A Puzzling Time Management Dilemma

Do you remember doing jigsaw puzzles as a kid? We frequently had one going on our dining room table growing up and my sister and I used to love taking a few minutes to put a couple pieces together every time we walked by. Little did I know that I would long for that same sort of casual productivity in my adult working life!

Every kid knows the most productive way to do a puzzle. You can’t just start randomly fumbling with the pieces, you start with the edges first because they are the easiest to find. Then, once you have a good outline started, you can start slowly building pieces toward the middle. It doesn’t take very long for kids to figure this out, but we adults tend to forget this process as we dive into tasks.

Set Up Your Outline

This week, I had frequent 30-40 minute chunks of time open in my evenings that I really wanted to use to be productive. The problem was that every time I sat down to tackle a task, I got overwhelmed because I didn’t really know where to start. I have so many new projects on my plate right now, and yet I was struggling to figure out how to use these short bursts of time.

Then I realized, I would be able to put these small chunks of time to much better use if I first set aside a larger chunk of time to outline what the components of these projects needed to be. I was trying to start the middle of my puzzle without my edge pieces.

Taking Time to Plan

This weekend, I sat down and planned. I have very little concrete product to show for my work, but that’s OK. The product is going to come later. The product will come when I have my next short burst of time available and instead of wasting it, I’ll be able to consult my project outline and start tackling it, once piece at a time.

When we get excited about our work, or feel stressed that we’re falling behind, it can be tempting to just start doing something so we feel productive. I urge you to step back and sketch out your plan. Unless you were one of those kids who liked to do the puzzle without looking at the picture on the box, in which case, you’re on your own!

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Photo Credit: Digital art

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