If you’re an idea entrepreneur, you’re on a mission. You want to help people solve an urgent problem by using a process—a plan of action that involves new behaviors.
This is the purpose of most business, self-help, and other “how to” books. They’re all about:
- Diagnosing a problem
- Offering a solution
- Presenting a process to solve the problem
In short—problem, solution, process.
Example—Getting Things Done
In his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen targets a problem experienced by millions of us—feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of things we want to remember and do.
Traditional to-do lists and time management strategies don’t relieve this feeling, says David. We end up trying to keep track of all our commitments in our head, constantly fearing that we’re still forgetting something important.
The result is mental clutter—a state of distraction that leads to a constant, low-level stress. That’s a problem.
The solution that David offers is “mind like water.” This is the freedom from distraction that we experience when we stop tracking commitments in our head.
We experience “mind like water” by adopting a cluster of habits:
- Collecting emails, voice mails, paper-based mail, meeting notes, and other “information inputs”
- Clarifying those inputs to determine what requires follow-up action, what can be filed for future reference, and what can be tossed or ignored
- Organizing reminders to take that follow-up action by using a calendar and specific set of lists
- Reviewing those reminders in the light of your personal mission and vision
- Engaging with the world by doing the items on noted in the calendar and lists
This reduces to:
- Mental Clutter (Problem)
- Mind Like Water (Solution)
- Collect, Clarify, Organize, Review, Engage (Process)
There you have it—the essence of David’s teaching in 10 words.
Use this framework to fine tune your content
If you ever feel overwhelmed with information or confused about your fundamental message, get back to those three words—problem, solution, process. Can you map the information that you’ve captured to one of those three timeless categories? This is your path to clarity.
More specifically, ask:
Do I diagnose an urgent problem? Locate a pain point for the people in your target audience. Describe a situation that genuinely complicates their lives and keeps them awake at night.
Do I propose a clear solution? It must relate directly to the problem you diagnose and lead to the sweet pleasure of relief.
Do I explain a process that works? For Tucker Max and Zach Obront, authors of The Book In A Box Method, this is all about reassurance and guidance. It’s the part of your book where you say “here is how you are going to do this, I’m going to walk you through it, step by step by step, until you understand how to do it.”
The challenge is to propose a process that actually people can actually use. Offer genuine next actions—instructions for real behavior change. List tiny habits—small changes in behavior that require no motivation or special ability and lead to big results over time.
If you can’t answer these three questions with a clear yes, then your framework needs more work at a fundamental level. The sooner you discover this issue, the sooner you can fix it.