What is a problem worth your time?

Photo by Sabri Tuzcu on Unsplash

Productivity experts can help you use your time more effectively, but only you will know the answer to the question, “What is a problem worth your time?” That was a defining question in Graeme’s* career. He decided that a problem worth his time was to dramatically improve his client relationships. He was leading a major project and his stakeholders were upset about expected delays in delivery.

Graeme was well known for producing elegant solutions to complex technical problems. He had a reputation as the ‘go-to’ person on all manner of technology problems that his department faced. He had been fascinated by technical problems since he was quite young. It was what got him interested in a career in IT. However, he now realised that his problem-solving superpower must be used for good rather than evil. He realised that his personal brand as the ‘go-to’ person needed to change if he wanted to solve his stakeholder problem and be seen as executive leadership material.  

It soon became clear to him that he needed a great team delivering results to succeed in his quest. His clients would not even talk to him about their future objectives if the current project was not on track. 

That led him to alter some of the practices he used with people around him. He sought recommendations when they brought problems to him. He asked more questions instead of being drawn into providing answers. He made many more requests of his team. As he stepped up his leadership, he became more interested in how to get other people to solve problems.

Graeme and his team did turn things around and his stakeholders became some of his best advocates. Word soon spread about his new personal brand. In a strange turn of events, one of his key stakeholders was promoted to another business and asked him to join her there. She knew that he was the perfect person to turn around a similar stakeholder issue in her new organisation.

We could all benefit from carving out time for reflective thinking in the way that Graeme did. In the HBR article, How to Regain the Lost Art of Reflection, the authors recommend using these practices: 

  • Schedule unstructured thinking time
  • Get a coach (True!)
  • Cultivate a list of questions which prompt reflective thought
  • Protect yourself and your organisation from information overload
  • Reimagine yourself as a meta-problem solver
  • Be a role model for your employees

What is a problem worth your time?

Best regards, Brian

*Name changed to protect the innocent 

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