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The Simplest Ways to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills

The Simplest Ways to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills

Have you ever been highly trained for a position only to find that when you actually dive into the job, all kinds of things come up that require quick decisions and problem-solving skills that you weren’t ever trained for?

Problem-solving skills are part of everyday living and are necessary for all aspects of life. They aren’t just for solving math and science problems. They’re needed for all kinds of positions such as doctors, lawyers, writers, artists, construction workers, and professional drivers.

If you’re a creative person, you have the ability to be an excellent problem-solver. Anyone can sharpen problem solving skills using the power of the mind.

1. Have a healthy frame of mind.

Try not to panic or play the victim. Don’t think, “Why me?” Think, “How can I resolve this?” The two things to always bring into the situation are positive thinking and open-mindedness.

2. Keep emotions out of it.

Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. This is exactly why a stable frame of mind is paramount. Remember that for every problem there is a solution. Don’t get tunnel-visioned so that the problem is magnified. Problem-solving skills are one of the traits of successful people.

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3. Know when to speak up and when to keep a problem to yourself.

Sometimes, alerting others of a problem that you’re experiencing breeds additional drama. However, often times in the business setting, it’s wise to alert superiors and co-workers so that they can assist in solving it before the problem escalates. If you’re not sure whether to speak up, check office regulations, or perhaps wait until you can make an informed decision.

4. Define the problem clearly.

Before beginning, make sure you completely understand exactly what the problem is. Sometimes it looks like there’s a lot of problems, but it’s actually just one with a lot of symptoms. Try to find the root cause of a problem instead of looking at a myriad of symptomatic issues. Ask questions like these:

–  What is the real problem?

–  What assumptions am I making that could be biased or inaccurate?

–  Where’s the latest information/research/data on this subject?

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–  How long do I have before this becomes a bigger issue?

–  Can I ignore this problem?

–  Who and what can help solve this?

5. Identify causes… especially the root cause.

Consider how and why it happened. Look at the problem from different perspectives. Play the devil’s advocate. It wouldn’t be considered a ‘problem’ if you knew how to solve it. This is why it’s imperative to consider other views and opinions. Others may see it differently.

6. Gather as many facts as possible.

Collect information based on evidence… not on feelings. It’s easier to come up with problem-solving strategies when you’re not emotionally charged. An informed mind is much more capable of resolution than an uninformed one. Observe what is going right, or the positive aspects of the subject at hand, and to see if it gives ideas of how to fix what’s going wrong. Then, do the same with the negative aspects. Write them down.

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7. Brainstorm solutions.

Before brainstorming, make sure you’ve clearly defined the problem and gathered solid facts. Ask others for input. Often how others view something is completely different than how you viewed it because you might be too close, tunnel-visioned, or too emotionally charged to make distinctions between the facts and exaggerations.

8. Make a decision as soon as possible.

Procrastination is not your friend when it comes to problem solving. When a problem is avoided it either becomes a larger problem or splits into many problems. Be diligent about defining the problem and gathering solid information so that you can brainstorm effectively.

9. Assign responsibility for who does what in the resolution.

Know what prompts your abilities and/or the abilities of your team. Use outlines, graphic organizers, color codes, charts, tables, graphs, and spreadsheets. Any of these tools can help organize and plan out the steps required for whatever solution you decide on. They can also ensure that you don’t get sidetracked and focus on things that are irrelevant to the original problem.

10. Set standards to measure progress and/or deadlines for completion/resolution.

Establish criteria that proposed solutions must meet. This way, if you implement a plan of action and you monitor the results, you will see before you become frustrated whether it’s working or not. If it’s not working, you waste less time.

11. Take actions that are focused on a solution.

Select your solution and begin making a step-by-step plan of action to solve the problem. By making a plan, this promotes implementation of the solution. Remember to remain focused on one thing at a time.

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12. If you can’t find a solution, go back and define what the problem is.

