When you get stuck

I’ve written a lot on problem-solving; and I had talked about different approaches to it. In particular, I think it is worth pointing out some heuristics which are more useful amidst the process of problem-solving when you get stuck. I observed myself getting stuck when one of two things happen in the process of thinking about problems:

  • Looping: I’m thinking in a circular manner where my thoughts lead on to the same thoughts and goes back on itself.
  • All at once: I’m thinking of multiple thoughts all at once with some order but interconnections that are too complex I can’t seem to entangle one by one.

In both cases, it is important to practice separation. Separation of elements that are being thought about. It could be that a problem has multiple components or aspects that is being considered. Dividing them up finely is important; or that a solution can tackle different aspects of a problem – again, to approach it first by dissecting them into separate elements.

We then visit these elements one by one and broaden or deepen them as we deem fit. By first separating the elements and then listing them down, we also keep separate the concepts and the connections between them. We then start ordering and putting in the connections one by one and slowly.

It will take patience, and a great sense of curiosity about being stuck itself rather than feeling like you’ve hit a roadblock to dealing with the main problem. Small problems thrown up along the way like being stuck is quickly forgotten when we manage to get them out but when they are in the way, it can really tear you down.

Good luck!