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How to Solve Your Problems Visually Using a Solution Map

How to Solve Your Problems Visually Using a Solution Map

Ever suffered from confusion around a personal or business issue?

It’s difficult to think clearly and find solutions easily when you’re overloaded with complex and contradicting information. A puzzle with just too many pieces is quite confusing.

I believe there are three levels of thinking…

  1. Regular thinking (inside your head)
  2. Thinking out loud
  3. Thinking visually

Regular thinking is just you thinking in silence. This is the baseline – it only gets better from here on.

Thinking out loud brings a few benefits. Expressing your thoughts verbally forces you to clarify them. You also get to feed off each other’s ideas.

Thinking visually is incredibly powerful:

  • Visualizing  your thoughts makes them much clearer;
  • Ideas are automatically organized;
  • Your productivity is maximized by leveraging mind mapping and other types of diagrams.

Problem solving is considered the most complex of all intellectual functions. Hence, all the help you can get is very welcome!

The late Eliyahu M. Goldratt, a business management guru, introduced several thinking processes that facilitate problem solving  in his book It’s Not Luck.

Goldratt’s Thinking Processes

  1. Current Reality Tree (CRT): Here you list our your irritants called UnDesirable Effects (UDEs), and try to identify the root cause(s) of all of them. Once you’ve identified the UnDesirables, you start coming up with potential solutions (injections).
  2. Future Reality Tree (FRT): This process helps you validate possible solutions by visualizing what your future situation will look like should you enact those alternatives.
  3. Pre-Requisite Tree (PRT): A Pre-Requisite Tree (PRT) helps you uncover potential impediments to the implementation of your solutions, and the actions that you need to take to overcome those impediments.
  4. Conflict cloud: With a Cloud, you can solve an apparent conflict or dilemma between two actions.

    When applying the thinking process method, there is a proper sequence to follow.
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    For example, a Current Reality Tree is always the best place to start. Once you’ve developed a CRT you follow up with a Future Reality Tree, and lastly a Pre-Requisite Tree.

    The Cloud, on the other hand, is used whenever you come across a conflict between actions.

    I created a simplified version of these processes derived from the CRT and the PRT. I call this approach a Solution Map.

    Using a solution map allows you to visualize your problem clearly. Simply put, you find the root cause(s) for all of your problems. In the end, you come up with a list of prioritized actions that you need to do, which you know will fix those problems.

     

      You will need…

      Although I find that the best way to use the solution map is with a computer, you can do it with post-its. If you choose post-its, then you are better off also using a whiteboard, on which you will place those post-its. A large sheet of paper will work too, but the advantage of the whiteboard is that you can easily move post-its around and redraw the connecting lines.

      In order to implement the Solution Map, follow these five steps:

      1. List your UnDesirable Effects (UDEs)
      2. Uncover the root cause(s)
      3. Brainstorm solutions
      4. Identify the obstacles
      5. List the actions

      1. List your UnDesirable Effects (UDEs)

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      These are your problems, irritants, negative things in your business or your personal life. List all the UDEs that you can think of for now, or capture them over a certain period of time.

      Write each UDE on a separate post-it. Stick them to your sheet or whiteboard, in no particular order.

           

          2. Uncover the root cause(s)

          Build a causal tree. “Because of A, then B”. Add a line (or arrow) between each cause and its consequence(s). Consequences go in the top of the tree, whereas causes go in the bottom. The root cause(s) are the elements that don’t have any other element causing them. So in other words, the root causes are the leaves of the tree, in the bottom.

            In our example, the two root causes are “Allergies” and “Too much focus on my personal life”.

            Note that you might also highlight the root causes in a different color. I kept things as simple as possible to demonstrate the process, but having some color coding is useful.

            If you have more than one root cause, prioritize them.  To evaluate an element, rate its impact and your capacity at solving it. Then, multiply those two numbers. You get a relative result that makes it easy for you to decide what the priorities are. In some cases where the hierarchy in importance is obvious, you don’t need to evaluate each element with those criteria; just decide.

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            Impact * Capacity = Priority

            Mark the most important root cause by highlighting it.

                 

                3. Brainstorm solutions

                Since you now know which root cause(s) to focus on, it is the time to brainstorm solutions for that one, or for the top few. List all the potential solutions that you can think of. Place those post-its below their associated root cause. Draw a line or arrow from each solution to its related root cause. Prioritize with the same criteria (impact * capacity). Highlight the most important solutions with a different marker.

                       

                      4. Identify the obstacles

                      For each of the most important solutions, identify the obstacles to their implementation. An obstacle is something stopping you from implementing the solution you have for a root cause.

                      Did you notice the red dotted arrow? This is what is called a negative reinforcing loop. It is simply a loop in your irritants that keeps making things worse, and worse, until you solve it. In our example, “being tired” feeds off the problem of “lacking energy to stick to things I’m committed to”. It is said that a Current Reality Tree is not really a Current Reality Tree until you have a negative reinforcing loop.

