We all have many problems to solve every day. But have you ever thought how improving your problem-solving skills could make you more successful?
Every day we are bombarded with problems that need solving. Many of these are mundane everyday problems, such as how to fit in your child’s dance class, a grocery shop, and dentist appointment after school. But some are more complex and affect how successful we are in our work lives and our relationships. Luckily, it is easy to improve your problem-solving skills with a few simple tips and tricks.
1. Focus on the Solution – Not the Problem
Neuroscientists have shown that it is difficult for your brain to find solutions if you focus on the problem. A more positive approach is to acknowledge the problem and then switch to seeking possible solutions.
2. Make Sure You are Solving the Right Problem
This may sound obvious, but you should ensure you are focused on the right problem. Often, we look for quick fixes that cover up the problem rather than finding the deeper cause.
For example, your problem might be that you are exhausted all the time. You may then assume that you need more sleep. However, the problem might not be lack of sleep but an underlying health condition. It wouldn’t matter how much extra sleep you got, you wouldn’t solve your tiredness because you weren’t addressing the right problem.
3. Slow Down
Problems make us feel uncomfortable, so we try to solve them as quickly as possible. However, it is often important to slow down and take the time to find the right solution rather than leaping to the first possibility that comes to mind. It can also help to take a break from a problem if you can’t find a solution. When you come back, you look at the problem afresh.
In addition, research has suggested that your subconscious mind will have been mulling over the situation in the meantime, so you may come up with some new insights.
4. Don’t Panic
It is easy to panic when faced with a problem. However, panic and anxiety will seriously affect your ability to make clear and creative decisions. All that adrenaline racing through your body is not conducive to calm, critical thinking.
So, to develop your problem-solving skills, first, take a few deep breaths, go for a walk or do whatever makes you regain your composure.
5. Keep asking why
To dig deeper into a problem, a clever trick to improve your problem-solving skills is to act like a toddler and keep asking why. For example, if your problem is that you keep getting takeout instead of cooking a healthy meal ask:
- Why did I get takeout?
- There was no fresh food in the house
- Why was there no fresh food in the house?
- I didn’t have time to go shopping
- Why didn’t I have time to go shopping?
- I usually go after work on Thursdays, but I keep having to work late.
Now you understand better why you are having trouble cooking fresh food. A range of solutions is now available, such as changing the time you go shopping or talking to your boss about having one day a week where you leave on time.
6. Simplify things
Problems are often complex. If you are having a problem with something such as finances, you may think about may parts of the problem such as not getting paid enough, spending too much, not developing your side hustle. Before you know it, you are looking to ask for a raise or change job, work on cutting your outgoings and starting the side hustle. You may also have upset your partner and kids by stressing out and demanding changes along the way. It’s all too overwhelming.
However, when you break the problem down into its basic components, it becomes easier to understand and, therefore, easier to solve. You can focus on one step at a time rather than running around like a headless chicken trying to fix everything at once.
7. Think laterally
We can get stuck in a rut when we keep using the same approach to solving a problem even when it hasn’t worked before. For example, many of us have tried to set a fitness schedule but never been able to keep it. However, when you think laterally, you open up your mind to different possible solutions, and this helps you have more creative ideas. Try to think of the opposite of your normal solution.
For example, if you always plan to go the gym three times a week but never make it, perhaps try the opposite such as have the gym come to you. Maybe in the form of a personal trainer or even a YouTube video. Or, instead of going to the gym, go somewhere different, like the park, boating lake or beach.
8. List out as many solutions as possible
Perhaps the best advice on problem-solving is never to dismiss an idea. Write down every possible solution to a problem you can think of, even if it seems silly. It may lead on to a better idea or be something that could be adapted to become a great idea.
These tips may seem quite simple, but they can have a profound influence on your life. Developing your problem-solving skills can make you more effective at work, at home and in your relationships. It can also reduce stress and help you feel more in control of what happens in your life.
Slowing down and taking the time to deal with problems and find creative and effective solutions can definitely help your life to run more smoothly.