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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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      Timo Kiander

      Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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      Last Updated on November 27, 2020

      15 Office Design Tricks That Will Increase Your Productivity at Work

      15 Office Design Tricks That Will Increase Your Productivity at Work

      Where you work has an enormous impact on how you work – on your ability to focus (and stay focused) and your overall ability to be productive. That means the design of your office, whether you work at home or in a larger company environment, is of supreme importance. This isn’t just about Feng Shui, this is about producing results and getting things done.

      According to studies done on workplace and productivity, the most significant factor in determining an employee’s ability to focus is their physical environment. In fact, it’s been said that a well-designed office can increase your productivity about 20%. However, despite the studies and statistics, nearly half of the employers interviewed don’t consider workplace design a good business investment.

      So what is a productivity hack to do? What if you work in an environment that doesn’t promote focus?

      Check these 15 factors and make changes where you can. A little adjustment can produce a lot of impact.

      Lighting

      Lighting is one of the most important factors in staying focused and feeling inspired to create, yet it’s one of the most overlooked and least invested in. Bad lighting can cause fatigue, eyestrain, headaches and overall irritability. Dark spaces can actually produce depression.

      If you work in a company office:
      You probably have no control over your general lighting so bring in your own, if need be. Consider using natural light bulbs or a light therapy device.

      If you work from a home office:
      Open the windows and doors and let natural light in. Using lamps in a variety of areas for cloudy days or when it’s dark.

      Chair and Table

      If you’ve ever sat at a desk to do work but found yourself adjusting, stretching and moving too often to actually stay focused, then you’re aware of the importance of having a correctly fitted table and chair. In today’s work environment where so many of us are sitting for most of our day, it is critical that your throne fits your body probably.

      Consider these quick ergonomic checks:

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      • Eyes 24-36 inches from the computer screen. The top of the monitor should be below or at eye-level.
      • Feet should be on a foot rest or resting on the floor.
      • A slightly reclined chair posture is best to reduce pressure on your spine and minimize lower back pain.

      If you work in a company office:
      Ask for an adjustable chair. Add pillows for your lower back or bum, if you need it. Many companies will also provide risers for computers to adjust the height of your computer screen (and a separate keyboard to keep your hands and wrists in the ideal position)

      If you work from a home office:
      Invest in a decent chair or at least use a few pillows to make the chair more comfortable. If the table is too high, add pillows to your chair. If it is too low, consider buying leg risers from your local hardware store and using books beneath your computer to raise the screen. Use a separate keyboard.

      Clutter

      Your mama was right, it’s important to clean up your room. Clutter may help the creative mind create, but it isn’t necessarily helpful for focus and productivity.

      If you work from a company office: While you can’t control the cleanliness of the office at large, do keep your own environment around you clean. Spend 10 minutes every morning or evening making sure things are put away, filed, organized and generally out of sight so you’re not distracted by it later.

      If you work from a home office: Because you work from home, the entire house or apartment is potential for distraction. If you can afford it, hire a professional cleaning service to keep your home clean. If not, schedule a specific day and time to clean your home. Commit to doing daily pickup at a specific time. And spend at least 10 minutes every day making sure your office  is organized and tidy.

      Room Color

      The colors around us all have an effect on our moods and brain function. It evokes both a physical and emotional response. So choosing the right colors for your work space has the ability to affect your productivity. For instance, blue has been said to illicit productivity. Mind you, too much of anything can be overwhelming, even color.

      If you work from a company office: Bring in items from home that are a certain color that inspire you and keep you focused. Use postcards, magazine cutouts, even just blocks of color will do.

      If you work from a home office: If you work from home, you have much more control over the colors around you. Consider repainting a wall, adding color to the table you work at, or hanging pictures that are dominated by a specific color.

      Room Temperature

      Most offices keep their temperatures around 65-68 Fahrenheit but it turns out that this might not be good for productivity. Warmer rooms actually make people more productive.

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      If you work from a company office: Most offices are regulated by somebody else, so bring a space heater, sweaters and blankets to your work space.

      If you work from a home office: Depending on the season, open the windows or adjust the heat or a/c so that you’re more comfortable and warm. Pile on the sweaters in the winter or add a space heater to your feet.

      Room Scents

      Like the color of the space you work in, our sense of smell can powerfully affect our mood, mindset and thus our productivity. Consider adding scents to your work space to jar your mind into focus when you start to notice yourself drifting off.

      Try using these scents to stay focused:

      • Pine – Increases alertness
      • Cinnamon – Improves focus
      • Lavender – Helps to relax you during a stressful work day
      • Peppermint – Lifts your mood
      • Citrus (any) – Wakes you up  and lifts your spirits

      If you work from a company office: Most people will not appreciate added scents to their work environment so you’ll need to keep it subtle. Keep essential oils in your bag or drawer and when you’re in need of a boost put a few drops on a handkerchief or cotton ball.

      If you work from a home office: Use candles, incense or essential oils. You can also simmer herbs and spices in the kitchen to fill your home with a warm scent.

      Noise Level

      The noise level in a work environment can vary greatly depending on the size of the team you work with, the office design and company culture. But make no mistake, the noise around you affects your ability to stay on task. Not only can it be distracting, it can also raise stress levels making your ability to sustain productivity far more difficult.

      If you work from a company office: Bring in noise cancellation headphones and use music services like Spotify or Songza and choose concentration boosting sounds, like white noise.  Find out if your office offers quiet work spaces for times when you need the utmost focus.

