A principled way to solve problems

Today I’m writing some short thoughts on how to design solutions or decide on actions when you face a new problem.

TL;DR constantly ask yourself what you are trying to do.

One of the main lessons I’ve learned in this short time working in research (as an intern), is to be methodological. Especially when you are doing something from scratch, when there isn’t a clear roadmap, or when there is a lot of uncertainty and many options/things to do.

Currently, I’m following a tiny framework, I didn’t read or hear about it, it just felt right and it’s helping me in these kinds of situations. It can be summarized as: constantly ask yourself what you’re trying to do.

In situations like the described above, it’s really easy to lose focus and start thinking of different courses of action that might be interesting but deviate from your original objective. If you don’t do this reality check you can end up solving a problem that you didn’t want to, you can end up building a solution that you didn’t need, or you can just lose a lot of time since you end up designing something far more complex than needed.

The principled way to solve problems is the following:

  1. Ask yourself what’s the problem you’re trying to solve

    Be sure that you understand it deeply, and that you at least have an idea of how would you know that the problem is solved.

  2. Propose a course of action

  3. Remind yourself: what I was trying to do?

  4. Ask the question: does doing this solve my problem?

    Doing this should transform your problem into your imaginary solved problem (that’s why it’s important to have an idea of how does the solved problem looks like)

  5. Do I need to do this? All actions should be needed for solving the problem. Any action that is not obviously needed, should be discarded

I hope this was useful for you or at least made you think a little about how you are solving problems.

Thanks for reading :)

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