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Problem-Solving 101 – Tip of the Week

If Everything is a Priority, then Nothing is a Priority!

Hello colleagues. It has been a minute since I last posted about simple tools, techniques, and best practices that are very effective in the decision-making and problem-solving processes. Truth is, I just returned from a much-deserved family vacation overseas and I feel reinvigorated and ready to get back to it!
Today we are going to discuss Prioritization.
For years I worked for leaders who considered every single task as Urgent! Everything, had to be done right away regardless of the affect it may or may not actually have on the business.
The definition of Priority is “a thing that is regarded as more important than another”.
Are you unconsciously, plowing through your to-do lists as if they are just a list of random tasks and obligations that need to be completed by some arbitrary deadline? Then you aren’t allowing yourself to give the proper attention to those things that will actually have a material impact on your business.
Instead, you are allowing the benign, mundane, and trite activities to, not only, drain your time but also drain your mind.
Stop! take a wide view of what is being asked of you on a daily basis, and make some cold, hard decisions about where you need to spend your time and energy.
I divide my To-Do list into 3 categories:
1.     Showstoppers!
2.     Should Do’s!
3.     The D’s!
These are the true Priorities. What are the critical activities that if you had no other commitments today, you would focus on only these because they would have the greatest impact on the long-term results of the business. Best case scenario if these aren’t being accomplished then your business is not meeting its full potential. Worst case? Your business might collapse. I can’t tell you what these responsibilities are; only you can do that and if you aren’t, your business and your mental health could be in serious trouble. These should get immediate and focused attention.
The Should Do’s
These are those tasks that are part of the day-to-day operation of your business such as speaking with customers, supervising staff, administrative duties like reviewing contracts, approving expenses, etc. These tasks must be completed but may have options as to when they should be done, how they should be done, and in some cases, who they should be done by.
The D’s
The D can stand for Defer, Delegate, or Drop! These are the activities that can either be done later, done by someone else, or should not be done at all. Many of these are so unimportant, that they probably aren’t even on your To-Do list. Casual browsing websites or social media, meaningless emails, unproductive meetings. These can be the biggest time-suckers of all.
Take some time today and really evaluate what you are spending your time on. I bet you will be very surprised with the results.
Stay well!
Problem-Solving 101 – Tip of the Week

Start with the Obvious

As I mentioned in a previous post, over the next few weeks, I am highlighting some simple tools, techniques, and best practices that are very effective in the decision-making and problem-solving processes. They are widely used, proven, and have effectively served me well in both my career and my life.
This week, I decided to start with one of the most basic of tools.
The Pros and Cons List.
Yes, it is exactly as it sounds. One of the simplest, but most effective ways to make an informed decision. Simply put, pros are good outcomes, and cons are bad.
Write down all of the potential benefits and consequences of any choices under consideration. Getting it out of your head and onto the page, prompts you to examine any and all possible outcomes. This also allows you to solicit feedback on your own entries or ask for suggestions from others on some you may have missed.
***Please see my previous post on the importance of writing things down and getting them out of your head***
This tool is as simple as they come. However, it can and should be more rigorous than it sounds. Take the time to think through all of the effects and outcomes and the short and long term ramifications of each.
Additionally, you can assign a value to each pro and con. Add the totals of each column and quantify the best course of action. If either column has a significantly higher value, then it is probably the right choice.
Now, determining whether an outcome is a pro or con is based solely on your perception. Deliberately and attentively considering all of the possible outcomes should help you remove strong feelings and emotions from the process and potentially lead you toward a more rational choice.
Next time you have a decision to make, give this exercise a try. It may not necessarily make the final decision any easier to accept but it should ease your mind in knowing that it is most likely the correct decision.

Stay well
Problem Solving 101 - Tip of the Week.

Keep It Simple Stupid

This is how the acronym KISS was explained to me many years ago.
I don’t know if this would fly today so I normally say Keep It Simple and Straightforward.
I am a big fan of clichés. Yeah, I know they are unoriginal, trite, and overused but they are also very useful. They make it easier for us to remember important things and are often just the most effective way to say something, Keeping it Simple. One of my favorites is:
“The simplest solution is almost always the best”.
I don’t know why but people tend to make things more difficult than they need to be. I have heard it referred to as Complexity Bias. In order for things to be good they must be complex. We are suspicious of the Simple.
I am the opposite, I believe that if you keep things simple, logical, and pragmatic then it is easier to evaluate, understand, and see a path forward.
This is how I look at problems. Many people see problems as one big and scary obstacle. I see the problem as the sum of its parts. I break the problem down into smaller, manageable actions. I then lay them out, prioritize them, assess the level of effort to resolve them and then place them in a structured, methodical plan that I will follow to eliminate them one-by-one.
The plan will detail:
·      What needs to happen?
·      Who needs to do it (not always me)?
·      How will it get done?
·      When does it need to be done by?
As I close out each and every item on my plan, that problem gets smaller and closer to the point where it’s no longer scary or overwhelming.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be posting tools, techniques, and best practices here that are, in a word, Simple. However, they are very effective in the decision-making and problem-solving processes. They are widely used, proven, and have effectively served me well in both my career and my life. If you’re not using them, I highly recommend that you try them out.

Stay well my friends!
Problem Solving 101 -- Tip of the Week

Time Management is a Fallacy!

