Problem Solving – The Failure Game

Problem-Solving-101-No9Last lesson I suggested being open to test out various life situations whenever we have several possible solutions. If you start thinking about it, the possibilities are almost endless. Testing is how I found a solution for how to politely deal with those self absorbed talkers you’ll meet now and then e.g. at conferences.

We don’t get many things done, despite their importance, because the little voice inside of our heads finds “good” reasons against them. Asking for favors is such an example. I absolutely hate asking for favors. A couple of years ago I needed at least five recommendation letters from people who I haven’t worked with. Asking people you know for a favor is one thing but asking absolute strangers to write something positive about you is a total different ballgame.

Since you can ask everyone only once there seems to be zero room for experiments.

What to do? (more…)

Quick Tip No 26: Dealing with the Talker

Hello-my-name-is200This is the Scenario.: You are at a conference, and of course one of your main objectives is to make contacts with a lot of people. Everything goes well, you are having nice conversations about topics of mutual interest until you meet him: The Talker.

This guy (Yes, I always only experienced this with guys) keeps talking about absolutely everything and their mom. It’s all about him. Not only does he manage to jump from one topic to another, nothing that he is saying has the slightest overlap with your life. Even when you say something like “Cough, get me another coffee” or “I think my phone just rang”, he will stay at your side.

What to do in such situations? (more…)

Quick Tip No 25: Train or Car?


Can you remember going on road trips with your parents? I am sure it was different, but in my memory driving had nothing to do with vacation. Being in the car and on the road meant serious business. We had no unplanned stops unless the car was broken and absolutely no funny business changing the route spontaneously.  We never took the train to get anywhere, but it wouldn’t have made much difference.

In terms of planning I realized I am often like someone who drives a car like it was a train.  It’ll make sense, trust me. (more…)

Problem Solving – The Value of Testing EVERYTHING

Problem-Solving-101-No8This post marks the eighth lesson of the Problem Solving course. So far I walked you through the UPEC process and described how this process is a cycle in which you can refine the single blocks if you don’t find the right solution in the first run.

So eventually you will get to an actually working solution. I want to emphasize that these runs involve actual action (Execute).

When you are fixing a broken lamp you won’t strategize much, you would probably immediately change something and then turn the switch on and off after each modification until you found the problem. So basically each try is one quick UPEC cycle. It is quick because it is easy for you to keep track of the different options and outcomes you tested. A game changer is realizing that you can follow the same testing strategy “in real life”.



In real life?

I cannot speak for generations before me – all my working live computers already existed – but I noticed a tendency of many (including me) to treat much in life, i.e. all the things that really matter to us as if they were not real. As if was just a computer game we can play when we want, and pause it when we don’t. So often we pause and wait for some scripted magical intervention to happen. (more…)

Quick Tip No 24: How to Not Hate Your Job

gotpurposeIt is alarming when according to the frequently cited Gallup’s State of the American Workplace: 2010-2012 report 50% of all full time employees are not engaged at work and 20% (that is ~20 million people!) are even actively disengaged at work. As the study writes, these “are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive.”

Frustration often creeps into the work we are currently doing, be it in a job, as entrepreneur or elsewhere. Of course there is a multitude of reasons for why we can become disconnected with the work we are doing. For example micromanaging superiors, unpleasant clients, lack of incentives for good work, nasty colleagues, brutal competition, tedious routine, having no decision power, getting lost in micro-tasks, etc.
These all limit our motivation and can lead to a lack of confidence in the work we do and our future if we keep at it.

Even if we love our jobs there are still these phases when everything we do seems pointless. When we feel whatever we do has no purpose or impact. Those are the moments when we can easily become disconnected with our work.

We often hear how we have to follow our passion and do what we love. The problem is that we may be at the ground level, being busy earning the money and just surviving day by day. There is no passion lost in these moments, the thought of unfulfilled dreams and plans only adds to the frustration. Only after crawling out of this motivational ditch we can enjoy the luxury of thinking about what lies ahead in “Passion-Country”.

