# The Problem Scale: From Chaos to Clarity

In one of my last letters, I made a case for writing your problems down.

In my last letter, I gave you 4 ways to do that ranging from very simple to sophisticated or creative.

If you've followed the advice of those two letters, you now have a list of problems.

But, having this list of problems can create problems in itself:

## The Paralyzing Power of a Problem List

Having a list of all your problems can be paralyzing.

Facing the sheer amount of problems you havecan paralyze you. Especially if you've avoided many of them for a long time and even if you've created a list of your problems, you might be too scared to look at it. If you're not too paralyzed to look at the list, you can still be too overwhelmed to do anything productive about it.

So, what can you do to get out of this paralysis?

## How to Clean Up Your Problem List

First, you can clean up your list.

When you first create your list of problems, I recommended that you suspend judgment, don't edit, and don't delete.

If you followed my advice, it should have helped you write more freely, think less, and get your problems out on paper quickly.

While this approach is great for getting started, it often creates a new problem:

A long list of potential problems with duplicates, symptoms, and vague problems.

That's why, it's important to clean up the list after you've created it.

Here's how in two simple steps:

First, group your problems around common topics.

In other words, the topics that many of your problems revolve around.

If you wrote down that you spend too much time playing video games, are on your phone too much, and worry about wasting your life, you can group these three problems under "wasting time."

Doing this for all problems on the list groups many different problems under a few specific categories. This makes your list less overwhelming and easier to use.

Second, identify duplicates.

This reduces the number of problems on the list and makes the next steps easier.

Once you've created a category like "wasting time", you might realize that "scrolling too much on social media," "lying awake in bed regretting how you've spent your day," and "sitting in front of the PC too much" also fall under this category and are likely duplicates that you can cross out.

This makes your list of problems less intimidating one more time.

Once you've crossed out all duplicates and grouped your problems under specific categories your list will look much more managable.

But it can still feel overwhelming.

Sure, your problems are now grouped in different categories and some duplicates have been eliminated, but you likely still have a huge number of problems that are just as scary as before.

That's where the problem scale can help.

## Using the “Problem Scale” to Make Your Problem List Actionable

The problem scale is a simple system of categorization that helps you identify the problem that you should, would, and could act on.

This helps you single out one problem in your list of problems that you can take action on and lifts yor problem paralysis.

Here's how it works:

Imagine having three weighing pans on a scale with scores from 1-10:

Importance, willingness, and ease.

The idea of these three pans is to help you prioritize your problems along three important metrics to identify an important problem that you're willing to solve and that is relatively easy to solve. This gets you out of paralysis and into action as soon as possible.

Let's look at each weighing pan to understand them better:

### Pan 1: Importance

Importance is about how important solving this problem is for you.

If your life would improve massively if you'd solve it, you'd give it a ten.

If you'd barely notice the impact of solving the problem, you'd give it a 1.

One question to judge a problem's importance is: "How much would my life improve if I were to solve this problem?" Answer it and give your problem a tentative score (you can always change it later).

### Pan 2: Willingness

Willingness is about how willing you are to solve this problem.

If you're eager to solve the problem and can't wait to get started, you'd rate it a 10.

If you strongly resist solving the problem and don't want to solve it at all, you'd give it a 1.

To get an idea about your willingness to solve a problem, ask yourself: “How much do I want to do whatever it takes to solve this problem?”

### Pan 3: Ease

Ease is about how easily you can solve this problem.

If you can start solving this problem right now without needing anything, you'd rate it a 10.

If you need to buy new things, go elsewhere, and do 5 other things, you'd give it a 1.

To see how easy it would be to solve this problem, ask yourself: "What do I need to solve this problem?"

## What to do Next

As you go through your list of problems rate each remaining problem according to these three metrics and add up their scores.

Then you're left with problems that are important to you, that you'd be willing to solve, and that you can solve easily with their high scores at the top. Unimportant, hard-to-solve problems you're unwilling to solve will be at the bottom with a relatively low score.

Organizing your list this way gives you clarty about your problems and makes it easier to take action.

Creating this list has another huge benefit:

You can draw on it indefinitely and don't have to do it again.

Once you have a prioritized list of problems, consult it whenever you solve a problem and look for another one. Return to it when the problem you are trying to solve turns out to be way harder than you initially thought. And whenever you identify new problems, quickly rate them and add them to the list.

## Conclusion

In short, turning your problems into a list and weighting them with the problem scale gives you an easy overview of all your problems. It allows you to quickly get to work on the most promising one and can be reused endlessly for the rest of your life.

Once you have the list, pick one of your top problems and start to understand it deeply.

In a future letter, I’ll share a simple but very effective way of doing just that.

Thanks for reading.

Waldi