One of the techniques I use when struggling with a problem is to force myself to look at it from different angles. This is done by: Asking the right questions to reveal hidden insights. Looking at what is in front of me from different angles. Turning things on their sides.

Here's a fun and useful example of this approach:

Recently, I got it into my head that I'd be so much more productive with a portrait monitor. It would enable me to work with Word documents and web pages as full vertical pages, instead of a page chopped into horizontal segments.

Many LCD monitors these days come with a pivot function, which allows you to turn the screen 90°, from a traditional horizontal view to the vertical portrait view. But I didn't really want to shell out for an LCD monitor given (a) I have a perfectly good "pro" 19" CRT monitor, and (b) I was on holidays and needed a small, non-critical challenge to occupy myself with.

After some thinking time, in between mouthfuls of mum's cooking, I realised there were only two factors that needed to be present in order to enable a portrait display:

  1. The screen had to be physically in a portrait orientation.
  2. Windows needed to be told to rotate the desktop area shown on the external monitor.

I quickly discovered that the video card in my Thinkpad did allow selective screen rotation. This left factor 1. I thought "If the screen needs to be on its side, I'll put it on its side!" And it worked. I now have a working portrait display.

Here's a pic of my set up:


How can you turn a problem you are mulling over on its side?