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How to get your subconscious to solve problems for you

Inspiration can come from the strangest of places.

Sometimes you think you know how you want your new app to look. But in reality you have more of a feeling that you want to get when you see the look of your new app. I know this because I thought I knew exactly how my app will look and when actually putting pen to paper (figuratively) I know it looks nowhere near anything work showing to anyone.

Okay, typically when you are getting to the point of showing your work, it is easy to be critical on yourself, but in this case, it was more the fact that it is early stage and all I really have is the feeling I want, and not the look itself.

So where do you go to find the look?

Well, firstly I go inwards, think of actually using your app, think of what would be the pieces of information you would want to see, think of what draws you in. Next its looking at others apps out there, maybe googling an app similar to yours and adding best UI. After some time it is best to go outside, maybe to an event, and just observe the world around you.

So that's exactly what I did. On this specific night in Sydney, the light show was on and I thought what better place to "inspirate" than an artistic light show where the city itself is the canvas!


It turns out I did actually come away with the initial vision of how to achieve the "feel" of the app I'm going for. But you'll never guess which piece of art got me there.

Was it a nicely lit tree?

Or how about the view of Sydney Harbour lit up?

Well it ended up being none of the above? My vision for the design came in transit sitting on a train listening to a podcast. It's interesting because much like when you are in the shower and you have those "shower thoughts" a monotonous task can get you into a different mindset, different pathways in your brain link.

But wait. Sometimes these thoughts are unique and different, but quite frankly useless thoughts such as

"When you drink alcohol you are just borrowing happiness from tomorrow" or "clapping is just hitting yourself because you like something" and "when you say 'Forward' or 'Back', your lips move in those directions"

Great. But it would be nice if that could apply to something I actually want to achieve. So why on this occasion on the train did the problem I was trying to solve get solved subconsciously?

Maybe it was coincidence, but maybe because my mind had locked in a future task i.e. get inspiration to solve my design problem after this train ride, that in my subconscious that was the "next" task. Then as mundane as a train ride was the subconscious has what is next and in that mind state began to solve.

I know the feel of the individual rounds in the game I want to achieve, the font style of the main message and the behavior as time runs out all appeared to me and I expanded it to the colors and the overall game flow.

By the time I got to the light show and had dinner it was out of mind and I just enjoyed the evening. Before I'd even gone out I had already locked in my idea!

The Solve

So try give this a go. The next time you try go out to get new ideas, don't focus on the problem, just focus on the fact that the next thing you are going to do is get new ideas. Lock it in. Schedule it.

But allow enough time for some monotonous tasks in between whether it be on a train (not actively driving) or perhaps the shower before you leave. The trip cannot be anything you are "organizing" and have stress factors to worry about others getting there on time etc. These things will take all of your attention.

Give it a go and let me know if you managed to trigger one of these mind states but got your subconscious targeted at a creative problem you were actually trying to solve.

Now if you're still looking for a little more motivation then check out our list of 25 Engineering Quotes that all Engineers should know. It's one of the lists I curated and was part of my research into the history of the Engineering profession itself.

I spent so much time on it that I decided to create an Engineering Quotes notebook that I think engineers would love to carry because I know I do.

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