When you face a problem so completely overwhelming that all you want to do is run away, that might actually be the best solution. As long as you come back, that is.
Photo by bark.
As editor-in-chief of Sloan Management Review Paul Michelman explains, huge problems can shut down our ability to process them. When something is so big that we can’t think of a solution, removing yourself from the situation for a bit can help you refocus and come back to it later with fresh eyes. The instinct to run away is actually helpful, just so long as it’s not permanent:
You can begin by going outside. Get out of your office and into the parking lot. Jump in a car and take a former colleague to lunch. Hop on a plane and go to a conference. Find a lecture to attend. Pack up your laptop and head for a coworking space. Cross state lines.
Put yourself someplace where something unexpected is more likely to happen. Give yourself an opportunity to learn. But whatever you do, do something that is not a part of your routine – and then commit to doing so routinely. If your job doesn’t have you out of the office at least a few days every month, start blocking time on your calendar and force yourself to be somewhere else once a fortnight. Just as important, make it a top priority for those you manage to do the same. That means giving people the direction and the time to follow your lead.
While you’re away, use that time to process the emotions of the challenge you face, as well as mulling over practical ways to deal with it. Once you’ve collected your thoughts and feelings, you can return in a better place to handle it. You’ll be far more prepared than if you tried to tackle that huge problem head-on with little forethought.