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                          Then, prioritize the obstacles with the same criteria (impact * capacity).

                               

                              5. List the actions

                              For the most important obstacle or for the top few, identify the list of actions needed to alleviate it. An action is simply the thing you need to do to remove that obstacle. Prioritize the actions you find, using the same criteria.


                                  And you’re done!

                                  You now have an ordered list of actions to take, which will remove the obstacles to the implementation of the solutions. Once you’re done with those actions, you need to start implementing the solution itself.

                                  Obviously, I kept this example very simple, with only a few UDEs, root causes, solutions and actions. Your real-life situation might be a lot more complex.

                                  And this brings me back to making the suggestion of using the computer, or at least a large white board. You will need plenty of space to create your Solution Map. I personally use Mindjet MindManager, but any visual tool that allows you to position elements freely on a white canvas and adding lines or arrows between those will do just fine.

                                    More by this author

                                    Matt Tanguay

                                    Matt is the CEO and Chief Visual Facilitator of Fluent Brain. He writes about problem solving techniques and tips to supercharge the brain.

                                    How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps Master Your New Year’s Resolutions: The Ultimate Infographic How to Solve Your Problems Visually Using a Solution Map

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                                    Last Updated on September 17, 2019

                                    Need Morning Motivation? 30 Routines to Help You Start Afresh

                                    Need Morning Motivation? 30 Routines to Help You Start Afresh

                                    You forgot to set your wake-up alarm. As you slowly come to consciousness, you begin to panic as you realize that you’re going to be extremely late for work. You have a quick shower, brush your teeth, and then hurriedly put your clothes on. There’s no time for any food or drink – so you head out the door stressed, thirsty and downright miserable.

                                    Does this sound familiar to you? I’m sure you’ve had mornings like this. And as you know, they’re the best way to lose morning motivation and the worst possible way to start the day.

                                    Your morning routine determines whether you can win the day. In 2016, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Ohio State University studied call center staff working for an insurance company.[1]

                                    They specifically looked at the mood of the call center staff throughout their working day. The three-week study discovered something interesting. Namely, staff who started the day in a bad mood, usually ended the day in a bad mood too. This was despite them receiving calls from positive customers throughout the day.

                                    Staff who started their day calm or happy – finished their working day in the same upbeat emotional state. Furthermore, the study found that staff with low moods had low productivity. Staff with elevated moods demonstrated high productivity.

                                    As you can see from the above revelations, it’s vital that you start your day well.

                                    But you may ask, what exactly is motivation? Then you can’t miss this concept about Motivation Engine.

                                    Once you’ve understood what a Motivation Engine is, you should start building habits that keep you motivated.

                                    If you’re prone to starting off your day in a gloomy and stressed state, then you’ll be sure to benefit from the suggestions below:

                                    1. Wake up on time.

                                    Waking up on time (or even early) is critical to starting your day positively. It will give you space and time to complete your morning routines. And you won’t need to worry about rushing around your home.

                                    2. Open your curtains.

                                    One of the first things you should do upon rising is to open your bedroom curtains.

                                    I do this every morning, and I’ve found it to be a fantastic way to gradually wake up from my slumber.

                                    Personally, I open the curtains, and then sit on the end of the bed for a few minutes. This allows me to enjoy the morning light streaming through my window.

                                    3. Make your bed.

                                    Remember your student days? Making your bed was probably the last thing you thought about when you were stumbling out of it in the morning.

                                    This habit may be okay for students, but if you want to accelerate your motivation and productivity – you should definitely make your bed.

                                    It takes less than a minute, and you’ll be rewarded by a tidy room, and a feeling of self-satisfaction.

                                    4. Enjoy a refreshing shower.

                                    I’m always amazed when people tell me that they didn’t have time to shower in the morning.

                                    Not only does that sound unhygienic, but it also suggests that these people haven’t learned to set a daily morning routine.

                                    A shower only takes 10 minutes or so, and it’s a great way to clean your body, and the perfect way to wake up.

                                    5. Drink a freshly-blended smoothie.

                                    Every morning, I enjoy a freshly-blended, fruit-based smoothie. This consists of organic milk and a small portion of fruit such as bananas, mangoes and strawberries.

                                    It’s a superb way to kick-start your day. Not only does it taste great, but it’s also full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

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                                    I used to drink tea first thing in a morning, but now, I find that smoothies are far more satisfying.

                                    6. Take a 10-minute walk in the morning sunshine.

                                    If you have a dog, then this will be an easy task for you.

                                    However, even if you don’t own a dog, why not try walking for 10 minutes outside every morning?

                                    If you’re lucky enough to live close to a park, then you could walk around the park before going to work. Fresh air and exercise are an invigorating combination.

