Clean Thinking, Problem Solving

In the rabbit hole

As we explore this week’s theme of asking questions, it’s important to recognize when questions are not serving you.

Here are the familiar conditions of the rabbit hole:

  • Lack of clarity
  • Time passing with no appreciable progress
  • Feeling distance between your goal and where you currently stand

The way to get out of the rabbit hole? Reverse those conditions, namely:

  • Pick one thing to do to move forward. It almost doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you pick a path. Where you are in a fog, you must take a step forward. Often, taking a few steps and getting out of exactly where you’re standing can create a window for you to proceed.
  • Take a time out. In the rabbit hole, you are likely in an endless loop – the harder you try, the farther from progress you get. Step away mentally. It’s not enough to say you’re taking a time out but still have your mind racing. When going outside and taking deep breaths doesn’t actually take your mind off the issue, then you must find another absorbing activity – reading a book, intense exercise, playing with your kid.
  • Revisit your desired outcome. Where is it that you need to end up? A rabbit hole is a maze. Anchoring yourself in the finish line may help you bypass the dead ends: you must be able to evaluate information for its utility in the moment. If it’s not useful, put it aside for now.

Rabbit holes are common, especially when you are problem-solving for big issues, or sorting through information toward decisions with big impact. Being able to recognize when you are in it, and taking practical steps to get out, can make the difference between indulging in confusion and forward momentum.

Come on! Tell us what you're thinking.