We spend most of the day at work, solving problems on a daily basis. What we often forget is that many of the tools for problem solving that we use at work can be very useful for our personal lives as well. Problem solving for life follows a similar process to that in business.
Our personal and professional lives are always busy, and sometimes we don’t give our personal difficulties the same type of attentiveness we give to our business problems. It is in the personal sphere, though, where we can have the most impact in our lives overall, freeing more time and space to be more creative and feel fulfilled.
A Guide to Personal Problem Solving
There are certain practices you can use to upgrade the way you manage tasks in your personal life, like creating processes and even carving out time to focus on resolving the issue. While I sometimes forget to apply the same type of discipline I use at work to my personal problems, I have found that when I do engage that discipline, I see great results. These practices can be applied to the types of personal problems that we face which can be anything from tackling weekly meals, shopping, or even planning our travel.
1. Select a Problem that Needs Resolution
The first thing that needs to happen when solving a problem is to give it proper attention. In the same way you have handled so many other problems at work, you can also find a good answer for this challenge. The difficulty you want to work on may be staring you straight in the face, such as the thousands of pictures in your phone that are taking up valuable available space. It may likewise be less obvious, like a hidden expenditure of too many hours on a task that could be shortened, such as grocery shopping.
2. Make Room in Your Schedule
Utilize your calendar. In the same way you schedule meetings at work, you can also schedule a block of time to work on a personal issue. Granted, we don’t have the luxury of eight dedicated hours a day to solve things we are working on, but an hour or two a week will make a difference for your personal life.
Making room also means finding a physical space in your home where you will not be interrupted. I know how hard it can be, especially when there are children in the house, but ideally, the more protected the space, the more efficient your blocked-off time will be.
Sometimes the best solutions come from those around us, from those that have faced the same problem and have figured out what works and what doesn’t. People around us have many answers, particularly if they live in your city. Other problems, however, are unique, and research is then the best option. In this instance, the Internet can be your best friend. Whatever the challenge you are facing, I guarantee someone else in the world has already faced it.
When I was starting to travel with a toddler on airplanes, I remember worrying over how I was going to manage my daughter’s stroller and car seat on the plane and how on earth I was going to be able to entertain her for hours. I discovered some amazing forums of parents with the same concerns, which I pored over for hours and found every bit of information I needed.
4. Use Some of the Solutions from Work
A lot of the work we do in the office is about being more effective at achieving results. The same can be applied to your personal life. For example, some of the checklists, processes, and templates used in the office are great mechanisms for remembering and simplifying tasks that need to be done at home. You can create a process, for instance, for each time you are planning a family vacation, including booking airplane and hotel reservations and printing out your packing checklist. Another idea that has worked well for me is setting up monthly reminders to pay my credit card bills. Ever since I set these reminders, I never miss a payment.
Experimenting is just as important in life as it is in business. Not all solutions will be perfect the first time they are implemented but making room for trial and error and refinement will allow the best solution to emerge eventually. As we continued to travel with toddlers in airplanes, we tried many ways of traveling with a stroller and car seat. We started by checking our own car seat and stroller, and then we bought a portable stroller and car seat and carried on the stroller. Ultimately, now we rent car seats when we need them and travel with one portable stroller (which we check) for three children under six. We had to go through the learning process, though, to find out what worked best for us.
One final piece of advice: if something has worked in the past, use it again. Different strategies work for different people, so it all depends on your context and household dynamics. If something worked before (checklists and reminders, in my case), it’s for a reason, so try to adapt it to the new situations you are facing. Take the time to work on your problems; you deserve it!