As funny as it sounds, some of my best work ideas have come to me when I’m not in the office. As a software developer early in my career, there were times when I would practically be beating my head against my keyboard trying to define the best way to write a piece of software and then have the perfect design pop into my head while watching a baseball game on TV that evening.

Truth be told, this column will be a lot more informative and a lot less provocative than the title alludes. 


As funny as it sounds, some of my best work ideas have come to me when I’m not in the office. As a software developer early in my career, there were times when I would practically be beating my head against my keyboard trying to define the best way to write a piece of software and then have the perfect design pop into my head while watching a baseball game on TV that evening.


Later in my career, as I moved into the management ranks, I learned not only to take advantage of this phenomenon myself, but also to teach it to those on my team. Now, I would like to explain it to you. My disclaimer here is that I’m not a professional in this area of science. I did, however, take a psychology class in high school in the early 1970s, but I don’t think this makes me an expert.


OK, here I go. When stressed, it’s hard to have deep creative thought, at least for me. What I find is that when I am relaxed, it allows me to:


- Think about an issue with a fresh mind because of the time that elapsed since you first encountered the issue.


- Have your subconscious mind working on the issue when you are doing other things.


- Think more deeply about the topic and develop multiple potential solutions.


- Play mental gymnastics by comparing and contrasting these potential solutions.


The advantage of having the time to do the above is that it allows you to:


- Make decisions that are thoughtful, not knee-jerk based.


- Develop the type of elegant and effective solutions that take time to mentally incubate.


- Contemplate the pros and cons of each potential solution, thus, giving you an understanding of the implications related to each.


- This technique can work well for senior executives, new managers and individual contributors. We all have problems that must be solved, decisions to make and have tasks to complete.


From a personal perspective, I use this technique of allowing myself relaxed time to make a decision whenever possible. In fact, when I’m pushed to make a very important decision quickly, unless speed is truly required, I’ll say I want to sleep on it. This gives me the time to literally sleep on it, thus, having the evening to contemplate my potential options to make a more thoughtful (and usually better) decision. I have used this technique when deciding which person to hire, the proper price when delivering custom training, how best to deal with a difficult employee issue, and countless other personal and professional decision points.


As to the column’s title, yes, I have come up with great problem-solving solutions in the shower, commuting to and from work, while making dinner (I love to cook), and in virtually every other setting that I find to be relaxing and undisturbed.


In closing this column, my suggesting to you is to heed this advice and try this technique for yourself. You may also find it to be of great value when making important decisions. You may also find that taking the time to reflect before acting may save you from making mistakes that you will later regret.


The primary advice and takeaways from today’s column is to know that:


- Reflecting on important issues when relaxed can help you make better decisions.


- When relaxed, it can be easier to develop deep, innovative and thoughtful solutions to difficult problems and challenges.


- Taking the time to reflect before acting can potentially help you avoid doing things that you may later regret.


Until next time, manage well, manage smart and continue to grow.


Eric P. Bloom is the president of Manager Mechanics LLC, a company specializing in Information Technology (IT) leadership development and the governing organization for the Information Technology Management and Leadership Professional (ITMLP) and Information Technology Management and Leadership Executive (ITMLE) certifications. Contact him at eric@ManagerMechanics.com, follow him on Twitter at @EricPBloom, or visit www.ManagerMechanics.com.