How to Solve Problems


Webster's dictionary defines a problem as "a question raised for inquiry, consideration or solution." Problems arise in business, in school and in everyday life. Some problems can be overwhelming, so many people use proven techniques to manage and solve them.

  • Identify your problem. With any problem, the first step you must take is to identify your problem clearly and concisely. As an example, an on-call worker and family man's problem is that he needs to manage his time more effectively.

  • Determine what you want to achieve. This step is where you indicate your goals. Determine why you want to solve this problem and how solving this problem will benefit you. Using the aforementioned example, the on-call worker should determine what he needs to accomplish in a day, a week and a month. He should also write down the tasks that he would be able to complete if he managed his time more effectively.

  • Develop possible solutions and identify any potential obstacles. The book "Problem Solving" advises that you determine an obstacle to each potential solution you develop. If possible, write down three potential solutions to your problem and a pitfall to each solution. In the time management example, three possible solutions include writing down a daily routine, waking up earlier in the morning and foregoing one hour of evening television time. An obstacle associated with a daily routine is that the worker is on-call basis and his schedule fluctuates. An obstacle he may experience associated with waking up earlier in the morning is that he may not get enough sleep. Finally, an obstacle associated with foregoing an hour of television in the evening is that his favorite shows are on in the evening.

  • Choose the best solution. There are benefits and obstacles associated with each potential solution. You must choose the most effective and feasible solution. You can also use more than one of your potential solutions. In the time management example, if the worker decides that the best solution is foregoing one hour of television, he may also decide that it may not be a bad idea to write down a daily routine.

  • Develop a plan. Decide how, when, where and with whom you are going to implement your solution. Also decide how you are going to overcome any obstacles. In the example, the worker has decided to forgo television in the evening and develop a written routine. He decides to write out his routine at home with the help of his spouse. Although he is an on-call worker, he can still write a routine and change the routine according to his work schedule as needed. His spouse also agrees to record his favorite shows for him to watch on the weekend when he has more free time.

  • Follow through with your plan. This is where you implement and maintain your plan. Upon implementation and maintenance, you have solved your problem.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep a log of your past problems for reference.
  • Minor problems, such as deciding what to wear, do not require such detailed analysis.
  • To minimize stress, try to solve one problem at a time.

Related Searches


  • Merriam-Webster: Problem
  • "Creative Problem Solving for Managers: Developing Skills for Decision Making"; Tony Proctor; 2010
  • "Problem Solving"; Facts on File, Inc; 2009
  • Photo Credit Images
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