Monday, May 18, 2015


lately my family has been really into working on puzzles. we like doing those big 1000-piece-puzzles. when I do them, I often think of the parallels between working on a puzzle and doing a big project at work. here are some work/life lessons that come from assembling a puzzle:

1.       get organized.
when you open a puzzle box and see 1000 pieces, it can be overwhelming. where do you begin? how will this ever become like the picture? it helps to get organized. use a big table that can hold all of the pieces. separate the pieces into groups, make sure you have good lighting and seating.
this works with work projects too. get organized. write things down. make a list. make a chart. whatever helps you to think straight. clear out the clutter on your desk. do the things that will help you think clearly.

2.       break the project into steps.
when you see a big pile of puzzle pieces, it just looks like a big mess that will never come together- but if you break the puzzle into steps, it becomes manageable. so make sure all of the pieces are face-up. find the corners. then find the edges. work on the main characters, or the easy parts first.
again- this helps with a project too. instead of aiming to finish the project, aim to finish the first part of the project, then the second. make a list of what the parts of the project are- and then cross them off one by one.

3.       see things from a different point of view.
a lot of times when I’m working on a puzzle, I get stuck. I always think that I must be missing a piece- because I know that there is a missing piece of a cloud or a tree, but I can’t find it anywhere! sometimes it helps to see things from a different point of view. stand up and take a break. come back and look at things again. or change your seat around the table- or use a desk lamp to see the pieces better. use a magnifying glass if you have one. literally, step back and look at the bigger picture.
when I’m working on a project at work- sometimes I get stuck on those too- it helps to see things from a different angle. step back and look at the bigger picture. look at things as if you were your customer- or your employee or volunteer. ask a friend to look at things- what do they see? often times a different way of looking at things is the perfect way to get unstuck on a project.

4.       every detail is important.
when you have a thousand puzzle pieces in a pile- it looks like you could spare a few. it looks like it wouldn’t matter if you lost one or two- but at some point, each and every piece is going to be important. each piece has the potential to be the very last piece of the puzzle. each one has the opportunity of connecting one major section to another- so you can’t lose even one.
it’s the same for projects too- every detail is important. and if you get careless and miss one- you may discover that the detail that you lost was a very, very important detail! and losing it leaves a big hole in the project! so treat every detail like a piece in the puzzle and make sure it get the attention it deserves.

5.       work with a friend.
I like working on puzzles alone- and I like working on them with my family too. I like working on the easy parts of a puzzle- but my kid is so good at those difficult sections- like the sky in a picture- where everything is the same color. everything goes faster when you work with a friend. and the experience is more enjoyable too. there is a certain satisfaction that you get when you look at a puzzle and say to yourself, “I did that all by myself.” but there is also much to enjoy by finishing the project together.
when we work on projects- try to include others on every aspect- the planning, the execution and the review. include others in the resource gathering. ask people for their help and advice. its doesn’t make you less competent- it adds to the experience and makes everything go faster.

6.       don’t force a piece to fit.
if you have to force it, its not meant to fit there. its in the wrong spot.

7.       resource yourself.
there was a moment when we discovered that we weren’t just casual puzzlers anymore- we were serious puzzle experts. so we decided to invest in our puzzle-habit. we got a portable desk lamp to attach to our puzzling table so we could have good lighting even at night time. we got magnifying glasses. we got one of those puzzle mats so you can move your puzzle- although we decided we didn’t like it.
in your work projects- resource yourself. get the tools you need to finish the job well. get the software and the hardware you need. get a book on the subject. take a day trip with your team to get on the same page. upgrade your workspace. if you need it, get it! sure its expensive; but once you have it, you’ll have it for a long time and that resource will pay off in the help that it gives you.

8.       put first things first.
I recently did a wizard of oz puzzle- first I assembled Dorothy- then the other characters- then the yellow brick road- those were the easy parts. after that, I did the flowers and the trees- those were the harder parts. it helps to do the big parts first.
when you’re doing a project, do the big parts first. get the date on the calendar. rent the facility. order the supplies. then take care of the smaller details.

9.       be diligent
keep working on it- even if its just a little bit a day- any progress is good. don’t rush, but don’t be lazy. it will all come together in the end if you don’t give up.

10.   take pride in a finished project
when we finish a puzzle there is a temptation to crumple the thing up and get onto the next puzzle; but most of the time we just leave it all assembled on a table for a few days. we’re proud of what we did. some people even put glue on the backs of their puzzles and mount them on the wall! we don’t go that far.
when you finish a project at work, take time to celebrate it. have a meeting with everyone involved. tell stories. laugh. eat cake! you did a good job and that needs to be recognized before you move on to what’s next.

God is love.