                                    7. Check your to-do list.

                                    Organized people tend to have to-do lists. It helps them keep track of what needs doing at home, work and beyond.

                                    To-do lists can be paper-based, or you can use one of the many free apps that are available. The morning time is perfect for checking your to-do list, and prioritizing items for the day.

                                    You may also find that you can tick off some items that you completed the previous day.

                                    8. Listen to some upbeat music.

                                    Music is a powerful mood changer. If you’re not a typical morning person, then you can help to boost your physical and emotional state by listening to upbeat music.

                                    I won’t suggest specific artists, but simply try to choose music that makes you feel happy and lively. You could listen to this music while you shower, when you’re in your kitchen, or perhaps when you’re commuting to work.

                                    9. Complete a mini workout.

                                    If you have a home gym, then spend a few minutes each morning working out. This will rapidly wake you up, and increase your mental well-being.

                                    If you don’t have a home gym, you can still do a mini workout. For example, try doing sets of push-ups and sit-ups.

                                    10. Review your goals.

                                    Early morning can be an excellent time for contemplation.

                                    While you may want to think about trivial things, successful people often use this time to review their personal goals. You can do the same.

                                    For instance, if one of your goals is to start your own business, then use the morning time to come up with ideas to help move you towards this goal.

                                    11. Pack some healthy snacks to take to work.

                                    You may have started the day with a healthy breakfast, but have you noticed how easy it is for our diets to go downhill from there!

                                    As soon as we arrive at college or work, we begin looking for the coffee. Not long after that, we get peckish, and start seeking out cakes, biscuits and chocolate.

                                    Luckily, with a bit of preparation, you can avoid this situation. The trick is to pack into your bag some healthy snacks such as apples, bananas and nuts. These healthy treats will happily keep you going until lunchtime.

                                    12. Declutter part of your home.

                                    Unless your home is currently spotless and has nothing out of place, then you could spend a few minutes each morning decluttering an area of your home.

                                    Take your hallway, for example. This may have shoes and bags that could be tidied away in just a few minutes.

                                    13. Meditate for 5 minutes.

                                    Many high achievers say that they mediate each morning. This gives them balance and poise, before beginning their working day.

                                    Have you thought about trying meditation? Although there are different forms of meditation, the simplest method is to just close your eyes… control your breathing… and let your thoughts settle.

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                                    And like most things in life, the more you practice meditation, the easier it will become for you.

                                    14. Stretch your body.

                                    You may have woken up with a stiff neck, or perhaps a pain in your back.

                                    From experience, it seems that lying down for several hours can leave your body in need of a good stretch. I’m 2.10 meters tall (yes, really!), so it’s not uncommon for me to have some discomfort when I first wake up.

                                    However, I’ve learned that stretching for just a few minutes offers quick pain relief, improved posture and enhanced energy levels. Here’re some nice stretches to try: 17 Morning Stretches That Will Jumpstart Your Body and Mind

                                    15. Read a motivational quote.

                                    If you want to boost your productivity, then make a habit of reading a motivational quote each morning.

                                    To get you in the mood for adopting this behavior, I’ve picked out one of my favorite quotes for you:

                                    “Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.” — Og Mandino

                                    And here’re more: 50+ Best Motivational Quotes To Prepare You For Any Challenges In Life

                                    16. Drink a glass of water.

                                    Hydration is essential. Especially after hours of sleeping.

                                    I love to drink a glass of pure, filtered water every morning. It immediately makes me feel better, more energised and… less thirsty!

                                    Even if you’re a caffeine addict, try drinking a glass of water before you start on the hard stuff.

                                    17. Create something.

                                    Like many of the suggestions I’m listing, this idea makes productive use of your morning time.

                                    Let’s say that you are a budding singer-songwriter. You’re not famous yet but you want to be!

                                    Before heading off to do your current job, you could spend 20 minutes or so writing lyrics for a new song. Do this everyday for a week, and you’ll probably have enough lyrics for a whole album.

                                    Other ideas for creating something include putting together a bouquet of flowers, working on your novel, and adding the finishing touches to your latest artwork.

                                    18. Write down things you’re grateful for.

                                    It’s all too easy to take things for granted. We need to constantly remind ourselves of things in our life that we’re grateful for.

                                    A beneficial and rewarding morning practice is to write a list of things that you’re currently grateful for. These could be things such as your partner, your job, and your health.

                                    Some people like to write a list each morning that includes everything they were grateful for from the previous day. Over time, you can develop an attitude of gratitude.

                                    19. Play with your pets.

                                    Do you love animals? Most of us do, for sure.

                                    If you’re fortunate enough to have a pet, then the morning is the perfect time to have some fun with them.

                                    For instance, if you have a dog, they’re sure to like playing with a ball or Frisbee first thing in the morning. They’ll have fun, and you will too.

