easier wayYesterday, I wasted most of a beautiful sunny Sunday morning trying to fix an email problem. Today, five minutes work made it a non-issue. What changed in between the two? I took a step back, rethought, and discovered there was an easier way that had been staring me in the face all along.

In brief, my domain host decided to ‘help’ me by moving my sites to their server in London. As it is closer to where I am, theoretically this would result in some marginal speed gains for my website – or something.

What happened in practice is that importing messages for my main email address into the Gmail account that I use stopped working. I couldn’t send or receive anything with my Coaching Leaders address.

What’s more, my hosting company’s normally on-the-ball tech support couldn’t seem to resolve the issue. I spent hours in email chat with a succession of friendly Eastern Europeans, trying combination after combination of server addresses and port numbers that they chucked at me (seemingly at random) and getting nowhere.

Finally around lunchtime I gave up feeling frustrated and defeated. The sun was shining, my garden was calling, and a couple of hours of splitting logs later I felt much better (and there’s research that explains why).

I had got so focused on solving the problem that I couldn’t see anything outside of it. But the next morning, before I dived back into more tussles with tech support, I paused for a moment and noticed that as well as the option to import an account into Gmail, there is also a simpler option to just forward emails from your external account to your Gmail address. So I did that and forgot about trying to import the account.

A quick conversation with tech support to check the configuration for sending from Gmail as if from my main address, and a couple to tests later, and everything was fixed. With the added benefit that there is no timelag in receiving emails to the external account like there used to be with the ‘import account’ method.

Now here’s the crucial thing: I have no idea if tech support ever solved the configuration problem that was stopping me importing emails to my external account. And – it doesn’t matter, because I’ve found a simpler way round it that actually works better for me. The old problem may not have been solved, but it has become irrelevant.

So – you know that problem you’ve been struggling with for a while with no resolution in sight? What happens when you step back, take a breath, and ask yourself “What other ways could I get to my desired result that might be easier?”

Stop analysing the problem and look outside it, at the vast areas of your life that are outside the boundary of the ‘problem space’. What do you want to happen? What alternative ways are there to make that happen?

It’s super-motivating to me to know that my work is making a difference to people, so let me know the results you get with this method in the comments below.


Quick Tips #1: Is There An Easier Way?

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One thought on “Quick Tips #1: Is There An Easier Way?

  • I think you describe a common experience Andy – we have a tendency to ‘dig into’ our problems in order to try and solve them rather than step back and see the broader picture. I am not sure why this is – perhaps we assume that (1) there is only one way to do things – a ‘right’ way (2) things have to be difficult (3) we can think our way out of things if only we have all the information (4) the experts know best.
    Whatever – as usual a very useful post and timely reminder that thinking the way we have always thought, whilst a useful well of experience to draw on may equally be limiting our ability to solve problems in the present.

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