Problem-solving: easy summary of steps

Small monkey wondering what to do with a wooden stick

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Are you swamped by issues you need to deal with? Not sure where to start? Stop avoiding problems for fear of making bad decisions. Here’s an easy summary of steps in the problem-solving process. Master problem-solving skills and handle issues more effectively.

Most of you probably have a range of issues you’re avoiding. After a while, they pile up.

You may think it doesn’t matter. But it takes a lot of energy to ignore problems. And also causes untold stress and worry.

So organise your life more efficiently and reduce stress. Get on top of dealing with problems now.

Problem-solving: easy summary of steps

Here’s a quick summary of steps in problem-solving. Let’s break the whole process down into sections. You can work on one section at a time, so you don’t feel too overwhelmed. 

1 Define the issue you’re going to work on

1 Make a list problem areas or issues you want to solve.

2 Group similar problems together. Is there one issue which will solve the others if it’s fixed?

3 Pick one relatively easy problem, or the one that will make the most difference.

2 Brainstorm for solutions to this issue

1 Write down anything you’ve tried already and how it worked.

2 What could you have done differently to make any of these attempts work better? Be honest with yourself. You may not have tried long enough, or been consistent with your efforts. 

3 Brainstorm all other possible solutions for the issue. Don’t reject anything.

3 Work out the most promising solution 

1 Think of as many pros and cons for each solution as you can.

2 If possible, get input from other trusted people at this stage. That will widen your perspective on the issue, and give you ideas you may not have thought of. 

3 Rank each solution in order of best to worst, taking into account the pros and cons for each.

4 Pick the solution that seems the best option for now.

Remember, there’s never a perfect solution. You always have to accept some compromises. Make sure you can live with them. 

4 Work out a plan to put it into practice

1 Plan how you’ll put this idea into practice. Work out the major steps from start to finish, and then any intermediate steps.

2 List anything that will stop you carrying out your plan. How will you deal with these obstacles? Do you need to learn new skills, get advice, or get others onside? Write down what you need to do. 

3 List anything that will make it easier to put your plan into practice. Plan how you’ll make these things happen, and write down what you need to do.

4 Decide how you’ll record your progress. What will you measure and record so you know if it’s working or not?

5 Carry out your plan

1 Carry out the plan for a set time period. Give yourself enough time to make a difference.

2 After this time, review how the plan is going. Is it working well, a bit, or not at all?

3 Will any changes make it work better? Work out what you need to do.

6 Tweak your plan, or change it if you need to

1 Record what happens when you make minor tweaks (if any.)

2 Review your progress again. Have things got worse, better or stayed the same after these tweaks?

3 Decide to either keep this plan, or move to the second-best option if you’re really not happy with your first plan.

4 Repeat till you either solve the issue, or it’s no longer bothering you.

Too complicated? Don’t be put off.

Framework to follow

Written out, the steps may feel mechanical. But it’s a framework to follow when you’re confused.

When you’re floundering, it’s comforting knowing what to do next. It takes away the guesswork, and you feel more in control.

Once you’re familiar with the process, it becomes second nature. And you’ll be able to do the initial stages more quickly. All it takes is practice.

Apply to problem areas

You can apply this strategy to any area of your life. Wrinkles in life will start to iron out as you get more skilled. Not only that, you’ll prevent lots of other annoyances cropping up. 

Applying the strategy continually means you’ll always be a step ahead, especially during the ever-changing conditions of the Covid pandemic. Of course you‘ll still get somewhat upset or worried when problems happen. But you’ll recover much more quickly.

Having these skills instils the confidence you’re resilient and can adapt quickly.   

Helpful hints for problem-solving

A few pointers before you start will help you succeed.

1 Write down all your thoughts for each step

Write down all your ideas or capture them on a Word document. This helps you keep track of ideas and information you’ve gathered, which means you can make better decisions. 

So find an old exercise book or make one out of scrap paper. Don’t worry about scrawled handwriting. No-one else needs to see this. It’s your private book.

2 Accept there are no perfect decisions

Decisions you make are in good faith, and relate to the situation when you make them. You do the best you can with what you’ve got at the moment.

As circumstances change, a different solution may pop up. Hindsight can make it look as if you made a poor decision. But that choice wasn’t there at the time you were choosing.

And yes, it’s unfortunate you couldn’t choose it back then. But that’s life. That’s the way it is. Don’t waste time regretting this or getting angry.

Make the best of the decision you’ve made. Or change your decision if it’s now appropriate.

3 Pick small problems to start with

Practicing the skills on easier issues helps you to get to know the process. You’ll be more likely to get success more quickly. That will make you more confident when dealing with complex issues. 

4 Learn to tolerate some uncertainty

Sometimes the best laid plans can go astray. Or they’ll need to be changed to work better. That’s where being flexible is an advantage. 

Don’t think you’ve failed because of these little hurdles. It’s a completely normal part of the process. Life never works exactly the way you expect.

So don’t expect any plans you make to be perfect. Something will take longer than you think it will, or there’ll be a glitch you didn’t think of. 

Accept the need to make changes to work around these little hiccups. And sometimes your solutions just won’t work out as well as you hoped they would.

That’s when you may have to ditch Plan A and go to Plan B. Or C or D …

It’s just the way it works. Learn to go with the flow, and accept that nothing is perfect. Whatever happens, have the confidence that you’ll work it out eventually.

Use the problem-solving easy summary of steps

So get into the habit of using problem-solving. Read through the above problem-solving easy summary of steps a few times. Then start using the process today, to work on one small issue in your life.

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