Don't believe me?
OK, let’s conduct an exercise.
Do you feel you struggle managing your time?
Do you feel you have a never-ending to do list?
Is your to do list actually not a simple, organized list but some random entries on a piece of paper, white board, word document, or spreadsheet?
Is your to do list also made up of scattered Post-it notes, scribbles on the back of envelopes, napkins, and/or scrap paper?
Is your to do list also made up of saved and/or unreturned emails, voicemails, or text messages?
Does your to do list also include Internet windows that you leave open for days on end because you "will find the time" to get back to that website, company, individual, or article that you were exploring?
Do you feel like you are constantly juggling 25 rubber balls at any given time?
How many balls do you drop on a daily basis?
It’s OK if you drop some, right? They are made of rubber. They will just
bounce back up for you to catch and start juggling them again with the rest of the rubber balls.
Just like items on your to do list.
If you don’t get to it today it’ll just bounce to tomorrow’s list, or the next day's list, or next week's list etc.
It’s a good thing they’re made of rubber!
What if all of them are not made of rubber?
What if some of them are made of glass?
No, you Do Not have a Time Management problem!
What you have is a Prioritization problem!
Problem Solving 101 – Tip of the Week

Get Out of Your Own Head!

Getting your thoughts, ideas, goals, plans, concerns, questions, etc. out of your head and written down can feel so good! It will do wonders for your productivity as well as your mental health.
First of all, it clears your mind!
We as humans will have nearly 60,000 thoughts each and every day. Most of them – almost 95% - will be repetitive and a concerning amount – nearly 75% - will be negative.
I think it is obvious how having that many negative thoughts daily will affect our state of mind. Increased stress, anxiety, and a general sense of unhappiness. This can lead to feelings of not being able to take positive action to get things done and move forward.
Additionally, running the same thoughts over and over again in your head, whether positive or negative, affects your focus, your creativity, and your decision-making abilities.
What to do?
Document It! Track It! Control It!
Freeing the information from our minds and documenting it forces us to focus on one idea at a time. It will allow you to really develop the idea and not just the words. You will also find that there will be things related to those ideas that you didn’t even realize you weren’t considering because the same thoughts keep repeating over and over; not letting new information take shape and take hold.
You will be able to clarify and prioritize your intentions. As Fitzhugh Dodson once said, “A goal not written down is nothing more than a wish”. Writing things down makes them real. They now require your attention and commitment to clarify, develop, and expand. You now possess a tangible thing that requires action.
You also have control over the narrative. Those negative thoughts can be mitigated by creating plans, prioritizing tasks, and tracking your progress. Those big scary problems don’t seem so scary when you break them down into smaller, manageable, achievable tasks. Confirm your progress as you tick them off, one by one, as completed. It also allows you to see where you are spending your time and energy and helps you to decide if these tasks need to be done by you, should be tackled in a different way, can be delegated, or aren’t even important enough to be given any attention at all.
Problem Solving 101 - Tip of the Week

Idiots will be Idiots
I know that might sound harsh, but it is true. As the immortal Forrest Gump says, “stupid is as stupid does”. So, what’s my point?

Until AI completely takes over the world and renders our species obsolete, humans still have to do actual human tasks. So, unless your intention is to automate every single task, process, and interaction that your business requires, I caution against trying to over-customize the capabilities and functionality of your technology in a futile attempt to make it Idiot-Proof.

At its core, Software is intended to turn Data into Information. That information enables humans to make decisions. If your employees are already struggling to make data-driven decisions, then the problem isn’t your technology; it is your employees.

The more tasks you attempt to automate and take away from your employees can cause unintended consequences. Over-reliance on technology can create complacency. An expectation that the software answers every question and makes every decision. Essential skills will erode, institutional knowledge will fade, and the ability to intervene manually will cease to exist.

So, before you spend a bunch of time and money designing a solution intended to overcompensate for bad human behavior, ask yourself…

“Am I just making it easier for the Idiots to be Idiots?”
Problem Solving 101 - Tip of the Week
Why do you do what you do?
Often, I am coaching a small business leader through a key decision making process that has them exasperated and overwhelmed at deciding between multiple courses of action. This is when I will ask them if they have defined the Mission, Vision, Values, and Objectives for their business.

Most of the time the answer goes something like this...
"Is that important?"
"What are those?"
Mission, Vision, Values, and Objectives.
Or more specifically...
What is it that you do?
How do you do it?
Why do you do it?
What do you intend to accomplish?
If you haven't defined these for your business yet, then I suggest you hold off making any major decisions until you do. Then, when facing a critical business predicament, take each of the options available to you and validate them against your Mission, Vision, Values, and Objectives. If they don't align, then why are they even under consideration?
I hated networking...It is now one of my favorite activities!


One of my greatest fears and primary reasons that caused me to delay making the leap into entrepreneurship was "how would I be able to develop business and attract clients". The thought of networking scared the heck out of me because I did not think I would be particularly good at it. Turns out that 3 years into my entrepreneurial journey it has become one of my favorite activities. Here are some reasons why...
1. As an entrepreneur I have this innate curiosity. Taking the opportunity to learn about people's origin stories, their journeys, why and how they do what they do is fascinating to me.
2. I don't always need to have some prepared speech or sales pitch. It is not a presentation; It is a conversation. Not everyone I speak with is necessarily a prospective client. In many cases I have instead
become their customer, collaboration partner, referral source, information resource, or just a new friend and colleague.
3. It turns out that I am more comfortable talking about my story than I thought I would be. Why? Because I am passionate about what I do and why I do it. The reason I am building the businesses I am building is because of my story and my belief that I can help others based on my own experiences. The more I tell my story I see how much it resonates with people and validates my hypotheses.​

Check out this article from Forbes on networking...

Future Leaders - Networking Is A Critically Important Skill

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