Every time I have a problem that gnaws at me, I find myself taking a quick nap. And, very often, I wake up with absolute clarity on what needs to be done next.
I remember a post from Fred Wilson on ‘subconscious information processing‘ a few years ago when he spoke about a lesson he’d learnt from his father about starting on projects as early as possible. In Fred’s words –
“He explained that I should start working on a project as soon as it was assigned. An hour or so would do fine, he told me. He told me to come back to the project every day for at least a little bit and make progress on it slowly over time. I asked him why that was better than cramming at the very end (as I was doing during the conversation).
He explained that once your brain starts working on a problem, it doesn’t stop. If you get your mind wrapped around a problem with a fair bit of time left to solve it, the brain will solve the problem subconsciously over time and one day you’ll sit down to do some more work on it and the answer will be right in front of you.
I’ve taken that approach with every big problem I’ve faced ever since. I used this technique to get through high school, college, and business school. I’ve used this technique to develop a career in investing and technology. I’ve even used this technique to deal with our own parenting challenges.”
I’ve begun to appreciate this concept since I read this on Fred’s blog 4 years back. It is true and it works.
The reason it works is because our brain processes information when we give it time and space. This process can’t be forced. All we can do is create space and wait. And, sleep/rest is a wonderful way to create space. To me, it also speaks to the importance of getting more than our fair share of sleep. It is when we get past our deep sleep phase / the minimum required for us to feel rested that the magic really happens.
And, it is magic – let’s make no mistake about it.