      If you work from a home office: Sometimes the complete quiet can be as distracting as an office. Use a service like Coffivity to mimic the noise of a coffee shop, which has been said to help with concentration.

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      Air Quality

      Air quality can drastically affect our ability to focus and think clearly. Get this: OSHA estimates that the total annual cost of poor air quality in office environments costs employers $15 billion “due to worker inefficiency and sick leave.” Yeah, it’s serious business.

      If you work from a company office: Talk to them about installing air filters. If there is a way to bring in fresh air through windows or doors, arrange to have them opened for at least a portion of the day. If nothing else, get a personal air filter to have on your desk or nearby.

      Also, get a plant (or better yet, have the company buy and use more plants in the office!). Plants are great at filtering the air and providing clean, purified oxygen.

      If you work from a home office: Open windows and doors and let in the fresh air. Install an air filter or get a portable air filter to keep near your desk. And, yes, you too should get a plant.

      Different Spaces

      If you can manage it, give yourself more than one space to work from. Putting yourself in a new space with different qualities and things to look at quite literally shifts your brain and helps you stay focused.

      If you work from a company office: Many offices offer a variety of environments to work from: your personal space, lobbies, break out rooms, conference rooms, kitchens and eating areas and, if you’re lucky, they also provide lounge areas. Use all these spaces to vary your routine. Make sure your supervisor knows so they don’t think you’re slacking off and know tat you’re actually getting more done!

      If you work from a home office: If you work at a desk, add a comfortable couch or chair to the room. If your space is less flexible or ultra tiny, think about more creative ways to change your work space. Rotate the pictures on your walls every couple of days. Sit on the other side of your desk. Get a lamp and multiple colored bulbs. Or go work at a café, the library or in a park.

      Organization of People

      Most employers organize employees around job function or in specific divisions. Instead, studies show that people are more creative and productive when they are sitting with colleagues that share the same goal or client. Not only are you able to get answers and generate solutions quicker, but because you’re directly accountable to the people around you, you’re more likely to stay on task and productive.

      If you work from a company office: Ask your employer if you can experiment by clustering your group together in a conference room for a day or a week. Get feedback from everybody involved. Show the results. If your company won’t make permanent adjustments, perhaps they’ll allow you to work together a couple times a week when the conference room or lounge area is free.

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      If you work from a home office: This is a little bit more difficult because when you work at home you’re not with colleagues. You can recreate a similar space digitally, however. Create a Skype group and have everyone logged in during working hours. You can do morning accountability and check-ins while remaining available for questions, solution-finding and general banter that promotes creativity.

      Idea Storage

      Ever been working hard when you’re suddenly distracted by a great idea? At first you try to push it away, but then the next thing you know you’re 20 pages deep into an online search on the topic. Ideas should be encouraged and cultivated, but when they come right in the middle of another task it can be incredibly distracting. Instead, create a place to store your ideas that’s easily accessed from your work space.

      For both a company and home office: Keep pads of paper around, have a chalk wall, get a white board – when you have a spark of inspiration write it down right away to get it out of your head then return to the task at hand. Then, at the end of the day or when you have free time, collect all the ideas and review them. With a little time and space you can better decide if it’s worth pursuing or better to leave it on the back-burner.

      Refreshment

      Our brain needs nourishment to keep going, especially when we’re driving hard and staying focused. You can let a rumbling stomach go on for only so long before the brain shuts down. Assuming your different is like wanting your car to keep driving without having to stop and fill it with gas. A novel idea, but not realistic.

      If you work from a company office: Pre-make snacks for the day and/or week. Or, bring in prepackaged snacks. Keep in mind that junk food has properties of diminishing returns so if you’re buying your food prepackaged think nuts, fruit, unsweetened yogurts, and hummus and crackers. Likely, your company provides coffee, tea and water so you don’t have to worry about supplying that for yourself.

      If you work from a home office: If you work from home, this can be a key distraction. Try to reduce the number of times you walk into the kitchen each day. To do this, keep quick and   easy snacks pre-made or prepackaged ready and near your desk. Keep a water bottle nearby. And consider bringing a kettle into your office and stocking tea and coffee so you’re   not tempted to wander around the house and lose time poking through the pantry.

      Bring in Nature

      We are biological creatures, first and foremost. So we are deeply affected by our access to (or lack of) the natural world. It’s important for our psychological and physiological functioning, which directly affects our ability to be productive.

      If you work from a company office: If you don’t have windows in or near your work space, bring in pictures of the outdoor world. Keep a picture of something natural as your screensaver and/or desktop wallpaper. Take walks outdoors at lunch or in between major tasks. Just a few minutes outside in the fresh air and sunshine can boost our mood and shake out the doldrums. Be sure to add a plant to your desk, too!

      If you work from a home office: Keep the shades open and, if you can, let in fresh air. If you can’t see anything natural out of your window, keep pictures of the natural world as your screensaver and/or desktop wallpaper. Take walks. Or, just step outside and put your feet on the ground. Put plants in your office – research shows that having live plants in your office makes you more productive, happier and less stressed.

      Digital Space

      For most people, our primary work is housed within our laptops and our physical environment simply the backdrop to our digital lives. Make sure your computer has software that helps you sculpt the digital environment that best elicits productivity. Use focus apps like this one or this to decrease distractions. Or design your day using intervals with an app like this one to keep you at your peak focus throughout the day.

      Featured photo credit: Phil Desforges via unsplash.com

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