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10 Step Power-Method To Systematically Solve Virtually Any Problem

10 Step Power-Method To Systematically Solve Virtually Any Problem

What is the first thing you do when you have a problem? Find solutions?

The first thing you have to do to resolve any problem is not to find solutions. It’s to ask yourself important questions.

Similar to a mathematical problem you had to solve in elementary school, there is always a question at the end of each problem. If there isn’t a specific question at the end of each problem, you won’t know what to solve.

Below are 10 steps you can follow to systematically solve any problem you have. At the end of each step, you’ll find suggested questions that help you solve your problem.

1. Assess if your problem needs to be solved.

Why find solutions to a problem when your problem doesn’t need to be solved in the first place?

Your mind loves to create problems for you to solve. It’s mentally stimulating. But sometimes, if you take a step back and assess your problem, you may find that your problem may not be something you need to solve.

For example, my friend told me that drinking coke is his vice. But his vice isn’t necessary something that needs to be solved. If the benefits he receives from drinking coke outweigh the benefits of not drinking it, why does he need to change his habit? Even if he tries to change, it’s highly likely he would fail because of the benefit he receives from drinking coke.

So whenever you face a new problem, first ask yourself why you want to solve the problem. Assess the cost and benefits of solving and not solving the problem and determine if the problem is still a problem you need to solve.

Suggested Questions:

  • Why do you want to solve this problem?
  • What are the benefits and costs of solving or not solving this problem?
  • Is the benefit of solving this problem more than the benefit of not solving this problem?
  • Is the cost of solving this problem more than the cost of not solving this problem?

2. Identify the underlying problem clearly.

Every time you have a problem, go deeper and ask yourself if there is a deeper underlying problem. What you define as the problem may just be a symptom.

For example, you have a constant headache. Taking medicine will only resolve this problem short-term. It will only help you ease your pain for now. Your headache may just be  a symptom of the problem.

The real problem could be a lack of sleep and dehydration. And if you go deeper and understand why you allow yourself so little sleep, you may find that the bigger problem you have is poor time management or work stress.

Identifying the underlying problem helps you get to the root of the issue. Solving it helps you remove all the small, recurring symptoms that it creates.

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If your problem isn’t clearly defined, then there is no point in finding solutions to it. Because you will end up solving the wrong problem or a problem that is of little value to you.

Suggested Questions:

  • What is the underlying problem here?
  • Is the problem you have defined a symptom instead?
  • What could be causing your current problem now?

3. Define specific and measurable objectives.

Now that you have defined your problems clearly, you can start to develop a strategic plan to tackle your problem.

But before you think of solutions, think of the objectives you are trying to achieve first. Because your problem will never be resolved if you do not have specific and measurable objectives to tell you that your problem has been resolved.

For example, you have identified that your problem is not having enough money to support yourself.

Finding more ways to earn money is good but without a clear objective you can’t check at any point in time if you have resolved your problem or not.

However, if you have determined your objective is to earn $5,000 each month in order to solve a financial problem, you will know that you are beginning to solve your problem when you do earn $5,000 in a month.

Moreover, it’s easier to come up with strategies and test their effectiveness when you have specific and measurable objectives defined.

Suggested Questions:

  • What are your objectives?
  • What are you trying to achieve by resolving this problem?
  • Are your objectives specific and measurable?
  • Does your objectives let you know your progress at any point in time?
  • Does your objectives help you determine if you have solved your problem or not?

4. Come up with as many solutions as you can.

The key to this step is to not filter any ideas you have.

No matter how crazy or how impossible your ideas may sound at first, write them down. Think about the constraints later (discussed in next step.) For now, just let your mind think freely and come up with as many solutions as possible.

For example, if you want to spend 2 hours more each week with your family, think of all the things you are willing to give up for your family. It could be spending less time watching TV, cutting down your commute time or spending less time at work. Even if they don’t seem possible at first, don’t dismiss them yet.

