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Having Excellent Problem Solving Skills Can Make You More Successful, These Are Steps You Should Follow

Having Excellent Problem Solving Skills Can Make You More Successful, These Are Steps You Should Follow

Have you noticed that some of the problems you are experiencing either in interpersonal relationships or work, seem to be recurring?

For example, a person who has had some unpleasant arguments with their co-workers in the past, can expect to go through similar struggles moving forward, no matter if they are in a completely different work environment. And the underlying theme of different arguments is the same – that person has a problem to establish a functional communication with their co-workers.

This is just one example, but many of us tend to repeat the problems and some of us eventually start feeling hopeless, thinking it is just our flawed character and there is nothing we could do about it.

Actually, the reason certain problems keep repeating is because we are not using an efficient problem solving technique. Luckily, we can become better problem solvers and therefore, lessen the number of problems we face.

Your life can be seriously affected if you have poor problem solving ability

Whether we’re happy or successful are largely determined by our problem solving ability. If you just leave problems being unsolved, you may suffer in the following ways:

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  • There are countless complicated and ambiguous problems in interpersonal interaction. If we’re not efficient problem solvers, we can hardly clear misunderstanding in communication and get close with people around us.
  • Workplace is where we learn how to tackle different kinds of unexpected problems. If we don’t keep looking for new solutions, our work performance will worsen and we will easily feel frustrated when problems pile up.
  • It is common for us to attribute poor mental health to unpleasant personal experience or genetic factors. But the inability to tackle problems in life can harm our mental health. According to a 1983 study, scientists found that people with weaker ability to deal with interpersonal issues are more prone to depression.[1]

So what are the causes of poor problem solving?

Problem solving is just like other skills we need to master in life. To be good at it, we need to practice it with the right approach. Unfortunately, many of us may not realize the common mistakes we make when solving problems. Here are some examples:

Mistaking symptoms for the real causes of problems

Most of us tend to spend a lot of energy to deal with the symptoms of problems without realizing the real causes. To identify the root causes of a problem, we need to challenge the first conclusion that pops up in our mind and keep asking the right questions until we can see beyond the phenomenon of the problem.

Looking for quick fixes instead of the most effective solutions

It is our tendency to look for quick fixes of problems. This leads us to believe in our intuitive without looking into the causal relationship behind the problem. And that’s why we seldom get to the core of problems and adopts the ineffective solutions.

Relying too much on our knowledge

Finally, we become ineffective problem solvers because of our over-reliance on our knowledge. It is a common misconception that the more we know, the more capable we are to tackle problems. But the fact is mere knowledge doesn’t enable us to become effective problem solvers. What we also need is logical thinking skills, the ability to think critically and creativity.

How to be better at problem solving

In order to become better problem solvers, we need to follow these 4 steps whenever we deal with any problem in life:

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1. Defining the real problem

The first and most important step is to identify the root cause of the problem. One of the most effective approach is 5 whys invented by Sakichi Toyoda in the 1930s.[2] Totaya suggests that by asking “why” for 5 times can help us better identify the core problem.

For example, your problem might be that your business website is not getting enough traffic.

  1. Why is the traffic declining? Content on the website is not engaging to readers.
  2. Why is our content not engaging to readers? Our content doesn’t fit readers’ needs and interests.
  3. Why can’t our content fit readers’ needs and interests? We don’t have much understanding of our readers.
  4. Why don’t we have much understanding of our readers? We haven’t conducted any research in this area.
  5. Why haven’t we conducted any research to understand our readers? We have no resources for research.

The solution – allocating more resources on the research to understand our readers.

Please note that we only apply vertical thinking to delve deep in one possible problem, which is unattractive content in this case. If you think there is another possible reason for declining traffic, you should do another set of 5 whys. By doing this, we can train up our logical thinking skills and so what we see from a problem does not stay at the superficial level.

2. Generating alternatives

After we define the root problem, it is time to find possible solutions. Here’s where we can use the lateral instead of learned, vertical thinking.[3] That means, rather than spending all of our energy and time on transforming one initial idea into a perfect solution, we should rather think of at least ten possible ones and write them down first.

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By doing so, we won’t draw the conclusion too early or limit our choice to the first few ideas that pop up in our minds, Instead, we postpone our decision making and make use of our creativity to generate potentially better options. Although it takes us more time in this stage, we’re more likely to come up with better solutions later on.

3. Evaluating and selecting alternatives

After generating possible solutions, it is time to select the best one. To make sure we make the right decision, we should list the pros and cons of each option and then compare them on the basis of cost and benefit. In this way, you are more able to make rational choice instead of being deceived by your unreliable biased judgement.

4. Implementing solutions

Although you have gone through 3 stages and take many factors into consideration to pick the best solution, you shouldn’t have the false hope that you solution is going to to be perfect. But it’d be good to implement your solution first and then keep evaluating its effectiveness and make adjustments afterwards. Then you have a clearer direction in mind of how to tackle your problem strategically.

Recommended Reading Materials

By now, you are equipped with the efficient problem solving techniques. But if you want to learn more to further improve your problem solving skills, here are two great books you can read for more insights:

Thinking, Fast and Slow

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    This book gives a magnificent insight into two types of thinking going on in our brains, and what conditions each. By giving us background to our behavior, the book helps us become better at understanding our programmed ways of dealing with problems so that we can hopefully find a more effective, unbiased ones.

    Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People

      It is a practical, illustrated guide that teaches us critical thinking and resourcefulness in problem solving.

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      Ana Erkic

      Social Media Consultant, Online Marketing Strategist, Copywriter, CEO and Co-Founder of Growato

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      Last Updated on October 17, 2018

      7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

      7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

      How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

      If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

      Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

      So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

      1. Meditate

      We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

      Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

      Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

      Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

      Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

      If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

      And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

      2. Get plenty of sleep

      If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

      If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

      How much sleep should you be getting?

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      Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

      Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

      Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

      Yes, there are.

      Try these three things:

      • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
      • Don’t eat too late
      • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

      Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

      However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

      3. Challenge your brain

      When was the last time you challenged your brain?

      I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

      To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

      Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

      There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

      • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
      • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
      • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

      If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

      Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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      4. Take more breaks

      When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

      At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

      However, I was wrong.

      Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

      Let me explain.

      Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

      Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

      It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

      It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

      What’s the answer?

      Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

      If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

      5. Learn a new skill

      I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

      “Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

      From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

      Let me give you an example of this:

      Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

      Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

      The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

      Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

      Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

      6. Start working out

      If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

      Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

      Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

      “But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

      Not a problem.

      A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

      Interested in getting started?

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      Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

      • Join a gym
      • Join a sports team
      • Buy a bike
      • Take up hiking
      • Dance to your favorite music

      7. Eat healthier foods

      I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

      This applies to your brain too.

      The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

      Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

      Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

      Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

      • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
      • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
      • Nuts – improves memory
      • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
      • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

      Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

      Final thoughts

      I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

      You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

      But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

      Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

      Reference

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