We all encounter problems in our everyday lives – whether at work or at home. Common problems might be time-management issues, or personality conflicts at the work-place. As unpleasant as some of these problems can be, it’s important to come up with an effective strategy to dealing with them. The following steps can help you better identify issues and come up with solutions for life’s obstacles!
Step One: Identify the problem. Be clear about what the issues are. Apply the “who, what, when and where” system to your problem solving.
- Who does this problem affect? Who is involved most often when the problem occurs?
- What is the overall problem? Be as specific as possible. If the problem is multi-faceted, capture all the pieces – this will help show the bigger picture.
- When does the problem occur?
- Where does the problem occur?
- How often does it occur?
Step Two: Identify the causes.
- Identify all of the factors that contribute to the situation.
- For each cause you come up with, ask yourself “why is this happening?” Be brutally honest; you may have to look within and explore your role in each situation, in addition to looking for external causes.
Step Three: Clarify your objective.
- What do you hope to accomplish by solving this problem? What is your end goal?
- How will solving this situation affect your work day or your home life? Envision a scenario in which this problem no longer exists. What does it look like? How do you feel? What is different?
Step Four: List workable solutions.
- Brainstorm possible solutions.
- Be creative; use free-flow thinking and let ideas build on one another. Write all your ideas down – no matter how realistic or unrealistic they may seem at the time.
- Refine ideas as you go along.
- Do some research into what others may have done in your situation, but realize that you are unique, and therefore, your solutions should be as well!
Step Five: Evaluate the options.
- Refer back to your original objective – what problem are you “solving” for? What is the desired result of solving this problem?
- Evaluate the workable solutions against this objective.
- For each potential solution, ask yourself, “what are the pros and cons of implementing this solution?”
- If necessary, go back to the drawing board and come up with additional ideas and solutions!
Step Six: Select one or two options.
- Select one or two of your above solutions.
- Table the other ideas for now; but keep them handy. You never know when you might need to refer back to them! You may find that bits and pieces of options work better than one grand idea. Be open to refining as you go along.
Step Seven: Get started solving!
- Set goals and determine how you will measure progress and success.
- Implement your top one or two solutions.
- Set timelines for revising your plan if you haven’t met goals and if your situation doesn’t appear to be improving.
- Periodically evaluate your progress. If it doesn’t appear that your situation is getting better, move onto the next viable idea on your list.
Problem solving may seem daunting, but by stretching your problem-solving muscle and practicing these steps, you will build a handy toolkit of problem-solving techniques to use whenever an issue arises. This will reinforce that you have what it takes to face life’s difficulties head on; and that is very empowering!
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