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If you are lost, look for other people who have the same problem as you and understand how they have solved their problem. Their experience will give you great insights into how to solve your problem.

Suggested Questions:

  • What can you do to reach your objectives?
  • What do you think is impossible to do but could help you achieve your objectives?
  • How can you achieve your objectives if you aren’t limited by any constraints?
  • Who has the same problem as you?
  • How did they solve their problem?

5. Determine your constraints and refine your solutions.

Now that you have come up with solutions, it’s time to determine your constraints. Your constraints could be time, deadlines, money, resources or even fears that are blocking you from reaching your objectives.

Using the same example above, you have identified that to have more time for your family the solution is to spend less time at work. However, you feel that it’s not possible to knock off work time because you have so many things to do.

Determine if your constraints are true or just assumptions. Can you eliminate your constraints? Perhaps some of your work doesn’t need to be completed urgently.

Even if your constraints are true and you can’t eliminate them, use them to help you come up with better solutions. Combine your constraints with your initial solution and ask yourself a better question.

So for the example above, ask yourself questions such as:

  • How do I knock off work time while completing the work I need to produce? (Maybe I can trade tasks with my colleagues and do the work that I can do more efficiently.)
  • How can I do my work faster and produce the same outcome? (Maybe I can improve my personal workflow or change the existing way of doing things.)

Suggested Questions:

  • What constraints do you have that prevent you from solving your problem?
  • Is your constraint true or just an assumption?
  • Can you eliminate the constraints you have?
  • What questions can you ask yourself to come up with a better solution?
  • How can you do things differently but yet produce the same results?

6. Pick the best solution.

Having many solutions is good, but it’s important to pick one solution and focus on it.

To pick the best solution, go through your list of solutions and identify the solution that will give you the most results but takes the least time, effort and resources.

Why should you do this?

Implementing the solution that produce the most results will be fine if your solution works out. But what if it doesn’t? You need to think about what you will lose if your solution fails completely. Is it something you can live with?

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Choose a solution which you can implement quickly and test if it works or not.

However, bear in mind, don’t pick the solution that is quick to implement but doesn’t produce the result you want. Always think of the results a solution can potentially provide, then implement the solution.

Suggested Questions:

  • How well can this solution solve your problem and meet your objectives?
  • How much time, effort and resources do you need to implement this solution?
  • Which solutions give you the most results but takes the least time, effort and resources?
  • If this solution fails, can you live with it?
  • Will this solution provide the results you desire?

7. Break the solution down into small action steps.

If you don’t make your solution actionable and easy for you to do, you won’t do it.

Let’s say you have a messy home and your solution is to clean it up. But cleaning it up seems like a lot of work. So what do you do?

You break it into smaller tasks that you can do within 5 – 30 minutes. For example:

  • Put the books on the table back into the cupboard.
  • Empty the trash.

Instead of tackling your problem or implementing your solution fully, chunk it down to bite size so that you can do a bit each day without overwhelming yourself.

Suggested Questions:

  • What do you need to do to implement this solution?
  • How can you break the solution down into small action steps?
  • What can you do within 5 to 30 minutes?
  • Are the action steps manageable or still too overwhelming?
  • How can you break your action steps even further?

8. Ask for help.

You don’t have to solve your problem alone. But you also don’t want to turn your problem into other people’s problem.

After you break down your solution into small actionable steps, it’ll be easier for you to ask others for help, and others are more likely to help you because you will have made it simple for them to help you.

Go through your list of action steps, pick tasks that you think others can do better and faster than you. And simply ask others for help. It doesn’t have to be restricted to friends and family. You can hire a virtual assistant online or someone professional to help you implement your strategy.

Apart from helping you with action steps, you can also ask or hire someone to be your accountability partner. For example, hiring a trainer to help you lose weight.

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You will report your progress to that person every week and tell him or her what you are going to do next week. Having someone holding you accountable will keep you on track.

