it down on a piece of paper. Then before you begin to analyze and associate, ask yourself the question, "What do I know to be true about this problem, really?" State only the facts of the situation, the people involved, how long it is occurring, what is known to occur in the future if anything, and the actual impact the situation is having on yourself and others (only what you know for certain). The best solutions often appear when you articulate what is true.

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#2: Purposefully Wander.
If solutions aren't readily apparent, allow your mind to wander away from the issue completely. Kalina Christoff, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia found that when people are distracted and begin to think about other things than the problem at hand, their executive network is far more active than when focusing on one problem. Whether you are cooking, playing sports or planning your next vacation, you are allowing your brain to process the complex problem while your brain is in an active state.

In fact, surfing the Internet at work for pleasure for short periods of time can increase your concentration levels, according to a University of Melbourne study. Dr Brent Coker, from the Department of Management and Marketing, says that workers who engage in ‘Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing’ (WILB) are more productive than those who don't.

"People who surf the Internet for fun at work - within a reasonable limit of less than 20% of their total time in the office - are more productive by about 9% than those who don't," Coker says. Among the most popular WILB activities are searching for information about products and reading online news sites.

"People need to zone out for a bit to get back their concentration," Dr. Coker says. He surmises that short and unobtrusive breaks, such as quickly surfing the internet, enables the mind to reset itself, leading to higher concentration, and as a result, better solutions to problems.

Also, according to brain researchers Jeff Brown and Mark Fenske, authors of How Your Brain Connects the Future to the Past, "Undisturbed time gives your brain the space it needs to recall and recombine past experiences in ways that help you anticipate the future." You might find a better solution when you consider the context of the future instead of just the present.

#3: Rest to refresh your overworked brain.
Your brain needs to take a rest to refresh when you are working hard. You need to give your decisions time to brew in your head. Lack of sleep will affect your judgment. Worrying and time pressures will hinder your ability to see options. In the factory I worked with in Taiwan, everyone was expected to lay their head on their desks after lunch for about fifteen minutes to rest or to sleep if they could. Naps can be a wonderful way to reboot your brain.

Whether you meditate, go for a walk in the trees, or nap, learning how to shut down and be present to the moment will serve both the health of your brain and your body. When you come back to the problem you are facing, you will have a new perspective. The sudden, new and amazing solution to a problem arises when you look at your situation from an entirely new angle.

Marcia Reynolds, PsyD provides coaching and teaches leadership classes world-wide. You can read more about her work at http://www.outsmartyourbrain.com

 

Marcia Reynolds, PsyD., is the author of two leadership books, The Discomfort Zone and Wander Woman. She is President of Covisioning, a leadership development and coaching firm.

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