Apple recently promised its staff more flexible schedules and more generous scheduling rules, according to CNET. Some see the move as an effort to keep increasing interest among employees to unionize at bay. While that may remain up for debate, there is one fact that is not: The company effectively is urging workers to follow Steve Jobs's three-step method for discovering breakthroughs and finding answers to difficult questions. 

By asking staff to take more breaks and work less, Apple is helping not only reduce burnout, but also increase productivity and innovation. In other words, work smarter, not harder. It's something many struggle to do--but something Jobs was a master of, allowing him to find inspiration and discover breakthroughs. And anyone can use it. 

Here's the Apple co-founder's three-step method to solving difficult problems: 

Step 1. Zoom Out 

Difficult problems involve difficult-to-find solutions. The process of discovering a breakthrough often requires reality-bending ideas--which Steve Jobs had an incredible ability to do, according to the Harvard Business Review. While many try to zoom in on a solution, instead start by zooming out to see the bigger picture. This effectively enables you to identify exactly what you're really looking for. To do this, be intentional about what you're looking to discover or achieve. Go outside the realm of what is currently possible, and instead think of terms of what could be possible. 

For example, Jobs knew his technology was going to be great before there was even a product. So much so that when the first Apple Store opened in 2001, Jobs said its function wasn't to "sell computers," but to "enrich lives," according to Forbes

Step 2. Focus In 

Once you know what you are looking for, give yourself a period of intense thinking and fact gathering. This is where you set your sights on what you want to achieve and work on it relentlessly--something Jobs was an expert at. He famously exhibited an intense and obsessive focus (or hyperfocus), and it's that ability that made him so effective at motivating employees. 

An intense and obsessive focus may be the answer to discovering breakthroughs--no matter which path you take to get there. For example, Albert Einstein famously said, "If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions." On the other hand, Tony Robbins has stated the opposite on Twitter, saying that, "Leaders spend 5 percent of their time on the problem and 95 percent of their time on the solution." Either way, each path is rooted in intense focus and the final destination remains the same. 

Step 3. Disconnect 

When you find yourself starting to go in circles and lacking process on your path toward discovery, take a break. Take a walk. Disconnect. As Steve Jobs once said, you can't connect the dots looking forward--you can do that only when looking backward. 

Walking away from something is often when we get clarity and creativity. So taking breaks has a much bigger benefit than a simple break from work, but it actually leads to critical thinking, problem solving, and innovation. For example, Thomas Edison took naps when he couldn't figure out a complex question or equation, according to Scientific American. In doing so, he would then discover the answer he was looking for. It's why people often have the best ideas come to them while doing mundane activities like driving, sitting on a beach, or taking a shower. 

Sometimes you have to get away from your desk to get closer to your answer--one of Jobs's strategies for boosting creativity. Part of why Jobs loved walking meetings wasn't just that it helped him find answers; it alo helped his entire team to get away from their desk and closer to finding their answer and solving whatever problem they were working on.