Suggested Questions:

  • What action steps are easy enough that others are willing to help you?
  • What action steps can others do better and faster than you?
  • Who will be suitable to help you with these tasks?
  • Do you need someone professional to help you with some of the action steps?
  • Who can you seek or hire to be your accountability partner?

9. Prioritize, schedule and follow up.

For the remaining action steps, prioritize them according to importance. Similar to step #6, pick the action steps that take the less time and effort to do but give you the most results.

You want to start off with some easy tasks to get your momentum going and let them build up your confidence.

Pick a few action steps that you think you can complete in a week and schedule them. Then, find a time each week to schedule your next action steps for the week.

For those action steps that you have outsourced to others in step #8, you also need to schedule a time to follow up with the other party and check their progress.

This step is crucial because it minimizes procrastination. If you don’t put your action steps on your calendar, you most likely won’t do it.

Suggested Questions:

  • What are three to five action steps that you can complete this week?
  • When would you be doing these action steps?
  • What actions do you need to take next week?
  • When would you be following up on the action steps that you have outsourced?
  • Have you scheduled these action steps on your calendar?

10. Take action and go back to the previous steps if necessary.

After you have scheduled your action steps, take action accordingly. If you are stuck, go back to any of the previous steps and revise your strategy.

Don’t be afraid to start all over again. You have already gained knowledge and experience in solving the problem from this process.

Even if you are not stuck, it’s good to take a step back and see if you are solving the correct problem, using the most effective strategies and making progress.

Also, check if you have already resolved the problem with the objectives you established in step #3. If you have resolved your problem, there’s no need to carry out the other miscellaneous action steps. Just celebrate what you have achieved so far and congratulate yourself for a job well done.

Suggested Questions:

  • Are the actions that you have taken producing any results?
  • Are you feeling stuck or not seeing any progress?
  • Which step do you need to go back to and revise your strategy?
  • Have your objectives in step #3 been met?
  • If so, do you still need to carry out the other miscellaneous action steps?

Featured photo credit: Worried!/Alon via flickr.com

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Last Updated on February 17, 2021

50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

If you feel like you don’t have enough time to do everything you want to do, maybe it’s time to check-in with your time management skills.

No one is born to be very good at time management, so that’s okay if you think you’re bad in it. But everyone can learn to boost their productivity and achieve more!

Here are 50 ways to increase productivity and add hours to your day.

1. Set a Timer

Estimate the time you need to tackle different tasks and set a timer for each of your tasks. How you go about this is up to you as there are many different ways. There is the Pomodoro technique where you focus on a task for 25 minutes followed by a five minute break afterwards.

In the event that you have a task that will take much longer than that, you can consider one of the many timer-based apps. One that comes to mind is Clockify. It’s used for freelancers and entrepreneurs alike, however it’s a good way to be setting yourself a timer. It provides reports and you can serve as a project manager of sorts too. Best of all, it’s free.

2. Eliminate All Distractions

Distractions include the phone, email notifications and having multiple web browsers open on the desktop. Just as it’s important to be organized offline, it’s key to have things organized online as well. This free guide End Distractions And Find Your Focus is a good tool to help you. With this guide, you’ll learn how to get rid of distractions and boost productivity. Grab your free guide here.

You can also learn more on how to get rid of all distractions in this guide: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

3. Listen to Music That Boosts Productivity

Distractions should be avoided, but sometimes a bit of music in the background can help you focus.

Of course, it doesn’t need to be heavy rock music, but a bit of Beethoven may do you some good.

Here’s a complete guide to help you pick the right music for better productivity: How To Maximize Your Productivity With Music: A Complete Guide

4. Find Meaning in What You Do (And Love What You Do)

Enjoying what you do is the ultimate way to increase your productivity.

If you aren’t sure what you love doing yet, don’t worry. Leo Babauta has some unique ways to help you: How to Find Your Passion

5. Prioritize your tasks ahead of time.

By listing your tasks in order of importance, you can make sure that you finish all of your most important tasks during the day.