When problems cannot be solved, it is usually because they weren’t clearly identified. Anytime you hear someone say they’ve been dealing with a problem for quite some time, often the reason is because they haven’t slowed down long enough to carefully define the actual problem.

If problem solving skills are a challenge for you, just follow these steps.  Before long, you will become an excellent problem solver and an asset for any team, business, or organization.

Find out why solving problems often takes a team.

Featured photo credit: Marco Bellucci via http

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

Forgot a name? Misplaced your keys? Taking longer to find the right words? Don’t panic. There’s plenty you can do to improve your memory.

You’re probably expecting us to reveal 7 little known and newly discovered herbs from the forests of the Amazon, the peaks of the Himalayas and the Arctic tundra. No such luck.

Despite Americans spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on Ginkgo Biloba, Ashwagandha, Periwinkle, Bacopa, Vitamin B’s, Omega 3’s and memory boosting supplement cocktails, there is very little scientific evidence they actually work. [1]

Instead, we’re going to offer you 7 completely natural memory boosters, backed up by scientific research. It may take a little more effort than a magic memory pill, but the benefits will transcend your memory and improve your overall quality of life as well, making you more fit, energetic, happy and sharp.

How Do We Remember?

The first process in remembering is creating a memory.

This is where our brain sends a signal, associated with a thought, event or piece of information our mind is processing, over our brains neural pathways, called synapses.

Think of our neural pathways like roads and information like trucks. The better the roads, the more trucks can be driven.

The second step in remembering is memory consolidation.

Consolidation is when the brain takes that thought, event or piece of information and actually stores it in the brain. So now we’re talking about taking delivery of the trucks and storing its contents in the warehouse.

Consolidation helps us store information and label it properly, so its organized and easy to retrieve when needed.

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The last step is memory retrieval.

That’s the step whereby we try to retrieve the information stored in our brains. You know when you have the name of someone on the tip of your tongue.

You have the information; it’s been stored, but you just can’t find it. Our memory recall is typically better the stronger the memory is and the more often we’ve used it.

Memory decline is a normal part of aging. However, new scientific research is discovering many new ways for us to improve memory creation, consolidation and retrieval–no matter our age.

7 Natural Memory Boosters

So how to work on memory and boost your brain power? Here’re 7 brain boosters backed by science that you should try:

1. Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic activity is about as close as we get to a magic pill for our memories. Exercise helps your brain create new capillaries and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which creates new brain cells and connections. To put it in plain english, aerobic activity changes our brains and helps it grow.

Studies have shown that exercising increases the size of the hippocampus and improves memory. In fact, even if you start exercising as an older adult, you can reverse cognitive decline by 1 to 2 years and protects against further decreases in the size of the hippocampus, which is essential for memory. [2]

In another study, reviewed by Dr. Ian Robertson of the University of Dublin, they looked at a group of people of 60 years and older, who engaged in “active walking” for four months.

They compared them with another group of people who only stretched over the same period of time. After testing both groups before and after the 4 month period, the walkers improved their memory and attention considerably more than the stretching group.

So which exercises are best and how much do we have to exercise?

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Turns out, it doesn’t really matter whether you run, swim, row or bike. What does matter is that you push yourself beyond your current abilities, keep doing more, keep getting better. Set yourself short term goals and keep pushing the goal posts.

2. Sleep

You need your sleep. The deeper the better. Sleep helps improve your procedural memory (how to do things, like how do I navigate my iPhone) and declarative memory (facts, like what’s my password). [3]

Even short naps from 6 to 45 minutes have been shown to improve your memory. In one Harvard study, college students memorized pairs of unrelated words, memorized a maze and copied a complex form. All were tested on their work. Half were then allowed to take a 45 minute nap. They were then retested. Those who took a nap, got a boost in their performance. [4]

Another study showed that getting REM (deep) sleep can increase your memory and mental performance by 33% to 73%. Getting a deep sleep helps the brain consolidate memories through dreams and “associative processing”. However, the study also revealed that heart rate variability in deep sleep also contributed significantly to increased memory performance. [5]

3. MIND Diet

Healthy eating, particularly more dark colored fruit, vegetables and oily fish has been shown to improve memory and stave off cognitive decline.

