When the mathematics of human interactions don’t add up, write it down to figure it out.
Most of us wouldn’t think of doing math without writing down numbers and figures or making a chart. Charts, diagrams and equations can also help to figure out complex human situations.
Here are some mathematical tools for sorting out life challenges:
To Do List Priority Math:
Many people write a list of things they want to accomplish and check off items as they get completed. However, a long and continuously mushrooming “To Do” list can feel overwhelming.
Instead try the “Priority To Do List”. It is a manageable four step process that gets you the most for your actions.
1) Basic list: First write a list of all the things you want to accomplish in a certain time frame (a day, a week, a month).
2) Divide and Prioritize: Next divide the list into thirds. Chose a third of the items as high priority, a third as middle priority, and a third as low priority items. On the high priority list, choose three items you consider essential. Those are the items that you absolutely must accomplish.
3) Assign point values: Next give each item on the list a point value according to the following rules. Give every item on the low priority list one point. Give every item on the middle list two points. Give the three essential items five points each. Give the rest of the high priority list three points each.
4) Totals: Now add up all of the possible points and put that total on the bottom of the page. As you accomplish items on the list give yourself the number of points assigned to that item. At the end of the day count up how many points you have earned. If you accomplish many of the top priority items, you will you be much closer to the highest possible score, than if you focus on the less important items.
Reach Towards Infinity: There are always multiple options available to us in any situation, but often we only see one option. Try “Daily Life Brainstorming” to increase your powers of creativity in relation to daily
“Daily Life Brainstorming” is a tool designed to get oneself out of habitual, even rigid patterns of thinking and responding, and increase one’s ability to see possibilities. For more information see “Daily Life Brainstorming”.
Pro and Con List Balance:
There is rarely one perfect choice. Balance the benefits, drawbacks, risk and challenges of possible responses to a difficult decision with pro and con lists for an individual, a couple or a group.
Individuals: For an individual make one chart for each possible response to a challenging situation or difficult decision. For example is you have been offered a job out of town your lists might include: “take the job and move”, “don’t take the job and stay in current living situation”, “take the job and commute to current home on weekends.”
For each list make a column for the pro’s and a column for the con’s (or benefits and challenges) of each choice. If one item has many aspects to it, lists all the aspects. For example, selling a house you love could also involve leaving neighbors you care about, and gaining or losing money on a sale.
When you finish compare the sides of the equation. Which side holds more weight? Are there more items on the pro list or the con list? If the sides are closely matched consider the importance of each item on the list.
Couples: Start by creating the same lists you would use if you were to make the decision on your own. Fill in the pro’s and con’s for yourself first. When you finish, compare lists with your partner. One choice may be better for one person and worse for the other. Don’t try to change each other’s views, instead identify the choice that gives the best balance of benefits over challenges. There is rarely a perfect choice.
If you are having trouble, go back and mark the pro’s and con’s to you personally have control over. For example, you can work to change your personal resentment about a decision. You cannot change another person’s resentment. What would it take to change one or two of the con’s into pro’s, or at least to make these item neutral?
Groups: For groups, start by brainstorming all of the possible responses to the situation. Do not judge the responses, just generate possibilities.
Next, work individually to list the pro’s and con’s for each possible response.
When everyone has finished, create a group list of the benefits and challenges of each possibility. Some items will appear on both sides of the equation because they will be seen as a benefit to some and a detriment to others.
Finally discuss which option will lead to the best balance of benefits versus detriments. Remember, there is no correct answer, but the group will need to choose one option.
Continued Next Week: Figuring it Out with Relationship Geometry, Flow Charts and Color Diagramming.