As a software engineer, my main job is to solve problems. I am faced with business and customer problems every day. After years of solving problems, I have developed my own theory on problems and the problem-solving process.
The first step to solving a problem is to face it
It is tempting to run away from or avoid a hard problem. It seems like the human psyche likes to pretend that a problem does not exist, or that it will go away on its own. But rarely do problems resolve themselves. It takes a conscious decision on one’s part to face a problem straight-on. If you refuse to acknowledge a problem, you will not solve it.
I have found that avoiding or ignoring a problem is the worst way to handle it. Whenever I have tried avoiding a problem, be it at work or in my personal life, I eventually found myself facing a bigger problem.
To avoid major problems, solve the simple problems
A lot of the time, the underlying cause of a major problem is a litany of simple problems. Small problems can become large problems if left alone. If you let your email pile up and start using your inbox as a to-do list, you may find thousands of unread mail in your inbox. And then you start to wonder why you are losing track of important things.
If you solve the small problems promptly, you avoid the risk of them blowing up into major problems. Solving multiple simple problems tends to require less effort than solving one major complex problem.
The more you procrastinate, the bigger the problem becomes
Problems tend to grow with time. A simple problem that could have been nipped in the bud early can spiral out of control if not resolved in a timely fashion. Your car may not have broken down if you had sent it in for servicing when it started making a weird noise.
I used to sit on a problem even when I knew that it was urgent because I was afraid to deal with the negative emotions. By not dealing with the problem, I was avoiding having to deal with being stressed out and feeling bad. The one thing that I found to have really helped for me is to focus on the problem itself, not the emotional…