Problem solving techniques

Part 1, Part 2

Step 2 - analyse and identify the exact problem

Question mark and ladder - solving your problems

You'll hopefully have already completed Step 1 of my problem solving strategies. I hope it's helped you to identify whether you really do have only one or several problems.

You'll have already gathered specific details about the problem(s), so now I'd like you to take a deep breath, take a break and make yourself another drink. Then we can proceed with the following problem solving techniques...

  • Decide on your headings: either for every aspect of that one problem, or the different problems. Break things up into smaller parts if necessary
  • Draw a mind map or flow-chart, or draw the problem in whatever way makes sense to you
  • Include your resources under each heading
  • Think about whose problem it really is - it might not be yours... but do be honest with yourself
  • Write a short statement about the problem (this will help you to communicate more effectively with others)

The tree which moves some to tears of you, is in the eyes of others merely a green thing that stands in the way."

William Blake
Puzzle pieces in question and exclamation marks

Step 3

Well done for having completed another step! The next problem solving strategy is to devise a solution - finally! I know this is ultimately what you're looking for, however problem solving techniques are wasted if you end up dealing with the wrong problem. This could be either one that doesn't exist, or one that you create in the process of trying to solve it.

10 Point problem solving plan

  1. Decide what the ideal solution for you would be
  2. Decide on what you 'can live with'
  3. Decide on an alternative solution
  4. Decide on the steps you can take right now to bring about some change. This will help you to feel more positive and in control
  5. Decide who you need to ask for help
  6. Decide on what you think other people might need from you and check with them
  7. Decide who you need to have a conversation with, what you would say and when that might be possible
  8. Make a list with exact timings of your planned actions. This is one of the most important problem solving techniques
  9. Set a review date to hold yourself (and maybe others) to account
  10. Sleep on it, but have a notepad by the side of your bed. Just as you drift off you may come up with the most brilliant of problem solving techniques. If you don't write it down there and then, you'll probably have forgotten by the morning!

You've now identified exactly what the problems and potential solutions are. Perhaps you've even broken them up into smaller parts.  

The next problem solving strategy is to deal with the smallest (or easiest) one first, to help build your confidence.

Alternatively, you can decide to go for the big one the moment you get out of bed and … get it done!

Step 4 - review your problem solving techniques and strategies

There's no point in having a plan with problem solving techniques if you don't review it. You need to check your progress against all your action points and their respective dates. 

The following questions will help you to mark the progress you've made...

  1. What exact problem solving steps have you taken to solve the problem (or even just part of it)?
  2. Which problem solving techniques and strategies were successful and which were less so?
  3. What should you continue to do? (i.e. what works!)
  4. What parts of the plan could do with an update?
  5. Are other people keeping to their side of the bargain?
  6. What can you do to encourage or remind them?
  7. Set another review date

There is no failure, only feed-back!

Applying my problem solving steps and strategies

These problem solving techniques can stop you from becoming 'flooded' when you face a problem that seems hard to figure out. You can use all the above information to make a problem-solving flow chart - at home, in your relationship or at work.

Take your time doing it and sleep on it. You can also discuss it with someone you trust to help you uncover any blind spots. This easy to use decision making tool will help too.

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