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How to see the forest through the trees? (How not to miss the obvious?

  1. Aug 27, 2013 #1
    I just spent 5 minutes getting a problem wrong, only to stop for a second and try again to realize the problems answer was completely obvious, and very, very simple and I wanted to know what I could do to help prevent spending time on things that are obviously not wrong and see right off that I'm being asked to do is much simpler than I originally thought?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 27, 2013 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Spend more time thinking about the problem in general, before you pick some specific path to solve it?
    Apart from that, practice is very useful.
  4. Aug 28, 2013 #3


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    Hey Tyrion101.

    This is often natural when you start out. If it helps you may want to keep a journal of notes that you can reflect on.

    You can then update it to merge ideas together and create an idea of simple things to focus on (so that you focus less on the things that you don't have to).
  5. Aug 31, 2013 #4
    I like the journal idea, I've already started at least making mental notes on things to check for before submitting my answers, and it seems to work.
  6. Aug 31, 2013 #5
    5 minutes?!?! That's all? Come back when that changes to an hour or a day or something.
  7. Aug 31, 2013 #6
    Well some can go longer I was frustrated over this because it was the last straw
  8. Aug 31, 2013 #7


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    The part of the brain that “sees” new solutions best is not under your immediate rational control.

    You may notice a cycle of about 20 minutes in your ability to solve problems. You are probably trying to force a solution at the wrong time. Gather all the information and questions, then solve them as they become trivial.

    The first thing to do is rationally understand the specific situation and the question.
    You should then allow the solutions to appear in your relaxed mind.

    The skill that you need to develop is the ability to relax your mind and allow it to see the “patterns”. To do that you must end your intensive focus on the detail. Do something different, don't forget the problem, but remember it only as a diffuse cluster of related facts.

    With time you can develop the ability to flip very rapidly between the focussed and diffuse visualisations. You will then solve problems very rapidly.

    You will also notice that you develop a need for the question before the information. That demonstrates a problem-solving ability where you will search out only sufficient data to solve the problem. The education system delivers the information before the question, which is both illogical and makes learning to solve real problems more difficult.
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