Self Mastery of Your Schedule Step 4 of 11: The 1-3-1 Approach to Problem Solving

Interruptions are common in the workplace. Whether it is from customers, clients, business partners, or employees, interruptions disrupt the flow of your work day. We know some of these interruptions are important, so do not be afraid to take a phone call or take the time to listen. However, if you can set focused time for your projects, interruptions should be put on hold to get the most out of your time.


As Minnesotans, we love to accommodate coworkers and employees when they have a question. Someone will come into your office and ask if you have a second, and it’s our instinct to say yes and help out. While it seems helpful in the moment, you will then have to use valuable time to remember your train of thought on the project you were working on. Another downside is that you are inadvertently training your employees to always come to you with any question, rather than letting them work out a solution on their own.

Finding Solutions

One way we suggest encouraging employees to find solutions is to come back to your office with three potential solutions to the problem. This is what we call the “1-3-1 Approach.”

STEP 1: Identify the Problem. This sounds very simple, but sometimes the problem looks different from the perspective of other stakeholders. Ask yourself, “What is the problem from my perspective?” and “What is the problem from other’s perspective?” This will help with the second step.

STEP 2: Find Three Possible Solutions to the One Problem. The best solutions are the ones that are a win/win for all involved — or at least most of the parties involved. This is their time to brainstorm and get creative with solutions.

STEP 3: Reach One Recommendation. This is where you give your employees the space to step up with they believe to be the best solution. Have them assess the pros and cons of each solution. Sometimes talking the possible solutions out loud may come up with another ah-ha moment of combining solutions.

You are in the position to encourage your team to be critical thinkers, build a culture of team input, and continually build team development and trust.

The 1-3-1 Approach gives your employees the freedom to think outside-the-box and allows you more time to focus on your work. This solution won’t discourage employees from coming into your office, but it does encourage them to come into your office with a solution in mind, making your conversation with them more productive and time efficient.

Stay tuned for more tips on how to master your schedule, or learn more about how we can help you grow your business by contacting us. We love to help you find a great strategy for business growth that works for your business.