Heuristics are conventions specified to help you solve problems. When a issue is large or complex, and the optimal solution is unclear, employing a heuristic lets you start making progress towards a resolution even though you can’t envision the entire path from your beginning point.
Suppose your goal is to drive to the store, but there’s no road to follow. An illustration of a heuristic would be: Head directly toward the store till you reach an obstacle you can’t cross. Whenever you contact such an obstacle, follow it around to the right till you’re able to head toward the store again. This isn’t the most levelheaded or comprehensive heuristic, but in a lot of cases it will work just fine, and you’ll finally reach the store.
Heuristics don’t ensure you’ll find the optimum solution, nor do they broadly guarantee a resolution at all. But they do a beneficial enough job of solving particular types of problems to be of value. Their strength is that they break the impasse of indecision and get you into action. As you take action you start to explore the solution space, which heightens your understanding of the issue. As you acquire knowledge about the issue, you can make course corrections along the way, gradually bettering your chances of finding a resolution. If you attempt to solve a issue you don’t initially know how to figure out, you’ll often work out a solution as you go, one you never could have imagined till you began moving. This is particularly true with creative work like product development. Often you don’t even recognize precisely what you’re attempting to build till you begin building it.
Heuristics have a lot of practical applications, and among my favorite areas of application is personal productivity. Productivity heuristics are behavioral rules (a few general, some situation-specific) that may help us get matters done more efficiently.