I’d say a good 75% of my PhD results seemed obvious afterwards:
- A clever solution for a programming problem.
- An insight into the way a particular bit of maths worked.
- A step in a proof that seemed inscrutable beforehand.
All obvious afterwards and in some cases very simple to explain to others. I remember two pages of my thesis that describe a process which took me upwards of 100 pages of notes to figure out the first time! 100 pages to figure out notation, to understand with near-endless diagrams what was happening, capture intermittent steps to show what was working and so on. Two pages in my thesis.
The rough work, long thinking and difficult days that lead to simplicity and “obvious” answers in your thesis or research are worth remembering. The outcome and answers matter, but don’t lose sight of the work – and the person who did it!