Okay — the title might be a little misleading. If you just robbed a bank and are evading the authorities, this post will probably not work for you (sorry). But for most business and career problems — this will do just fine.

Let me start by explaining what I call “The Whirlwind”.

What’s a “Whirlwind”? The offficial definition is: Whirlwind – Noun
1 : a small rotating windstorm of limited extent
2 : a confused rush : a whirlwind of meetings
3 : a violent or destructive force

Whenever we are faced with a powerful problem in our lives, we probably encounter The Whirlwind. It is a violent force that spins out of control in our heads. It mixes up our current thought processes, past failures, and future fears. In addition, it easily combines straightforward facts with a bevy of crazy emotions. To make it worse, there is usually a time, importance, or personnel component that just adds to the anxiety and severity.

And you wonder why you can’t solve this problem.

What we normally do is keep this Whirlwind bottled up in our heads. We might even talk to a number of people about it — but most of the time, it just gets worse and you rarely ever solve the problem.

So what do you do?
Get The Whirlwind Out Of Your Head!

You need a process to eliminate ALL emotions from your problem solving and develop factual options which eventually lead to a solution. Follow these rules to the letter (no deviation!):

  1. Take out a sheet of paper or stand at a whiteboard.
  2. Have a pencil or whiteboard marker ready to go.
  3. At the top of the page (or board), write what the problem is. Be clear, succinct, and ensure that it covers what the problem is. As an example, you can write: “Interpersonal Issues With Tom: Duties, Meetings, Staff”.
  4. Define The Problem. Here’s the catch: it can only be no more than 3 bullet points. Example:
    a. Tom cannot keep to his promised deadlines (over-promise, under-deliver).
    b. Tom has a hard time staying focused at his meetings and loses control of the group.
    c. Tom’s staff is unfocused and are now coming to me for direction.
  5. Develop possible solutions to each of the bullet points. Example:
    a. Tom cannot keep to his promised deadlines (over-promise, under-deliver).
    – Talk to Tom about this situation – refer to facts and instances only. Ask him how he would solve the problem.
    – Begin to manage Tom more closely. Schedule frequent, regular, but short meetings to cover progress.
    – Uncover what is the ‘real’ cause of Tom’s inability to meet deadlines.
    – Follow up after one month – track progress.
  6. Sometimes you might need to do a PROS & CONS list. Especially when balancing a difficult decision.

Bottom line — get the Whirlwind out of your head and get it on paper. You’ll find that it will be so much easier to solve and you’ll feel better in the long run.