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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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Lynn Silva

Lynn Silva helps solo and entrepreneurs develop mental skills for business.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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