Too often we turn issues over and over in our minds without finding an innovative solution for them. That is because we tend to do all problem solving by means of making a pros-and-cons list. To get out of that rut, you have to be more creative with finding solutions. The following ideas will probably help you come up with unexpected answers for just about any quandary in your personal life and at the workplace.
Pretend the problem is not that important to you: Mentally distance yourself from the issue by imagining you're solving it for someone else or that the deadline is further away than it actually is. This helps you take in the bigger picture and opens your mind to approaches you might have missed if you were thinking in a narrow perspective.
Draw a picture of the dilemma: Sketch out time-lines, charts, or pictures to help you see solutions . If you want to improve your commute, you could draw out the different routes to find which is most scenic, the shortest, or includes your favorite coffee shop. Or, if you need to cut your department's budget, sketching an organizational chart showing each job and its function can help you see redundancies or positions that could be eliminated or merged to save money.
Take a break from brainstorming: Instead of sitting and staring at the monitor, get up and try going for a run or, if you're at home, even taking a bath. Insights often come when people are taking a break from actively thinking about a problem. It allows your mind to work in the background, piecing together fragments of information about the problem that were already floating around, while it effectively resets.
Work when you would prefer to have your brain turned off: No matter what the problem is that you're trying to solve, tackle it at the time of day when you think you're not at your best. Having less-than-laser-sharp focus can actually help you come up with a new solution to a problem.
Move from your normal desk or space: Shift to a new location to give yourself new stimuli and expand your horizons while working toward the same goal. A change in environment can be just what you need to open up your mind. We subconsciously associate places with what we have experienced in them, which can be good in some situations, but can negatively affect your ability to think in an innovative manner. Plus, a new environment means different stimuli, which may trigger novel ideas, thoughts, and connections.