Learn a unique technique to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster.

6. Batch Similar Tasks into a Single Batch.

Tasks like blog writing, phone calls, email and errands can be grouped into a single batch. You will save time by completing similar tasks in one session. One way to help you with organizing all of those things is through the app Todoist. It’s an easy and simple way for you to plan out your day, set reminders, and group all of your most important tasks in a convenient spot.

7. Complete Your Most Dreaded Tasks First Thing in the Morning.

Whichever activity you are dreading the most is probably the one you need to complete first thing in the morning.

Many people tend to check emails in the morning because after checking a list of emails, they feel fulfilled. But that’s just an illusion of having achieved more.

Doing simple tasks like checking emails first in the morning is bad for you. Instead, do the difficult tasks because you have more energy in the morning to tackle them!

8. Reward Yourself for Finishing a Big Task

To stay motivated for whatever you do, reward yourself every now and then.

Keep track of your small wins and milestones and celebrate them. So whenever you struggle about your progress, you see how far you’ve come!

Find out more about this 2-Step Approach to Self-Motivation: Track Small Wins and Reward Yourself.

9. Don’t Multitask

Research has shown that multitasking is not productive. If you think you can multitask, think again.

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For optimum productivity, focus on one thing at a time.

10. Step Away from the Computer

The Internet has become one of the number one distraction. To increase your productivity, try to do as much of your work offline as possible.

I do this a lot when I try to brainstom new ideas and have found it to be very beneficial to simply unplug.

11. Use Focus Tools

Make good use of apps and technology to help you remove distractions.

Here’re 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools to help you stay focused. This way, you’re not distracted by the web, e-mail, or IM.

Also, join the free Fast-Track Class – Overcoming Distraction, and you’ll learn the one simple method to work even when you’re surrounded by distractions. Join the free session now!

12. Just Start

Often times, starting is the hardest part. People tend to wait for the perfect time with perfect condition to start. But there’s no perfect condition.

Once you get going, you will quickly get into a rhythm that could last for hours.

13. Find out Your Productive Hours

Everyone has a certain time of the day in which they are more productive than others. For me, it’s the morning.

Find out when your prime time is for productivity and optimize your work schedule accordingly.

14. Keep a Notebook and Pen on Hand at All Times

This way, you can write down your thoughts, to-dos and ideas at any time. The key is to get everything out of your head and onto paper. Your subconscious mind won’t be reminding you about it every other second. Another consideration is getting the app Evernote. Not only does this save you on ink and paper, Evernote is a convenient place for you to jot down notes and thoughts and then share them with the team. In certain circumstances, this can prove useful if you’re the type of person that has a lot of ideas that you want to share.

15. Write a Blog to Chronicle Your Own Personal Development and Achievements

The blog keeps you accountable and always working towards self improvement and personal growth.

When you write down all the small achievements you’ve been having, you’re also more motivated to move forward.

And you know what, this is how I started Lifehack too! What also helped me in starting Lifehack is WordPress, which allows people to set up a website for free. WordPress has simplified a lot of the process of building a site to the point that virtually anyone can build a website now.

16. Write out a To-Do-List Each Day

I like to plan my day the night before. This way, I can get started on my most important tasks as soon as I wake up. The Full Life Planner is a nice tool to help you organize your days and get things that matter done. Check out the planner here and start to plan your day ahead easily!

Make sure you don’t make any of these common to-do-list mistakes!

17. Write Your Most Important Tasks and To-Dos on a Calendar.

The key to good time management is knowing where to be and what to be doing there at any given time. Effective calendar management goes hand in hand with good task list management.

Learn here How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space.

18. Reflect on Your Productivity Constantly

As you go throughout your day, repeatedly ask yourself:

“Am I currently making the best possible use of my time?”

This one simple question can be an excellent boost to your productivity.

19. Get up Early Before Anyone Else

I know it could be difficult for some to wake up early in the morning but nothing beats a quiet house!

