Problem solving skills are in high demand at job sites and universities around the globe for a good reason. Simply put, if you know how to solve problems effectively, you have a better chance of succeeding in your professional life. You also are better equipped to handle personal strife. Of course, problem-solving skills aren’t something you either have or don’t have. On the contrary, you can build your problem-solving prowess with some effort.
Here are 15 fool-proof ways to improve your problem-solving skills.
1. Get Some Sleep
Sleep is a funny thing because scientists aren’t quite sure why we need it. They do know, however, that to be effective critical thinkers, we must get good rest. As such, if you are looking to enhance your problem-solving skills, you must commit to getting a good night’s sleep. Most experts recommend slumbering for at least eight hours every night.
When you reach REM sleep, your mind makes useful associations between unrelated ideas.
That’s right, your brain continues to solve problems when you are asleep. If you have difficulty getting enough shut-eye, you may want to power down your electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime. You may also want to work yourself into a sleep habit, trying to avoid naps and go to bed at the same time every day.
2. Open Your Mind
Unfortunately, many individuals have difficulty solving problems due to their inability to open their minds. That is, falling victim to a know-it-all fallacy is a certain way to fall short of your critical-thinking goals. If you want to solve a complex problem, try a basic approach. Forget what you know about the subject and ask some fundamental questions.
By looking at an issue from a novice perspective, you can often find solutions you previously overlooked.
Be careful, though, as opening your mind is not as easy as it sounds. On the contrary, you must be aware of your mental biases. Then, you must strive to overcome these if you want to think critically. Before attempting to solve problems, make an inventory of your mental blocks. Ask friends, family members and coworkers to help you identify them.
3. Pick The Right Problem To Solve
Learning how to solve problems in the most effective way possible requires an ability to pick the right issue to tackle. Often, individuals look for solutions to problems that don’t exist. As you may suspect, this often cripples a person’s critical-thinking abilities. Whether you are trying to solve a specific problem or boost your overall problem-solving skills, you must work on your identification talents.
Try to strip issues down to component parts. Then, look at each to determine which issues require solutions. Remember, only when you have specifically identified the problem can you begin to solve it.
4. Stand And Dance
There are two general approaches to solving problems. One is specific, requiring you to focus on an issue. The other is general, opening your mind to think differently. If you are stuck at a desk, you may be following the first approach while neglecting the second. Physical movement is often a successful way to groove the sort of neuromuscular pathways that make solving problems easier.
Simply standing and dancing around for a bit can help you think more clearly. If you want the full effect from physical movements, though, engage in structured dance. Doing so improves neural processing and helps create workarounds to dopamine-deficient parts of your brain.
5. Listen To Music Regularly
Music lovers have long appreciated the brain boost they get from their favorite tunes. Additionally, physicians and therapists understand that individuals often do better on cognitive tests while listening to music. The good news is you don’t have to listen to classical or other intellectual pieces to see problem-solving benefits.
On the contrary, all music types help boost cognitive functionality. Therefore, if you don’t regularly listen to music, you may want to start.
6. Look For The Root Of Your Problem
Many problems have symptoms. When you are trying to solve them, focusing on symptoms can serve as a red herring. To know the difference between a problem’s root and it symptoms, develop a problem-diagraming protocol. When you correctly identify the root cause, you can formulate solutions for it. Remember, treating symptoms is not actually solving problems.
Still, you may not locate the root of a problem until you resolve some symptoms. As such, try to think of problems as complicated creatures. While they often have a nucleus, finding it can be challenging. Therefore, start with appendages and work your way to the center. With discipline, you train your brain to more quickly identify the root cause of problems you plan to solve.
7. Think Simply
Sometimes, fixing a problem doesn’t require a complicated solution. While some conundrums are complex, most have a straightforward solution. Still, you may feel overwhelmed by the complexity of a situation. An overworked brain is often an ineffective one. Therefore, you must train yourself to give your brain a break. By following a simple, creative approach to solving problems, you can avoid mental fatigue.
8. Carry An Idea Journal With You
Brains function best when they have an outlet for creativity. As such, anything you can do to get creative juices flowing can help you with achieve your problem-solving goals. One idea is to carry a creative journal with you. When you have an important thought, interesting experience or another mental burst, you can jot it down. You can also use your journal as a sketchpad. You may be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to solve problems when you carry paper with you wherever you go.
9. Play Puzzle Games
If you are a lawyer, you probably remember doing logic puzzles to prepare for the LSAT. Examiners love these types of games, as they demonstrate problem-solving skills. They can also help you boost your critical-thinking abilities, as they require you to look at problems from different angles. If you want to better solve problems, join a chess club or do a Sudoku puzzle every morning.
Like with dancing, yoga helps you develop some important neural connections. When you master yoga, you develop a deeper awareness about your body and mind. You also learn how control breathing. By taking a class, you connect with a variety of interesting people. By interacting with others while exercising your mind and body, you enhance your overall cognitive abilities. After just a few sessions, you should notice an improvement in your problem-solving skills.
11. Visualize Problems
Before you can solve a problem, you must understand what it is. Because thinking about concepts that are in your mind can be confusing, you may wish to visualize the problem by drafting a mind map. This tool is simply a graphic representation of the issue you are tackling. Try to identify the root of the problem and locate it at the middle of your map. Then, create related offshoots to assist you with solving critical issues. Since drawing a picture helps you explore facets of problems you may not have appreciated, it is an effective strategy for increasing problem-solving abilities.
12. Get Some Distance
Psychological distance is creating separation between the problem and what is happening now. When you leave the problem behind, your brain has the space it needs to perform better. Instead of obsessing over solutions, take a mental walk. You may discover that your brain has identified solutions when you were not consciously focused on finding them.
13. Play Sports
Football, soccer, basketball and other sports require you to solve problems quickly. Meanwhile, while you are on the field or court, your body is engaging in physical activity. The combination trains your brain to think critically. That is, you convince your brain to function at a higher level by introducing physical stress and rapid decision-making.
Trying to solve problems on your own can be difficult. That is, you simply may lack the resources you need to conquer tough challenges. When you work with others, you take advantage of their strengths. You also see problems in different ways. The synergy that collaboration creates has both short and long-term benefits. Therefore, whether you need to solve a problem now or want to improve your overall critical-thinking abilities, working with others is worthwhile.
15. Have Fun
Your brain works best when it isn’t bored. While not all problem-solving activities are entertaining, you should try to keep your brain engaged. The more creative you can be in your critical-thinking ventures, the better your brain will likely perform.
Problem-solving skills are essential for both personal and professional success. While honing your critical-thinking abilities may seem daunting, it is worth the effort. Remember, problem solving isn’t only about meeting immediate challenges.
On the contrary, if you can think critically, you are in the best possible position to address many different situations throughout your lifetime. Fortunately, problem-solving abilities are not entirely innate. Instead, you can likely boost your critical-thinking skills by taking a holistic approach.