The worst way to solve a problem is to not define it correctly, as we discussed in my previous post. The best way to rectify the problem with problems and solutions is to recall something you used in grade school called the scientific method. The words scientific and method, I know, do not fill you with inspiration, excitement, or even hope (unless you are scientist, maybe?). But everyone wants to save time; it’s your most precious resource. So let’s take advantage of the work scientists have shared with us.
We’re going to adapt the scientific method for our purposes. Traditionally, the first step is to define a question and step two is to gather relevant information. We’ll loosely call this the problem(s) you defined through my previous post. Next, create a hypothesis. In this case, devise a solution that directly solves your problem (or component of the problem).
The next few steps are to test the hypothesis by performing an experiment, collecting data, and analyzing the data. The experiment in this case is testing out the solution you created. Let’s say you struggle with mail management and other papers coming into your home, missing bill payments and misplacing important papers. The problem isn’t that you’re simply overwhelmed or too busy when you walk through the door as much as there is no system in place for you (and perhaps your partner) to follow. The hypothesis is that with a new system in place, you will be able to adapt your behavior and be organized. The experiment you create involves getting a mail sorter and recycling bin which you place by the door. The mail sorter is labeled with categories that seem appropriate given the type of mail you receive and papers that make their way in. Whoever gets the mail recycles anything clearly not needed and organizes the remaining pieces of mail and papers into the sorter.
The next scientific method action is to draw conclusions. Did the experiment work? Work a little? Or not at all? Often times this serves as a starting point for a new hypothesis and the last step which is retesting. You may need to retest multiple times, tweaking along the way. Maybe the categories didn’t capture your needs even though the process worked well, so you adjust the categories and test again. Maybe you find that only one of you is good at or more available for this job so one of you takes full responsibility for paper handling. Maybe you find that the process is helpful but the shear volume of mail makes it too time consuming and inefficient, so you work on ways to reduce your mail volume (ex. more e-statements and bills, remove yourself from mailing lists). Keep tweaking.
In the end, you will have a tailored solution to your well-articulated problem. Life experiments are an effective way to change your situation for the better. It’s an iterative process which may even lead you to discover that your problem statements weren’t accurate. Redefining your problems can offer clarity about your situation.
Be the creative scientist of your life to find the peace and organization that you seek.