How to Solve Problems

No one would fix a car without knowledge of its mechanics, yet we all try to solve problems even though we know that we don’t know what to do.  Well, good for us! Problem-solving inspires education and the creative use thereof.

The following process, which uses writing to solve problems, will help you arrive at solutions by organizing your mind, clarifying your thoughts, and eliminating confusion:

  • In detail, list all your problems in writing.
  • Write a new list that groups similar or related problems. (Similar problems might appear in many groups. This indicates a major problem that you previously failed to recognize. Solve a major problem and many related problems fall away. Adjust your list accordingly.)
  • Using the grouped list, rank the groups from most to least serious.
  • Pick the top group to resolve. (You will revisit or revise the list as things change.)
a knotty problem
Example of knots

Clarify your thinking:

  • Say to yourself “If everything was perfect, this would happen.” Describe in detailed writing your imagined perfect outcome. (This clarifies your objectives.)
    • Out of your “if everything was perfect” description, list what things already exist in your life that provide partial solutions to your problem. Once you recognize them, you can set them aside. They are “done.”
    • Out of your “if everything was perfect” description:
      • Note what components (parts) you need to know, have, or do.
      • Based on that list, write out what small and potentially easy changes you can immediately do to satisfy these needs, then do them immediately, starting with the easiest.
  • Repeat this process at “Clarify your thinking” when the situation changes, or when you move on to solving additional problems you initially identified.

If, over time, your anxiety increases, repeat the entire process by identifying all your problems, then reducing them from a large, knotty mess, to the ones that need the most immediate attention.

Questions? Comments? Ask Karen Little at


All rights reserved by Littleviews and Karen Little.