The MIND diet is proven to reduce the risk of dementia. It’s a mix of the popular Mediterranean diet and the low blood pressure DASH diet. [6]

The study kept track of the diets of almost 1,000 older adults. They were followed for an average of 4½ years.

The study concluded that “people whose diets were most strongly in line with the MIND diet had brains that functioned as if they were 7½ years younger than those whose diets least resembled this eating style.”

The study also showed that people who followed the MIND diet in the study reduced their chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease in half.

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So what does the MIND diet consist of? Lots of vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, berries, beans, fish, poultry, olive oil, whole grains and wine.

4. Relax

We all know that stress is bad for our health. It can raise our blood pressure, impact our immune system and interrupt our sleep. Stress also impairs our memory.

When our body gets stressed, it releases cortisol into our blood stream, which can cause short and long term physical changes to the brain. While cortisol has sometimes been shown to cause increases in short term memory, it can actually decrease our long term recall memory.

To help reduce the stress in your life, try relaxing with meditation, yoga or breathing exercises. Unplug–even for just a few hours. Stop checking your emails, social accounts and news. Release some endorphins with some exercise.

Bottom line, the more anxious and stressed we are, the less clearly we think, the poorer our memory works.

5. Continuous Learning

The mind is like a muscle. The more you challenge it, the stronger it gets. The more you learn, the more you can learn.

Research shows that learning can actually change the physical makeup of your brain. Not too long ago, we used to think that you were born with a fixed amount of brain cells, which declined with age. New research now shows that we can actually increase the number of brain cells we have throughout our life.

Aside from staying physically active, learning new skills and studying can actually keep our brains healthier. Consider taking a continuing education class, studying a new language, learning a new instrument, playing new card games. [7]

Studies show that the more complex the task, the more benefits for your mind. Simply showing up to class is not enough. You need to be actively engaged. Anything that forces you to focus and learn something new and get out of a rote routine will help you sharpen your mind and boost your memory.

6. Stay Social

The more deep and meaningful social connections you maintain, the more you protect your brain. Bottom line, the more friends you have, the more people you work with, the more you’re forced to use your brain.

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Social isolation and loneliness are significant risks of dementia. Without interacting with others, our brains wilt. Isolation and loneliness lead to depression, physical and mental decline. [8]

In a 2016 study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, seniors with a full social calendar did better on memory, reasoning, and processing speed tests. [9]

What to do?

Party! Seriously, get together with friends as often as possible. Have family dinners. Choose social activities or sports like tennis, golf, cards or go for walks with a friend. Bottom line have fun, build meaningful social relationships and stay connected. Not only will it make your mind sharper and your memory better, you’ll be happier, too!

7. Wakeful Rest

This one is getting harder and harder to do. In a world where we can’t sit on a bus, go up an elevator or go to the bathroom without our phones, doing absolutely nothing to distract our minds is becoming increasingly difficult.

But, the results are in. Doing nothing is great for your memory. Quietly resting for 10 minutes, after you learn something will help you remember and help you create more detailed memories. [10]

What we do minutes after we learn something new has a significant impact on how well we retain the new information. In another study, it didn’t matter what you did after you learned something new, as long as you weren’t distracted by outside factors. In other words, you could be thinking of your day, making a grocery list, or thinking of a story. In either case, wakeful rest for a period of 10 minutes helped the brain process and consolidate your memories so that you were better able to recall the information at a later date. [11]

Conclusion

You don’t have to spend a dime on cocktails and supplements promising a quick boost to your memory power. There is very little conclusive scientific evidence suggesting supplements will help improve the memories of healthy individuals–not for Ginkgo Biloba, Vitamin B, fish oils, Vitamin D, Folate or other supplements claiming they a secret formula.

There are far cheaper and more effective ways to boost your memory: exercise, rest, eat well, learn, love, laugh and relax. Who wouldn’t want that prescription?

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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