Working jigsaw puzzles is an organizer’s dream. Every step is about sorting in smaller and more connected elements while keeping the end result in mind. Just like project management.
Choose a project that appeals to you
It’s no fun to work on an ugly puzzle or even one that is too easy or too hard. You have to pick the best project for you at this point in time. If you are not enthusiastic about the end result you will achieve, if you will not be proud of your end product after you have completed it, choose a different project. You don’t want to spend a lot of time working on something that is not fun, satisfying, stimulating, rewarding and has a great end result. There are thousands of potential projects from which to choose. Choose one you can get excited about.
Handle the logistics
When I started working jigsaw puzzles in my living room I had three problems, a cat that would inevitably end up on top of it, the fact that it took up a good portion of the room for as long as I chose to work on it and I had no real way to put it away for another time. Once I started it I lived with it until it was completed. I solved the cat problem by doing the puzzle on the cardboard back of a poster whose frame broke. I work on the cardboard and put the plastic “glass” on top when I stop work to protect it from my cat. I could solve the putting away part by investing in a jigsaw carrying case. Before you begin a project solve some of the logistics. Can you fit this work into your schedule? Will you rely on others for part of the work and how booked are they? What equipment, knowledge, and reference material do you need before you begin? Beginning a project is like preparing to take a long trip; you need to take your car in for a complete check up to be sure it can make the trip. Plan ahead for all the elements and working environment you will need for your project.
Sort the pieces
My improvised jigsaw puzzle system includes 12 clear plastic plates that I sort the different colors into. I can use these plates to work on one color scheme at a time. It allows me to focus only on that particular aspect. Look at your project and divide it up into segments. Put a time line on each segment so you know how far ahead of the deadline you have to begin working on it in order to complete it in time. What is your launch date? How far ahead do you need to start marketing? Put that on your schedule along with time to write your marketing material a few weeks before that. Do you need to schedule a completion date for each module? Chunk your project up into three to five projects. For instance if you are creating a web presence you can break that down into 1) clarify what you offer and who you offer it to, 2) define your services and your content by writing your landing page, 3) make the technical decisions on your theme and back end support hire someone to set it up and 4) write your opt in offer and Cornerstone Content that helps convert readers into community members. Each one of those steps is filled with important decision making and by doing them in order and addressing each step as a separate project piece you will avoid the overwhelm that could easily appear. Allow one action step to build on the other
Work one section at a time
In my jigsaw project I began by working with the pieces that I could easily identify. In my folk art puzzle I recognized parts of horses and buggy wheels and the specific color of each building. When I began to assemble each section I had to look at the picture and see where it fit into the overall picture. Then I could place it in the right place. I had to work with the end result in mind.
Here’s a major difference between jigsaw puzzling and a project: you know what the puzzle will look like, you know that eventually all the pieces will fit and there will be no extra ones left over. That is not true of a project. You have to pick and choose the parts and pieces you will include. You have an overall picture in mind but you design and adjust as you go. How many weeks in your teleclass? What do you need to leave out in order to teach what you really want to teach in that length of time? Do you need a follow up, second level telecourse? I developed my Magnetic Content Development System to help you manage those very decisions but this article is about sorting what you have chosen.
Sort by similarity
In my puzzle I sorted by edge pieces, trees, sky, building colors and people. One way of organizing your project is to sort by similarity of the action needed – planning, crafting, editing. On your time line allow a week for outlining your table of contents, another few days for developing your stories and interactive elements. You could work on the video for a week and could set aside time to develop the handouts and bonuses. Brain work, the decision-making process requires great uninterrupted concentration. Editing a second draft or strengthening your subheads can be done in smaller time segments.
Approach your project organization from different angles
It was easy to put together the puzzle pieces that had a pattern. It was another matter to work on the pieces that were all one color like the sky or ocean. Then I had to look at the shape of each piece, I had to try to put pieces together by looking at the parts of the piece that were sticking out and the parts of the piece that were ready to have another piece fit into them. And that’s what got me excited to write this article – as I worked I saw myself use different reasoning techniques. I wanted to explore how can apply my jigsaw organizing technique to the sorting of my ideas for a project? When you move deeply into the fine points of your project you need to examine the pieces from different angles. Does that idea belong here or is it more effective if presented over there? Change your perspective. One minute you are trying to fit the protruding pieces into the puzzle and the next you are looking at the shape of the indent in each piece to find a matching piece. As you look where to place closely aligned elements into your project come at them from different angles before you decide where to put them.
Keep looking at the whole
Every time you begin a new segment look to see how that section fits in with the whole. When you examine your project as a whole you will feel a sense of accomplishment as see how much you have accomplished. You can begin to get a feeling of the overall shape and the learning steps you use to take your participant on their journey. You can identify the elements that need more work or more time. As you work on a project periodically go back to your original outline and the landing page you wrote in the beginning to clarify your objectives and see if you are still on track. Keep referring to your original who and do what statement – the purpose of that particular project.
Keep your end result in mind, sort by the major points, work in sections keeping an eye on their place in the whole and take time to look at each piece from different angles. That’s what working a jigsaw puzzle taught me about project management.
© 2011 Cara Lumen