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Your Angle of Approach in Problem Solving

Published 1/17/2018

Ever had a brain block? How can you overcome that?

In Today's episode we're talking about angles of approach in problem solving .

Today's episode is sponsored by Linode.

In 2018, Linode is joining forces with Developer Tea listeners by offering you $20 of credit - that's 4 months of FREE service on the 1GB tier - for free! Head over to https://spec.fm/linode and use the code DEVELOPERTEA2018 at checkout.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Have you ever experienced a brain block? A moment where you're just kind of stuck and you're not really sure where to go, what to do next to solve the problem that's in front of you? That's what we're talking about on today's episode of Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and this show is created for driven developers like you to help you learn how to start breaking through some of those mental blocks. We've done two episodes now that deal with perception and that's what we're talking about with breaking through a mental block in today's episode as well because here's the reality. Most of the time when we try to solve a problem, we continue on the same path that we started on. This is our natural way of thinking. We think that if we continue grinding away looking at the same problem, the same way and trying to solve it with the same tools that eventually it will break. It's kind of a test of will or a test of endurance. And unfortunately, a lot of the time this isn't the case. We're going to talk about a few tactics to help you get through that mental block right after we talk about today's sponsor, Linode. Today's episode is sponsored by Linode. Linode has joined us once again in 2018 and their service continues to deliver. If you are looking to do anything with a networked server, with a Linux server that is available on the internet, then Linode is probably the best answer for you because they provide the best dollar per gigabyte deal on the market. You can get a one gigabyte of RAM server spun up on Linode for $5 a month, $5 a month. The cheapest deal that you're going to find. But here's the reality. Even if it was $10 a month, Linode would be worth it. Here's why. Linode has excellent customer service. They have a team that is dedicated to developer success and they're going to give you $20 worth of credit just for free. For being a developer to you listener, you get $20 on Linode's services. You can use that on any of their services. It's a credit that goes to your account. Go and check it out. Spekt out of FIM slash Linode. Make sure you use the code developer to 2018 at checkout. That's Spekt out of FIM slash Linode and the code developer to 2018. Thank you again for listening to today's episode. We're talking about breaking through these mental barriers, these brain blocks. It's a moment where you're just not making any progress. For whatever reason, you keep on a good signifier of this is if you keep on googling something and the top five or 10 links are already turn purple. We've already visited those links. You've already tried those same pathways. Unfortunately, your brain isn't really getting the signal. It's just continuing to try. This isn't the right way to solve the problem. At some point, your brain has to realize that what it's doing is not working. This has implications that go all the way throughout your entire career, not just with coding problems and not just with algorithmic problems necessarily, but with every problem you face. If you run up against a problem and you continue to fail at solving it and you keep on trying the same methods, it's very likely that it's not an issue with your practiced skill. It's not an issue with your ability to wield whatever those tools are. Most likely, it's an issue with the angle that you are taking, your angle of approach. So I have three quick steps to help you change your angle of approach. The first one is certainly you have to identify when that roadblock has occurred, when your mental block has occurred. This is really difficult to do because again, we have that signal telling us that if we just take one more step in that same direction, we're going to get there. But that's not realistic. It's not representative of reality. So instead, what we need to do is recognize when we're continuing in the same direction and stop. Take a moment and this is step number two. Take a moment and go away from the problem. It's not intuitive, but in order to solve a problem and more specifically, in order to create new connections in your brain, in order to be creative, you actually have to take some time away from the subject material. This is kind of decompression time. Your brain is actually assimilating information as making connections without you cognitively trying to create or forge those connections. It's working in the background. So taking a step away from the problem quite literally gives your brain time to understand what's going on. Most of the time, even if you just take a quick walk around the block or if you go and start working on a different project, maybe catch up on email, even though I don't recommend doing that too early in the day, if you start doing that kind of stuff, your brain is going to flip into that secondary mode. And then when it returns to the problem, you'll have a fresh perspective, a new way of thinking about it. Now this is important to note that this isn't some kind of perfect science. It's not going to work every single time exactly the same way. But most of the time, if you take some time away, if you take some rest time, when you return to that problem, you will most likely have a different perspective. Now, a more intentional way of approaching this is to take a step back and use a different medium. Very simply, if you're on a computer, go to the drawing board, literally go to a white board or a piece of paper or take your computer laptop, close it and look at the person that you're working with and start talking, talk with them, talk through the problem, talk through the entire process of what is happening. A lot of the time what you're going to find is that by simply changing the medium, by reorganizing the way you're thinking about something, that's going to force you to think about something that you weren't thinking about previously. Right? That's a very simple kind of prodding to your brain to do something slightly different. And that's simple shift, even if it's a slight shift, that simple shift can make all of the difference in the world. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. Today is a short episode. That's the whole goal of the show in the beginning, at least. It was to create these short episodes so you can have something to take with you in any kind of format, whether you're literally taking a T-break or if you're going to the jammer, or you're on your commute. So the point of these short episodes is for you to fit them in in that short period of time. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you again to today's sponsor, Linode. Linode is providing you an excellent service of Linux in the cloud. Check it out, spec.fm slash Linode. Thank you again for listening. Make sure you subscribe if you want to miss out on future episodes of Developer Tea. And until next time, enjoy your tea.