I recently read about an odd problem-solving technique. According to author Josh Waitzkin, there’s no need to spend your waking hours trying to solve a complex or troubling problem. He believes that as long as you follow the proper steps, you can solve difficult problems while your sleep. (Talk about multi-tasking!)

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Early in the evening, spend a few minutes (or more) really thinking about the problem.
  2. Then put the problem out of your mind. Distract yourself if necessary by doing some chores around the house, cooking dinner, or watching TV.
  3. When you go to bed, put a notebook and pen on your bedside table.
  4. Then when you wake up in the morning, before you do anything else, write down whatever thoughts come to your mind in the notebook. And supposedly, the solution to your problem will be written there!

This was intriguing to me, although I must admit that I was also a little skeptical. When I dream, it tends to be about pretty mundane things (like shopping for peanut butter). I’m not sure I have a lot of deep and insightful thoughts.

But I thought this was definitely worth a try. So yesterday evening, I faithfully followed the necessary steps.

First, I thought about my problem. I don’t really have a work-related problem right now, so I chose a more personal problem. My mom’s birthday is coming up soon, and I have no idea what to get her for a gift. She always tells me that she doesn’t want or need anything, so that makes the gift shopping process even more impossible. Hmm…

Then I put the problem out of my mind. When bedtime rolled around, I made sure to put a notebook and pen on my bedside table. Then I went to sleep and let my mind go to work!

When I woke up the next morning, I wrote down the first thoughts that came into my head. Here’s what I wrote:

  • Dancing
  • Sunshine
  • Dad was telling me something
  • My ear is stuffed up

Were there answers here? I wasn’t sure. My mom isn’t really into dancing, so that seemed like a dead end. My best lead seemed to be “Dad was telling me something.” So I emailed him the next day and asked him what he thought I should buy for Mom. He said that he had no idea. Darn. Another dead end.

So I guess this technique didn’t really work for me. But maybe it’s something that takes practice? I’d certainly be willing to give it another try. If you decide to try it, please let me know how it goes for you in the Comments section below!


Semczuk, N. (n.d.). A simple way to solve problems while you sleep. The Muse. Retrieved from https://www.themuse.com/advice/a-simple-way-to-solve-problems-while-you-sleep