Problem Solving

Problem solving: Gaining insight from the review process

As discussed in part four of this problem solving series, the review stage is a critical part of problem solving as this is when we learn the biggest lessons to take with us moving forward. I have to admit, I have often skipped this part of the problem solving process and it has definitely placed me at a disadvantage in advancing my life strategy.


One of the reasons it is so important is – in asking some critical questions such as why something didn’t work or how you can build upon your successes – you can move forward having learned important lessons and gained invaluable insight in both the life area you are problem solving and  how to better problem solve in future.


Here are just some of the many benefits of the review stage of the problem solving process:


Need help? How to have people begging to help you!

Inevitably there will be some problems which, in order to solve them, require the help of others. So how can you maximize your chances of others agreeing to help you? Well firstly we need to think about things from their perspective. If someone were to ask you to help them what would most inspire you to do so? Here are just a few things that would inspire most…


  • Free food
  • If travel or other related expenses were paid for
  • A free experience; a meal at a restaurant, cinema tickets, a shopping voucher
  • If part of the credit for the project was given to those who have helped – a dedication, official credit or mention
  • If you returned help in kind to those who have helped you


Problem solving; Can’t decide? You may not have to!

Although there are definitely times when deciding which specific solution is needed is not only wise but necessary there are also times when a multi-pronged approach is beneficial. For example, when solving how to get to work in the shortest amount of time requires only one solution deciding how to maximize your chances of finding work you might want to adopt several strategies as listed in this weeks series post.


If you do decide to adopt a multi-pronged approach it is important to recognize why this will benefit you. Does it strengthen the likelihood of solving your problem? Are there diminishing returns with the number of complimentary strategies you adopt?


Problem solving; the top ten questions to ask before listing your pros and cons

When it comes to problem solving it’s very easy to say list the pros and cons but what do you do if you draw a blank and don’t know where to begin? Here are some questions to get you started…


Questions which will help reveal the pro’s and con’s:


  1. How easy is this solution?
  2. How fast is this solution?
  3. What resources would I need to execute this solution? Do I have everything I need to hand and if not could I source what I need?
  4. How practical is this solution?
  5. If executed well, is this solution very effective?
  6. What could go wrong? How likely is it that something may go wrong?
  7. What are the odds of this solution working well overall?
  8. Do I have any relevant experience which would benefit my executing this solution now?
  9. Does the solution rely on anyone else to work? If so how reliable are the individuals in question?
  10. Does the solution working depend upon anything outside of my control? If so to what degree? If to a large degree could the solution be classed as high risk?


Problem solving; do elaborate solutions work?

One of the main elements to problem solving that I used to get stuck on was how to know what wouldn’t work. Obviously there are the solutions which are unsuitable or inappropriate but what of the solutions that are grand and elaborate? Should we throw these out too?


The more I learnt about creating goals the more I realized that grand, elaborate solutions needn’t be overlooked as ridiculous. So long as the pros and cons are honestly listed and evaluated there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with an elaborate solution. What makes elaborate solutions tricky is that they involve more planning and thorough execution. The solution needs to be broken down into many smaller tasks which are both manageable and easily measurable. Deadlines and interim progress review dates need to be set.


With this in mind elaborate plans aren’t necessarily any better or worse than their more simple counterparts and a grand solution may well be the most appropriate solution you find to the problem at hand.


Brainstorming solutions to your problem? Try these top five questions!

Brainstorming is the nitty gritty of problem solving and by far the most fun part – the bit where you get to imagine all of the possible ways of overcoming your problem, no matter how ridiculous. Narrowing down the viable solutions comes later, at the brainstorming stage anything goes!


Try these top five questions to help you brainstorm solutions to your problem:



Why defining your problem is key

Have you ever faced a problem and just wanted to run away and hide? I have. In fact just recently this happened to me. I was so caught up with the problem that I failed to do one critical thing – define it. What about the situation presented the most cause for concern? What key element of the problem did I want to resolve? Realizing the error of my ways I’ve since resolved to clearly, and calmly, define any future problems I may encounter.


Below are just some of the questions I brainstormed to help me clearly define problems in future:


Worried much? How to let go when you need to…

When I was in treatment one of the most useful tools I learnt about was the worry chart, a simple tool designed to help discern whether you need to either begin problem solving or simply let it go. It’s so effective and I’ve used it so much now that it’s automatic. It’s so useful I listed it in part two of this months series!


If, after you worked your way through the chart it revealed you need to let whatever is troubling you go (if you can’t actively do anything about it that is) there are three main steps that I’ve followed which have helped me and that absolutely anyone can benefit from, these being:


  1. Distract yourself
  2. Slow down and focus at one thing at a time
  3. Let go of what you think should happen


New to problem solving? No problem.

It’s worth remembering that everyone makes mistakes, it’s part of the human condition. I firmly believe that it is how we react to those mistakes that matters most and effectively problem solving can help us to react in a more measured, calm way to life’s inevitable rough seas.


Although many of us have solved problems in the past, using a proven problem solving technique is often something relatively few of us have done. So what do you do if you are new to problem solving?


The opportunities of problem solving

I’ve often thought of problem solving as having one single purpose – to solve any given problem. Whilst this is mostly true, this fails to give enough credit to the problem solving process as when we problem solve we develop and master many other secondary skills.


In order to problem solve effectively we need to disengage our anxious mind so as to think objectively about the situation, so often calming techniques such as breathing exercises are advantageous.


If you are experiencing a problem at present, are anxious about it and would like to problem solve please read my article on mindfulness first as this will help you to calm your mind in preparation for effective problem solving. The article is titled ‘How to stop living on auto-pilot and live for the moment’. Once calm you will be in the right mind frame to problem solve.


Other skills hugely enhanced by problem solving include analytical ability and our organisational aptitude, both of which are greatly used during the problem solving process.


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