Don’t Waste Time Solving Problems Twice

Do you ever find yourself solving a problem and thinking, “I just did this last week!”

It could be looking up those project numbers that you had previously.

Or checking a phone number that you already used.

How often do you solve a problem more than once?

More often than you think.

How much time would you save if you didn’t have to solve the same problem multiple times?

Doing It Over and Over

We often find ourselves solving the same problems over and over.

It can be simple things like cell phone numbers, files, etc.

Or even complex solutions that we failed to document last time.

“How much time do we waste researching problems that we have previously solved?”

And how do we stop solving the same issues over and over?

With a little discipline and habit, we can ensure that we capture solutions and prevent ourselves from having to duplicate (or triplicate) our efforts at a later time.

Done and Documented

When you solve a problem, the key is to make sure that you document the answer.

Sometimes this can be as simple as recording a cell number in your address book.

Other times, you will want to formally document the procedure of how something was accomplished so that you and others can replicate the solution in the future.

Here are some key ways to “Stop Solving the Same Problems:”

  • Have One Notebook – I often talk about the “Power of 1.” In this case, ensure that you have one place to write down your notes. Don’t write that answer on a Post-It or scrap of paper. When you need it next week, you can go to your notebook and retrieve it. I always know I can look back in my Moleskine.
  • Write It Down! – Don’t hesitate to write down even small pieces of information. If there is a chance you could need it again, write it down! It is amazing how much information we end up looking up a 2nd or 3rd time.
  • Use a Lookup List – Keep a “Lookup List” of common information that you may need.  This can range from family clothes’ sizes to the size of the air filter that your house needs. At work, this can be access #’s, URLs, or important points-of-contact. You never know when or where you might need these pieces of information.
  • One Place for Things – Looking for physical objects is commonplace, too. If you have one place for an item, you will always know where it is. For example, I know that our emergency flashlight is always on the top of the fridge. I always know where to get it. Be disciplined about replacing an item to its “home.”
  • Make Your Own FAQs – This sounds geeky, but when you solve an problem that you know you will have to do again in the future, make sure you document the solution. This is particular true of complex or technical solutions. For example, there is a particular blog task that I have to do about every 6 months. After I had to look it up for a third time, I made sure that I documented the steps and saved it for next time.
  • Keep Your Solutions Handy – What good are your solutions if you can’t find them (quickly) when you need them? Have a place for all your solutions. Evernote is perfect for this. If you are not technology oriented, then a good solutions file works just as well.

Solved Once and For All

When you solve a problem, make sure you document the answer.

Be disciplined about capturing information that you may need again. This holds true for small, simple pieces of information, as well as complex procedures that you made need to repeat.

When things are urgent, you will be thankful that you don’t have to start from scratch.

You will be surprised how much time you save when you don’t have to solve problems a second time.

What problems do you find yourself solving multiple times?

11 thoughts on “Don’t Waste Time Solving Problems Twice

  1. For lookup lists, I think having them on your phone is better than your moleskine. If it’s for work – put it in the notebook. If I’m out shopping, I can grab my lookup list to remember what size filter goes in the ventilation duct. I don’t always have my moleskine when I’m not working, but I always have my phone.

    1. @Zen_Ken Ken, good point.

      I keep my “lookup lists” on my iPhone so that I have access to them wherever I am.

      Evernote is good for this, too!

  2. Great post, Ninja! I think you could do one blog post on each of these tips! I love the visual for this post too… I’m a big fan of sketching.

    I’ve come to realize that every system and tool has something I like and don’t like. I am plugged into tech so much, I’ve been trying to put pen to paper more, mostly to have more balance. Pros and cons, I know, but I feel like it’s growing my ability to think. I’ve been using blank notecards and then adding a label/flag to the card in the box so I can easily find it later (& not write it twice!). This works great for taking a few notes down while reading a great biz book, a blog post, or ideas I want to map out later.

    Thanks for sharing your brilliance!

    Jocelyn Wallace
    and guest blogger for Life/Work Balance at

    1. @jocelynwallace_ Jocelyn, thanks!

      Love your sketches!

      And yes, those may just be individual posts in the near future. 🙂

      Keep in touch!

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