Tackle your problems by breaking them down into easier stages, says Liggy Webb
Problem solving is an important skill because it helps you tackle immediate challenges or achieve a goal. There are many problem-solving processes. Each consist of a number of steps, including identifying an issue, researching for options and putting a possible solution into action. It is useful to view problem solving as a cycle because, sometimes, a problem needs several attempts to solve it.
I recommend this process to help you break the problem into easier stages, rather than tackle everything at once.
1. Identify the problem and focus on solving one aspect at a time. Sometimes you may be unsure about what the problem is, and you might feel anxiety or be confused about what is getting in the way of your goals. When you know exactly what you are dealing with, you will feel more in control and less afraid. Have an understanding of what caused the problem. This will help you put it into perspective and give it some context.
2. Define what the problem is in the clearest and most simple terms. Sometimes problems can seem huge and you may end up blowing them out of proportion with inflammatory language.
3. Conduct a root cause analysis, working out exactly what is the source of the problem. Understanding where it came from will help you put it into context and mitigate the chances of it happening again.
Tips on making decisions when problem solving
● Identify your decision and establish its objective and impact on others
● List the various options available
● Gather as much information as you can on all the options
● Conduct a risk analysis and weigh up the pros and cons of each choice
● Select a best option and develop a plan of action
● Implement your decision and stick with it, accept you have made the best decision and don’t deliberate as it will hamper your progress
4. Generate a range of potential solutions and make a shortlist. When you are clear about what the problem is you need to think about it in different ways and all the options available to you.
5. Use the goal that you are trying to achieve to help you select the solution. Sort the solutions out according to those that are most relevant to your situation, and realistic and manageable. You can predict outcomes for possible solutions and be clear about the goal you are trying to achieve.
6. Prepare a plan of action and implement the solution. Check with other people what they think of your plan and invite feedback. Implementing your solution will be easier because you will have more confidence knowing you have thought it through.
7. Finally review, and identify lessons learnt and record for future reference. It is always key to review and work out what went well and what you have learnt so you can make improvements going forward.
● This article is adapted from Resilience: How to Cope When Everything Around You Keeps Changing by Liggy Webb (Capstone, £10.99). Available from www.wiley.com
Liggy Webb is widely respected as a leading expert in the field of modern life skills. She has developed a range of techniques and strategies to support individuals and organisations to cope more successfully with modern living