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                                    20. Listen to an inspiring podcast.

                                    Podcasts are a great way to listen to inspiring and motivating speakers.

                                    As they’re audio only, you can listen to them while making your breakfast – or even while you’re driving your car.

                                    Just imagine hearing expert tips on business, success and well-being every morning. Before long, this precious wisdom is bound to sink into your consciousness.

                                    Here’re some podcasts recommended for you: You Are What You Listen To: 11 Podcasts To Inspire Yourself

                                    21. Plan your day.

                                    Self-help guru Alan Lakein famously said:

                                    “Failing to plan, is planning to fail.”

                                    Wise words indeed.

                                    To be successful in life, you must learn how to make plans and set goals.

                                    You should have long-term plans, medium-term plans and… daily plans.

                                    That’s right. You can use a few minutes each morning to plan the day ahead. It’s a simple technique that offers a surprising boost to your daily productivity.

                                    22. Learn something new.

                                    Each morning is the start of a new day. Why not tap into this fresh energy by learning something new every morning?

                                    This could be something like a few words of a new language, a new guitar chord, or some facts related to your favorite basketball team.

                                    23. Enjoy the quietness of the morning.

                                    If you can get up in the morning before the majority of other people, you’ll be rewarded with peace and quietness.

                                    You can make use of this special time by perhaps reading a book, or sitting in your garden.

                                    Personally, I love to walk my dog in the early morning, as the streets are empty – and my dog has a whole park to itself!

                                    24. Think of a way to help someone later in the day.

                                    Today’s society seems riddled with a me, me, me mentality. I’m sure you know what I mean.

                                    People talking endlessly about themselves – and others taking hundreds of selfies every day.

                                    It’s important not to get caught in this self-centered trend. One way to do this, is to take a few minutes each morning to think of ways that you can help other people later in the day.

                                    To give you an example, you may have a colleague who has a sweet tooth. You could decide to take in some chocolates to work that you could share with this individual.

                                    25. Go for a swim.

                                    I’ll be honest, this idea may not be for you. If you’re not a swimmer, then please move on to the next suggestion.

                                    However, if you do like to swim, and there is a swimming pool local to you, then this is a wonderful way to start your day.

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                                    Swimming pools are usually quiet in the morning, so you’re likely to have loads of space for serious swimming – or simply having fun!

                                    26. Meet some friends for breakfast.

                                    Until I was in my 20s, I’d never thought about going out for breakfast with friends. However, I was fortunate to be introduced to this idea by a couple of American friends who were staying with me in London.

                                    I distinctively remember them saying, “Where shall we go for breakfast?” I was taken aback because I had always just had breakfast at home.

                                    I’m glad they persuaded me, though, as I loved having breakfast with them in a local café. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I now regularly meet friends for breakfast. If you haven’t tried it before – give it a go!

                                    27. Check yourself in the mirror.

                                    I’ve heard people say that they don’t like to look in the mirror in the morning because they’re afraid of what they might see!

                                    I’m guessing that they probably look miserable and tired first thing in the morning, and want to avoid been reminded of this. It’s understandable, but I think mirrors are a great tool to use in the morning.

                                    Instead of being afraid of them, use them to check your appearance. You can quickly check your hair and makeup (for example).

                                    But more importantly, you can ensure that you’re looking alert, confident and purposeful.

                                    28. Follow Steve Jobs’ advice.

                                    In a speech he gave at Stanford University in 2005, Steve Jobs revealed that he started each day by asking the following question:

                                    “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”

                                    He went on to say that, if the answer to the question was “no” for several days, then this told him that he needed to make changes in his life.

                                    29. Leave plenty of time for your commute.

                                    Rushing to work is the cause of so much stress and anxiety. One of the problems is that most people seem to leave a set amount of time for their commute – but don’t allow for any delays.

                                    For example, if someone has a 30-minute drive to work, they probably just allow 30 minutes each morning.

                                    However, as soon as there is a broken down vehicle or roadworks, then their schedule is immediately disrupted.

                                    The resolution is simple: always allow more time than you need.

                                    30. Kiss your loved ones before you leave the house.

                                    Don’t be in so much of a hurry in the morning that you forget the most valuable people in your life.

                                    Whether it’s your partner or your children, be sure to hug and kiss them before heading out the door. Relationships are so important – be certain to nurture yours.

                                    The Bottom Line

                                    Hopefully, the above list will give you plenty of food for thought.

                                    I recommend that you pick out a handful of the above suggestions, and make them a part of your daily routine. Here’re How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop.

                                    By building these new habits, you’ll find that your days start happier and stronger. You’ll also discover that you’re more motivated and productive than ever before.

                                    More Articles About Starting Afresh in the Morning

                                    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                                    Reference

                                    [1] Harvard Business Review: How Your Morning Mood Affects Your Whole Workday

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