If there’s one thing everyone could probably do without, it’s a high-stress environment at work. Looming deadlines, impromptu meetings, unanswered emails– sometimes it feels like there are endless amounts of problems that need to be solved.
One way to get ahead of that seemingly never-ending task list is to learn how to approach it differently. Reacting to a situation in the moment can make you feel like you’re keeping a bunch of plates spinning and hoping none of them fall. Slow your thought process and follow our five steps to create a more proactive mindset in the workplace.
1. Take a moment to pause
The last thing you might want to do when something suddenly pops up at work is let it sit there unresolved. We’ve definitely been there, so we get it! The problem with constantly reacting immediately to a problem is that you’re not giving yourself time to understand the situation in the first place.
If the building is not physically burning to the ground, chances are you have time to take a moment to formulate a plan. Ask yourself:
- Do I have the capacity to solve this right now?
- Is there someone I can collaborate with on this?
- Who is affected by this?
- Is this something that keeps happening?
When you give yourself time to think, you give yourself time to plan. Creating a long-term solution that can be utilized in future situations is the ultimate goal with problem-solving.
2. Avoid jumping to conclusions
It’s rarely effective to start solving a problem before you have all the info you need to work through it. When you experience problems that feel like they need to be solved ASAP, your brain can go haywire. You could end up wasting time on a solution that’s not even relevant to the issue in the first place.
Stay patient and collect all the information you can before diving in head first. The more info you have, the easier it will be to steer clear of panic mode and better prepare yourself for long-term problem-solving.
3. Consider other people’s perspectives
One of the perks of being part of a team is the ability to bounce ideas off other people. You are in your current position because you know what you’re doing and you deserve to be there. But that doesn’t mean you know everything (no one does).
Even if you have a solid plan for how to move forward on your own, add it to your issues list for your next weekly meeting so others can weigh in. Having different perspectives can help reshape the way you approach situations and lead to a more diverse range of creative solutions.
4. Turn it into a teaching moment
“I’ll just do it myself.” Oof… Have you ever heard yourself saying this? Even if it’s well-intended in an effort to help out, it definitely can communicate a lack of confidence in your team.
You may have more experience in these situations, but give your team the learning opportunity to figure out their own (and possibly better!) way to win:
- Break it down into digestible steps
- Walk them through the situation
- Brainstorm together
- Work together to build a long-term strategy
Even though you might feel like you’re slowing down, you’ll save time in the long run if you have someone new to help you out in the future.
5. Don’t forget about #SelfCare
We’re serious about this one! When it comes down to learning how to plan for long-term success, make sure you’re taking care of yourself first. That fight-or-flight feeling when you’re stressed out is real, and it is a huge part of why you may fall into those “reactive” habits in the first place.
If you find yourself getting too stressed out to effectively prepare for long-term problem solving, don’t be afraid to do something for yourself:
- Have your lunch break away from your computer (and phone)
- Go for a walk around the block
- Take a brain break
- Read a blog or listen to a podcast
- Get enough rest
Taking time away from the situation at hand is often exactly what you need to figure out an actual solution, instead of getting stuck in the same reactive pattern over and over again.