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Here’s How to Start Your Day at 5:00 AM and some Simple Things Early Risers Do to make waking up early easier.

20. Get Plenty of Sleep

When you work online, sleep can become a long lost memory. However, it’s important to get plenty of sleep so that your working hours can be as productive as possible.

Try out this night routine which I highly recommend for productivity: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

21. Exercise

Research has shown that midday exercise boosts productivity and morale in the workplace.

Take a short walk at lunch or do some simple stretches during your break to maximize your productivity.

Here I have some exercises recommendations for you:

22. Outsource as Much as Possible

If you want to achieve more in less time, learn to delegate or outsource work. Here are just a few of the companies that will help you outsource your everyday tasks:

Also, read this guide to learn how to delegate effectively: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

23. Set Some Exciting Goals

Without worthy goals, you will never be motivated to get things done.

Set goals that are challenging and achievable. The best goal setting framework is a SMART goal. That said, there are other tools that can help you out as well. For example, The Dreamers’ Guide To Reaching Your Goal is a great guide to help you set and reach goals effectively. Grab your free guide and learn how to make your goals happen this year!

24. Tell Other People About Your Goals

When you tell others about your goals, you will instantly be held accountable.

25. Listen to Podcasts

Listen to educational podcasts or audio books while you’re driving to work, cleaning the house, exercising, or cooking dinner.

Audio learning has the power to add hours to your day. Not to mention, your cranium is sure to thank you for it.

Some recommendations for you: 11 Podcasts To Inspire Yourself

26. Read David Allen’s best-selling book Getting Things Done

This is one of the most important productivity books you will ever read. Read it, apply the tips in your daily lives and get more things done.

Here’re more great books about productivity too: 35 Books on Productivity and Organizational Skills for an Effective Life

27. Learn to Speed Read

When you can read faster, you will read and learn more! Check out these 10 Ways to Increase Your Reading Speed.

You can also make use of the app OutRead to help speed up your reading speed!

28. Learn to Skip When You Read

When you’re reading a book, just read the parts that you need and skip the rest. But you have to read with a purpose.

Learn how to make it work here: How to Read 10X Faster and Retain More

29. Focus on Result-Oriented Activities

Pareto’s law (also known as the 80 20 rule) states that 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs. This means that 20% of our actions result in 80% of the results.

We must find the 20% that is creating the 80% of our desired outcomes and focus solely on those activities.

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30. Take a Break

You can’t always be working at optimum productivity. Instead, you should shoot for working in short bursts at your most productive times.

31. Start a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule

What is polyphasic sleep?

Polyphasic sleep is a sleep pattern specification intended to compress sleep time to 2-5 hours daily.[1] This is achieved by spreading out sleep into short (around 20-45 minute) naps throughout the day. This allows for more waking hours with relatively high alertness.

While you can learn more about it here, you’re recommended to take some naps during the day to recharge your energy too.

32. Learn to Say “No”.

We can’t do everything and therefore we must learn when to say no in order to save our sanity.

Learn the Gentle Art of Saying No from Leo Babauta.

33. Go on an Information Diet

Most of the world lives on information overload. We must eliminate mindless Internet surfing.

Stop reading three different newspapers a day and checking your RSS feeds multiple times a day. Otherwise, you’ll never get anything done.

The key is to limit yourself only to information that you can immediately take action on. Here’re some simple tips you can try: 10 Simple Productivity Tricks To Manage Overloaded Information

34. Organize Your Office

The piles of paper around your desk can be a huge barrier on your productivity. Optimize your time by organizing your office, setting up a system and dumping the junk.

Check out these 21 Tips to Organize Your Office and Get More Done and 20 Easy Home Office Organization Ideas to Boost Your Productivity.

35. Find a Mentor

By modeling after those who have already achieved success, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy.

A good mentor is hard to find, so here’s a guide to help you: What to Look for in a Mentor

36. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

With technology’s help, you can double your work efficiency. Even better, you learn all the shortcuts when using technology, for example keyboard shortcuts.

