The answer to all your problems could be in the fridge

I want to recommend a great way of exploring any problem, a way of seeing it from a new perspective and maybe helping you find some potential solutions. I call it the Fridge (I’ll explain later).

There are three parts to this method – writing it down, leaving it alone and then reviewing it. It seems deceptively simple, but each part of the process is important. Try it with a current problem you are facing.

Stage 1

Find a piece of paper and write down everything you think is involved in the problem. I mean everything. If you need something to help get you focussed ask, ‘Who? How? Why? When? Where? What?’ This will stimulate your thinking. Otherwise, just scribble the most detailed description you can generate. Don’t worry about the grammar, the spelling, whether you are writing proper sentences or even whether you have got exactly the right words – just write it all down in as many words as it takes. Let it flow. If you can’t think of the right word, write the wrong one. The only rule is that you will need to be able to read what you have written when you come back to it.

Stage 2

Leave it. Put it somewhere safe – the fridge is not a bad place at all (there’s a clue in the title!). The longer you leave it the better. If you can leave your first problem for a few days, that would be great. As you practice you will find you can leave a problem for just a few minutes and return to it with a fresh eye but, until then, the longer you leave it the better. If you only have a short time just leave it and do something completely different – make tea or coffee, clean the sink or go shopping (unless your problem is too much shopping!). It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are not giving any further thought to the problem you want to tackle. Obviously, the longer you leave it, the greater the distance between your initial thoughts and your current thoughts. Distance helps give you more objectivity.

Stage 3

Go back to your scribbles and review them. Don’t just read what you have written, consider them and interact with them by asking questions, ‘Why do I think that? Is that really true? What is another way of looking at it?’ Use different colour pens to write your comments and criticisms on the same sheet of paper. Yes, it is okay to criticise yourself. You do get things wrong sometimes!

Go on, you can do it. Pretend the original work was produced by the idiots you work, play or live with. Cross out words (but don’t obliterate them), underline things that strike you as important, join words up with lines where ideas are linked, circle the interesting bits and write your critical teacher comments in the margins. Whatever the problem/issue, you will see it much more clearly. Your new found objectivity may even provide you with some potential solutions.

You can try this approach with anything that has been (or is) vexing you.

Design for Life™ is packed full of tools like this: simple, tried and tested techniques. You really should think about ordering a copy. It could change your life.

By the way, if you try this tool and you want to share your experience of it with me, email me.

John Cornbill