Work Smarter, Not Harder

It’s a lesson I learn over and over again. You, too?

This happens because we lose sight of the fact that while we may be doing tasks that are similar in nature and assume we can approach the project the same way each time, that’s not always correct. We can waste a lot of time thinking we know how to start a project only to find that we were going down the wrong road.

This morning I was reminded of that while working on a jigsaw puzzle that has been a complete, total PITA (even if it is pictures of cute puppies). It took me several days to get the edges, and I’ve been lost in the thing, trying to figure out how to get the center started. 20190317_095151

First, I decided to start with the dogs at the edges. Then, I thought, I’ll just do the Dalmations (because spots stand out). Then I picked out the pieces that had toys/bright colors on them — all of this proved equally frustrating.

I finally realized that this puzzle had too many pieces that resemble each other, so I had to find pieces that stood out. Start with the faces!

I spent an hour taking out the pieces that had eyes on them — which are the most prominent pieces, then noses and muzzles, tongues/teeth. I separated them again by colors of dogs. The rest went back in the box.20190317_095155 (1)

Finally, I have a strategy that I believe will work. I’ve narrowed the field of the problem, and I can build out from these central features. After two weeks, I’m interested to see how quickly things might move now (with much less frustration, I hope).

I’d fallen into thinking that I could approach this puzzle the same way I 20190303_111541approached the last one. That one was difficult in its own way, but it had far more definition in the graphic, which made it less confusing from the get-go.

The same mistake can happen in writing. I submitted an article to a website that I’d written for before, but it was rejected because I assumed things were the same and hadn’t checked for any new guidelines.

I wasted time writing an article that was summarily thrown back at me (rightfully). I made sure to read the new guidelines, and I will follow them rigorously when I re-submit a new article.

Also, looking back at it, I’d been in a rush, and the piece was too general. I needed to narrow the field of the topic, find a new slant. I’d made too many assumptions, which is what happens when we rush in instead of considering the problem and forming a strategy.

I like to do puzzles for many reasons — they have numerous benefits for concentration and cognitive strengthening, but they almost always teach me something about writing, the writing process, and how to approach any problem (and there will be more posts on this, because I do puzzles all the time). They’re great at revealing the weak spots in our thinking and in our practice. They show us our assumptions and how those assumptions can lead us to dead ends.

Today, the puzzle reminded me to work smarter, not harder. Put in the time at the start to save time later, and approach each task as if it were new (because it is, even if you have done it before) and take your time at the start to have a successful strategy.

However, the lesson might just as easily be that sometimes we have to find our way into a project, and it’s going to take some time and failure to get to the successes.  Sometimes that’s just how it goes.

Take your pick. 🙂


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