Mei 16, 2012

Overwhelmed

I talk to a lot of people, and they often told me that they are overwhelmed. In the spirit of problem solving, I find it interesting to take a look at this common condition using the IDOAIM framework.

Identify the reason: Do we want to stop feeling overwhelmed? This sounds like a silly question, but I found some people "enjoy" being overwhelmed. It gives them opportunity to talk, to complain, to be the center of attention. Yes, I agree that it is sick to be that way, but it is a sick fact. So, before moving forward, let's see if we really want to stop being overwhelmed. For example: we have been missing a good peaceful sleep because of stress and sleep is really, really something of value for us.

Once we identify the reason, the stronger reason the better, of working on this problem, we move on.

Define the problem: "Overwhelmed" is a mental state identical to formless substance in the air. In other words, it is impossible to do anything with, unless we create a form out of it. So, in this phase, we identify that we do have problems.

It is common that when we feel overwhelmed, we are actually dealing with a convoluted effect of multiple problems. It might be a good idea to list all the things we have issues or worries about, and we will proceed with one issue at a time -  starting with the biggest one. For example: We are not achieving our sales target, and key people are quitting. Oh, and our kids are not doing too well in one subject in school.

Pick one biggest problem we want to tackle now. OK let's say we want to tackle the kids problem first. Family is most important, right?

IMPORTANT: Do not try to solve these problems at this point. Just move on with the step.

Observe the situation: Let's find out what's happening in school. First of all, we identify that the problem is on the elder kid. The younger kid is OK. Phew. Then the only subject he has problem is Chinese language.

At this point, since we are getting a clearer view of the problem, it is a good idea to go back to Identify the reason. Is the problem as important as we originally thought? If it is not, that our problem is "solved", don't worry about it. I might be getting a lot of complains because of this statement, but maybe, maybe bad mark in Chinese language is not such a big of deal to worry about.

In this example, we assume it is a big deal...

We look at the curriculum and areas / chapters where he cannot do well. We can also compare with other kids at his school. Anyone with similar issues? Finally, we look at when the problem starts to happen. Only this semester.

We talk to the teacher, the other parents. We talk one on one with our kid to find out internal and external condition that leads to his bad mark. Identify Inputs and Processes to our Output (mark).

Analyze the problem: Looking at the data, we might decide that the reason our kid has issue this semester with Chinese language is

a. He does not understand fundamental of Chinese writing. Why?
a.1. He fails to understand the explanation from the teacher. Why?
a.1.1. The topic is difficult for non-native.
a.1.2. The teacher is new and can't connect well

(based on personal discussion with the teacher, other Chinese teachers, and fellow parents).

b. He does not remember the Chinese characters. Why?
b.1. He does not practice enough. Why?
b.1.1. He does not have any feedback outside school - Confused at home. Why?
b.1.1.1. We don't speak or write Chinese.

(based on checking on the curriculum and talking to other Chinese teachers, and also from discussion with our kid)

Improve the situation: We discuss internally and decide to find him a Chinese tutor. Trying to talk to the teacher was also an option, but the time keeps ticking, and the teacher also needs time to improve her teaching skill.

Make the change stick: We monitor progress and make sure our kid has enough exercise and grasp the concept taught by the tutor.

One problem solved. Next let's look at our sales problem...
(next, we are no longer overwhelmed...)

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