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02 July 2021

How to improve your problem-solving skills.

Being able to solve problems is a life skill that some people seem to manage better than others.

We all deal with and overcome small and large problems every day. But some problems can appear more challenging than others.

Solving problems is something you can learn, practice and improve over time. So if you often feel stuck or uncertain when a difficult situation arises, read on for some tips for building your problem-solving capacity.

What is a problem?

A problem is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “a situation, person or thing that needs attention and needs to be dealt with or solved.”

The problem may be a task, a relationship, a big decision to make, a health issue or even a new situation that feels outside of your comfort zone. Solving the problem involves acknowledging it, figuring out how to fix it if it can be fixed and then taking action.

Why build problem-solving skills?

  • Improve resilience and your ability to respond when something unexpected happens
  • Build confidence that you can handle different situations
  • Reduce uncertainty and build the courage to take action
  • Become calmer in new or unfamiliar situations
  • Decrease stress and anxiety.

5 ways to improve your problem-solving skills.

#1 Get creative.

Founder of Uber, Travis Kalanick once said, “Every problem has a solution. You just have to be creative enough to find it.”

Getting creative will help you develop new ideas and solutions. Undertaking any creative endeavour such as art, woodwork, gardening or music can help develop problem-solving skills.

Brainstorming is also great for generating ideas. This relaxed approach to problem-solving involves coming up with ideas without judgement. You may be surprised how creative you can be when there’s no filter applied!  Brainstorming can be done with a blank sheet of paper, a whiteboard, sticky notes or an online tool or app.

#2 Develop a system or ritual.

Research some different problem-solving techniques and see which one works best for you. Then use it regularly so that it becomes a habit.

Different approaches include:

  • Trial and error
  • Breaking the problem into steps or smaller parts and solving them individually
  • Mindmapping can help you break the problem down or group possible solutions
  • Act out possible solutions or scenarios. For example, practice a difficult conversation.
  • Start with a solution and work backward.

#3 Puzzles and games.

Just about any type of puzzle or game can help improve your ability to solve problems. And you can have fun along the way! Some options to try:

#4 Books and workbooks.

There are loads of books on problem-solving strategies that can help you to build skills.

John Adair’s book Decision Making and Problem-solving has loads of practical exercises and templates to help you solve problems at work.

Another great resource is bestselling book Bulletproof Problem-solving by Charles Conn and Robert McLean.

There are also problem-solving workbooks for all ages and skill levels available from online book stores.

#5 Phone a friend.

There’s a popular saying “a problem shared is a problem halved”. Not only is it useful to share a problem with someone you trust, it is also helpful to talk with friends, family members or colleagues about how they solve problems.

Everyone has their own problem-solving strategies so ask someone you know and respect what works for them. Ask them to give you an example of a situation where the strategy has worked so you can try it out for yourself.

And finally, remember that not every problem has a solution. If you’re facing a problem that can be solved, implement your strategies and take steps to move towards a solution. If it can’t be solved, let it go and move on.

Leap in! can help. 

We specialise in supporting our members at each step of the NDIS process – from preparing for their first NDIS Plan to managing budgets, paying providers providing advice and helping to solve problems too!

To get in touch with our experienced team, call 1300 05 78 78, email crew@leapin.com.au or chat with us online.

Further Reading

12 tips for building confidence and self-esteem.

A guide to mindfulness apps.

Round up of gadgets that can make your life easier.