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Stop Fixing the Symptoms…Find the Root Cause Instead

Stop Fixing the Symptoms…Find the Root Cause Instead


    You are feeling sick and your stomach hurts.

    “Oh no. I’m getting sick again. I’ve had enough with these issues with my stomach.”

    Then you pick up the phone and make a call to your doctor, explaining that you are not feeling well and that you need help. You are fortunate enough to be able to set up a quick appointment with your doctor and you go in to see him right away.

    After the doctor’s appointment, you start feeling better. Your doctor gave you a bunch of pills to cure your stomach pain and you begin to feel relieved and satisfied.

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    Unfortunately, the next week this same stomach issue returns and you are back to the doctor – with another prescription for medicine for your pains. When this happens, you start to feel like you are living in a real-life version of Groundhog Day — just like Bill Murray

    But this is happening in real life, not in a movie.

    Focus on a wrong part of the problem

    This is a classic example of a case where you thought you were focusing on the true cause of a problem (seeking help to get relief for a stomach ache), but instead, your doctor ended up just fixing the symptoms (giving just a bunch of pills for the pain).

    Since only the symptoms were fixed, the root cause of the problem was never diagnosed. Thus, it still existed.

    For instance, if the doctor had done a proper check up with you, he’d have sent him to do some further investigation. That, in turn, could have revealed that the stomach ache was caused by an allergy, celiac disease, or even appendicitis.

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    Since the proper cause was never investigated, you are now running around in circles, wasting your time on the wrong diagnosis and stressing yourself out about what may really be causing your health issues.

    But let’s move away from this hypothetical you to the “real” you.

    Are you afraid to unlock the door?

    Fixing symptoms is easy. It doesn’t require that much effort on our part and we feel relief very soon afterward. Unfortunately, this kind of “fixing” is like cheating yourself.

    But why do we like to “cheat” ourselves this way?

    First, we may not be fully aware of the real situation at all. We think that the symptom is nothing serious and in many cases this is the case. But since your attitude is like this, you feel no additional action is required.

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    Then, even if we think that there is something bigger going on on the background, we are still reluctant to take action. This could be because the symptoms are not so serious and you think that your situation is not a big deal – you can handle it.

    You may also be procrastinating on finding out the true cause; this could be a sign of fear. You are just plain afraid to find out what is really going on.

    In fact, fear is often the biggest reason we are held back. If it’s health issues you are facing, you are afraid to face the unpleasant truth (which could be the discovery of something serious going on if you dig too deep).

    Still, the problem remains — as do the symptoms — as long as you are not taking any initiative to find out the true root cause.

    Shift your focus

    Finding the root cause requires persistence. If you visited a top doctor in his or her field, they might have difficulties figuring out the real cause of your problems. Because of that you’d have to go through of a lot of laboratory tests to find the root cause.

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    Finding (and fixing) the root cause requires action on your part as well. If you are experiencing the same symptoms over and over again, then you have to take action to learn more about those things (and not just take them as-is).

    There is going to be some courage required when you go after the root cause. Especially if this is a health-related issue. In that case, you have to be willing to find out the real cause.

    On the other hand, if your car is making a funny noise when you drive, not that much courage is required. Just a willingness to take action and get your car fixed.

    Fix the issue for good!

    If you face a recurring problem, take these steps to take care of them:

    1. Acknowledge. It all starts by acknowledging your situation. Ask yourself: “Is this same issue occurring again and again or is it just a random issue?” If your answer is “yes”, you are just facing a random issue, which is most likely nothing more serious. However, if the symptoms are coming back again and again, you have a problem on your hands.
    2. Shift your focus. When you realize that you have a recurring problem, make a decision to find its root cause. Don’t settle for easy fixes or quick solutions. When you settle, you’ll most likely wind up returning back to the original problem since it wasn’t taken care of in the first place.
    3. Feel encouraged. Finding out the root cause can be scary. You will never know what you are going to find and what is going to happen next. On the other hand, don’t you think it is better to find out the true cause, instead of assuming something and pretending everything is okay? Besides, once you tackle the root cause, the rest of the symptoms are going to disappear (depending of the issue, of course).
    4. Take action. Make that call to your doctor. Take your car to the repair shop. Just take action! Problems cannot be solved without activity on your part and the sooner that you take action, the better.
    5. Never give up. Sometimes it may take a long time to find out the root cause of your problem. However, you shouldn’t give up. At the end of the day, knowing the true root cause can make you feel better – even if the truth may not be pleasant. And if the root cause doesn’t come to you right away, just take a breather and continue. You will find the cause (and the possible solution) at some point if you keep searching for it.

    If we focus on just fixing the symptoms, we are wasting our time and energy. Instead, we should shift our focus from fixing symptoms to finding a root cause and fixing that instead. And although finding the root cause may require courage and persistence, it is the only true way of fixing the problems you are facing for good.

    What steps do you take to find the root cause? How do you handle the fear that is associated with finding the root cause? Share your ideas and experiences in the comment area below.

    (Photo credit: Erasing problem with Rubber via Shutterstock)

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      Published on January 16, 2019

      How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

      How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

      We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

      You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

      You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

      That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

      Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

      1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

      Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

      We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

      To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

      At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

      The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

      2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

      Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

      The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

      In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

      It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

      It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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      So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

      • Are you a great strategist?
      • Are you an effective planner?
      • Is Project Management your strength?
      • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
      • Are you the ideas person?
      • Is Implementation your strength?

      Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

      3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

      One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

      Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

      Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

      Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

      4. Take Time for Planning

      “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

      One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

      You can take the time to think about:

      • What’s the purpose of the project?
      • How Important is it?
      • When does it need to be delivered by?
      • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
      • What are the KPIs?
      • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
      • Who is working on this project?
      • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
      • What tolerances can I add in?
      • What are the review stages?
      • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

      Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

      5. Focus on Priorities

      Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

      Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

      One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

      1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
      2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
      3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
      4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

      James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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        The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

        If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

        If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

        6. Take Time Out

        To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

        If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

        Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

        In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

        Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

        7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

        Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

        I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

        Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

        If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

        8. Stop Multitasking

        Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

        So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

        When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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        If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

        9. Work in Blocks of Time

        To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

        I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

        Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

        Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

        Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

        Then take another 10-minute break.

        Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

        By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

        10. Get Rid of Distractions

        Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

        “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

        Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

        If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

        11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

        You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

        Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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        Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

        12. Take a Time Audit

        Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

        Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

        You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

        Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

        Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

        At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

        If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

        13. Protect Your Confidence

        It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

        When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

        Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

        When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

        Final Words

        A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

        The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

        If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

        Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

        Reference

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