When you use keyboard shortcut, you gain 64 hours every year!

Not sure what shortcuts to lear? Check out these 22 Tricks That Can Make Anyone A Keyboard Ninja.

Besides learning the shortcuts, you can also create keyboard shortcuts with AutoHotKey.

37. Improve Your Typing Speed to Save Time

Do you know you can save 21 days per year just by typing fast?

You don’t really need to take some serious courses to type faster, try these typing games online:

38. Work from Home and Avoid the Daily Commute

If your job is a flexible one, consider working from home. This saves you the commute time and you’ll find yourself more energetic throughout the day as you have saved the long ride.

Take a look at these tips to help you stay productive while working from home:

How to Work from Home and Stay Ultra-Productive

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39. Get Rid of Time Wasters

Common time wasters include Instant Messenger, video games, Flickr, checking your stats 10 times a day, television and extraneous Internet surfing.

Don’t rely on your willpower, make use of some of these useful tools to help you stay focus: 10 Online Apps for Better Focus

40. Plan Your Meals in Advance

Plan out all of your meals a week ahead and make your grocery list accordingly. This allows you to focus on the necessary – saving you time and money. You can also save yourself even more time through a wide variety of apps. One app that I find helpful is Mealime. It’s an app that provides you with a wide selection of recipes and also a convenient spot for your grocery list as well.

Considering the fact that over 4 million users have this app, it goes to show that there is a good selection of meal plans that you can follow and that the app is friendly to use.

41. Cook Your Meals in Bulk

When you cook your meals in bulk, you will have plenty of leftovers. This can avoid having to cook everyday.

Find out more about how to make cooking in bulk works: Once a Month Cooking: Productivity Hack or Overrated Time Suck?

42. Protect Yourself from Unnecessary Phone Time with Caller ID

The minutes you spend on picking up unnecessary phone calls are time wasted. You can prevent that from happening.

Check out this detailed guide how you can deal with those unnecessary phone calls: How To Lose the Useless Items that Weigh Down Your Day – Cellphone Calls

43. Take Shorter Showers

This one may sound silly but it’s actually something I struggle with. I spend up to 30 minutes in the shower. Think of the time I could save simply by speeding up a bit.

44. Save the Trips to Bank by Taking Direct Deposit

Many employers now offer direct deposit. If yours does, then be sure and take advantage of it and save yourself from a number of trips to the bank.

45. Auto Pay Your Bills

How many times have you been worried about whether you missed the bills deadline?

Auto paying your bills will save you time and eliminate late fees and increased interest rates.

46. Shop Online

Whenever possible, avoid going to the store. When you shop online, you can be more focus about what you’re getting.

47. Speed up your Internet With a Broadband Connection

Many people are aware of the slow speed of internet but aren’t doing anything about it. In fact, this is the number one Internet time-saver!

If you must use dial-up, then you can use accelerators like Propel and SlipStream to double or even triple your speed.

48. Keep up the Speed of Your Computer

If you’re a Windows user, use Windows hibernation feature to avoid the slowdown of exiting and restarting Windows.

Or maybe, consider switching to Mac as there’re plenty of Advantages You Probably Don’t Know About Switching To Mac From PC.

49. Turn off the TV

The average American watches more than 4 hours of television every day. Over a 65-year life, that’s 9 years glued to the tube.

For better health and productivity, turn off the TV. Here’re 11 more reasons to tell you to stop watching TV so often.

Turn off the TV and you are sure to get more out of life.

50. Use a Tivo or DVR

This can help you cut an hour-long television show down to just 40 minutes. You can save time while not missing the fun.

So, here’s the ultimate list of techniques you should learn to boost productivity. Pick the techniques that work for you and make them your daily habits. As time goes, you’ll find yourself being a lot more productive.

More Time Management Tips

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

[1] Medical News Today: What is biphasic and polyphasic sleep?

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