So how to regain motivation? (more…)

Quick Tip No 23: How to Criticize Someone

TalkA couple of weeks ago I wrote about the value of customer criticism. But what when it is you who has to deal some constructive criticism to people working with or under you?

It is often very difficult to voice criticism, because many take any kind of criticism personally or believe that by criticizing them you think you are better than them. People may also have a hard time accepting your opinion because they may think you are criticizing everything they do. After all, they may have worked hard and spent much time on the very thing you are so critically reviewing and therefore even think you do not have any right or basis to do so.

This is why criticism even when voiced with the best intentions often builds up unnecessary frontiers between you and them. These frontiers make it difficult to have a reasonable discussion and solve the problem at hand. So how to criticize someone? (more…)

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Scientifically Proven Benefits of Being Happy

Owl200As a psychologist , if you want to be taken seriously you better not talk about happiness, you call it subjective-well-being (SWB). Well, I am not a psychologist, and I am not afraid to talk about happiness. But, I think “the pursuit of happiness” means so much more than leaving everything behind for the gold rush or just putting a smile on every morning.
Those are two extremes in which happiness seems to be perceived. People on the one end of the spectrum are only happy when they hit it big, the others see happiness as a mask that has to be put on every day, regardless of their feelings. “Just gotta be happy”…

Of course, most of us operate in the area between. We are genuinely happy about a hot cup of coffee, the first spring day, our daughter’s twentieth stick drawing of a cat or that we did not lock the keys in the car again.

And we often wonder when someone wins big in the lottery how happy they must be. We are happy for someone winning a competition or getting married; there is so much to be happy about. But what makes us happy? And what does happiness mean for our lives? (more…)

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Quick Tip No 22: Active Inbox and Boomerang

Email 200This is another email related Quick Tip helping you to get control of your emails in Gmail. I have been pretty happy with my zero Inbox email strategy over the last six months with a few exceptions (more on that later). Key of this strategy is that I only check emails when I am able to act on them by

  • archiving or deleting after I’ve read them
  • answering if the reply takes less than two minutes (after that I archive it) or
  • transferring the emails as a task to Asana

As a result, I only check my emails a few times a day and I have no read emails in my inbox that still require some action. I absolutely agree with the reasons Leo Babauta from Zen Habits lists for Why Your Email Inbox Is NOT a Good To-do List. These are:

  1. You can’t change the subject lines.
  2. There might be multiple actions in each email
  3. You can’t re-order the emails (usually).
  4. You can’t prioritize your to-dos.
  5. An email inbox contains distractions.

I would add two more

  • You cannot add notes to emails
  • emails are always sitting there and don’t become visible on a certain deadline (more…)
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Quick Tip No 21: Embrace Positivity

Happy-ChuckPositivity is not like a shirt, which used to be hip in the 90’s and is now nothing more than a faded trend of the past. It’s a known mental hack and also, I am afraid, so overused that it probably leaves a stale taste in your mouth. Figuratively speaking of course. Don’t lick the screen!

But with all due seriousness, positivity is simply a state of mind, which when you are in it, makes your life much easier. It doesn’t mean you have to endure everything in life with a dimwitted smile. As I wrote before, “being positive includes how you start your day, how you react to changes, and what you draw out of anything that has happened”. In “be positive” I called it an action attitude, because a positive attitude makes it easier to initiate action. (more…)

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Problem Solving – Creating Ideas

Problem-Solving-101-No7This is the magical seventh lesson of the problem solving course. You can have the best approach to problem solving, but if you fail to come up with ideas for solutions then there is not much to solve, is there? I have touched on this part before (Planning Solutions Part 1), which makes this post the unofficial Planning solutions Part–2. I, however, decided to include methods I already mentioned to make this post a more useful resource beyond this course.

The following methods are very different, because some of them originate from very different situations. As such, some will work better for your situation and some will not work at all; Some may even sound like nonsense to you. My best advice for this situation in particular, as well as in life in general, is to keep an open mind. To support this open mindset, I suppressed the urge to categorize the methods below in any way. Please also keep in mind that a thorough understanding of your problem is the foundation of the entire process. An effective problem statement can make the difference between success and failure of your problem solving process. (more…)