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10 Problem-Solving Strategies that Work

Nobody likes problems. But they are a part of life, so it’s important to find effective ways to deal with them. The following strategies can help you find your way through potential solutions to find the one that works best in almost any situation.

1. Sleep on it.

With often-conflicting problems and demands on your mind, it can be difficult to find an inroad to a solution. When you’re faced with such difficulties, a wise course of action is to get some sleep. While you’re resting, your mind is actively working to sift through the list and help sort things into more recognizable shape. You might even wake with some solutions to certain problems. Writing down a list before you retire for the night can help with that.

2. Figure out what you need to tackle and what can wait.

After a good night’s sleep, even if you don’t awaken with a concrete solution to the problem, you’re rested and able to devote some time to prioritizing what’s necessary to work on and what can wait. Since you can’t tackle more than one problem at once, singling out the one you’ll work on first alleviates some pressure and gives you direction.

3. Separate the problem into bite-sized parts.

Any problem has various components. Think of it as stages: beginning, middle and end. Like any project or recipe, following the steps and working in stages helps give you a sense of accomplishment when you complete each one. In addition, once you’ve gone through the steps, what once seemed impossible or incredibly difficult won’t seem as overwhelming.

4. Work on a timeline.

Along with determining the stages or steps you’ll follow to resolve the problem, you also need to develop a timeline for completion. Important due dates for work, legal, family, school and other areas should be taken into account. This timeline also needs to include time for research, lining up resources and getting help, factoring in unexpected delays or complications, and a cushion so you’re not so pressured toward the end.

5. Use your network.

Why go it alone when you can make use of your network to help you arrive at potential solutions, kick around ideas and gather suggested approaches? While the problem you’re facing may be something your network hasn’t experienced, the support and encouragement they offer will always help.

6. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Everyone approaches problem-solving based on their strengths and capabilities. Your approach may not look like someone else’s, but that doesn’t make it wrong. It’s just different. Avoid the temptation to compare your efforts with those of others. Do take note of what worked for them, however, as it might be something you can adapt to solve your problem.

7. Make sure to take a break.

Going full tilt ahead to solve a problem might lead to a crash. It’s important to pace yourself. Take time to reflect, do something you like or just relax. Take a walk, exercise, spend time with friends, or read a good book. When you’re enjoying yourself and not thinking so hard about the problem, your stress level reduces and your mind clears. Afterward, you may find you’ve arrived at the answer you need.

8. If you find a solution that works, keep it.

If you’ve used an approach that’s worked in the past, don’t automatically discard it when facing a new problem. Granted, each situation is different and may require a completely different strategy, but you’ve built up a toolkit of problem-solving techniques. You might as well use them. Even if you decide none of those work, knowing that you’ve overcome problems in the past gives you confidence you can do so again.

9. Learn from every mistake.

It may not seem like it at the time, but some of the biggest lessons come from mistakes. Maybe you jumped in without fully considering all the ramifications of your approach. Maybe you rushed into a potential solution and didn’t factor in sufficient time or resources. Maybe the approach that will work is a combination of techniques. By going through what didn’t work, and figuring out other ways to go at the problem, you’ll be gaining valuable insight that ultimately will help you solve it.

10. Celebrate accomplishments.

Once you do solve your problem, take a moment to celebrate the win. This helps reinforce in your mind that you have what it takes to tackle and solve problems, to deal with deadlines, complexities and difficulties. This strategy helps build your self-esteem at the same time it expands your mental energy for future problem-solving. Celebrating your accomplishments also gives you hope for the future and what you’ll be able to achieve.

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