The Internet Marketing Jigsaw Puzzle. Why do I have too many edge pieces??

by Alex on June 22, 2010

set smart goals for blogging success

I have spoken recently about the importance of setting SMART Goals that are both realistic and timely, and the importance of celebrating the small wins that take you closer to the bigger Goals, and this is something I obviously adopt in my own working life, but sometimes you can take on too many tasks at once, and it doesn’t matter how organised and goal oriented you are, sooner or later things are going to come crashing down around you.

When taking on a new challenge the first thing I do is assess what I want to get out of it and how I am going to achieve this, ie: what processes am I going to follow and what steps do I need to take for this to become a reality.  What I am doing here is creating some semblance of order in the apparent chaos that is, well any new experience really.

I liken this to a giant jigsaw puzzle, or more specifically, how my Mother used to approach the ones she did. When I was growing up she was always attempting the ‘mega 5000 piece Puzzle’ or something ridiculous like that and I would watch and abject horror as she poured the contents into a pile on the table and 1000’s of almost identical pieces fell in such a way  that only a chaos theorist would be enjoying the moment.

Making Cents from the Chaos

Smart Goals and the online business puzzleI would wonder how on earth she was ever going to even start getting this thing looking like a windmill, or a house on a hill, or whatever cliché scene was depicted, but Mum would always calmly start the process of breaking down the massive task into smaller ones.  Everyone does this with a Jigsaw puzzle, in fact if we applied this rationality to our everyday lives then we would all be a lot happier with our lot in life. But I digress.

When you, my Mum, or anyone for that matter starts a jigsaw puzzle the first thing they do is separate the pieces into manageable piles. First you take all the edge pieces and you put them to the side. Then you might take all the pieces that look like they are ‘sky’ and move them to the side, maybe you do the same with trees, brick walls, whatever it is. The whole time you are looking at the bigger picture and using common sense to break down the seemingly impossible task of assembling this puzzle into easier to manage ‘sections’ that, as you complete, will make the whole task a lot less daunting . Good, that works well then.

This is exactly what we know to do with our own goals in life, The SMART goals I talk about allow you to take a seemingly impossible task and break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks thus making the bigger picture seem irrelevant at the time – no more ‘oh my god how am I supposed to do THAT’ feelings. Well that’s the theory anyway.

How many is too many?

dont try to take on too many challenges at onceBeing motivated and challenging yourself with new tasks and learning curves is all a part of life, and it is especially a part of starting your own online business, certainly if you want to be successful that is, but there is a limit to how much one person can do (outsourcing aside) and although it is good to keep yourself challenged, if this comes at the expense of everything else then it is time to sit back and reassess.

I have been doing 5 (6?) Jigsaw Puzzles at once and quite frankly I can’t remember if this piece in my hand is the sky from the aeroplane puzzle or the pale ocean from the boat one?

And why have I got 17 extra pieces of tree? Or is that a frog?

It’s great that when you start your new ‘puzzle’ that you break down the job into smaller more manageable chunks, but when you take on too much at a time, all those small ‘sections’ of work become intertwined and before you know it you cannot remember what edge piece goes with what puzzle. The problem is that in the vain effort to get as many puzzles done at once, I have lost the box with the original one, so now I am struggling to remember what it’s supposed to look like at the end.

What have I learnt from this?

I have realised that when I am setting small goals for myself they are all geared towards a common outcome. If I then set small goals to reach a completely different objective then I need to action this on a different day, it’s just too hard to try and do both the puzzles at the same time, there’s just too many pieces everywhere otherwise. Besides if I do try and keep pushing through the seemingly impossible, my fear is that I will give up altogether and take up knitting or something.

  • What are your thoughts?
  • What steps do you take when you are feeling overwhelmed with your progress?
  • How do you stay organised and focused?

{ 49 comments }

Nabeel | Create Your First Website June 22, 2010 at 11:32 PM

Hi Alex,

Great comparison you make there between jigsaw puzzles and our goals and implementing them.

I agree with your thoughts. It is very easy to get overwhelmed in this business. There is so much information out there!

“I have realised that when I am setting small goals for myself they are all geared towards a common outcome. If I then set small goals to reach a completely different objective then I need to action this on a different day, it’s just too hard to try and do both the puzzles at the same time, there’s just too many pieces everywhere otherwise.”

I completely agree with your approach. I also find it difficult when the objectives are different for each goal. I focus on one task at a time, and implement it, and then move on to the next.

I think it is very important to stay focused and organised in this business. As they say ‘You can’t be everywhere, all of the time!’

Nabeel

Alex June 23, 2010 at 2:38 PM

Hey Nabeel, really loving the comments and feedback you provide man. And I see you everywhere you prolific commenter you! (when you gonna get your own blog site man?!)
I really like the quote/summary at the end because it sum up the post brilliantly, so thank you for that Nabeel.

Jean Sarauer June 22, 2010 at 11:37 PM

This may have been the most fun post on goal setting ever! Or maybe it’s just because I like jigsaw puzzles too?

In any event, I’ve found my most consistent way to be productive is to limit the number of goals I work on, break things down into ridiculously tiny steps, and work with a timer to keep my focus. I’m quite the simpleton, but that’s how it is :)

Alex June 23, 2010 at 2:36 PM

Hey Jean! Awesome that you think so because after I came up with the analogy I went around with this big head talking about how awesome I am. (I do that a lot anyway actually :) )
Small steps is definitely the way to go but I like your timer idea. I didn’t a minute ago when responding to Scott, but once I wrote down what I DO do, I realised that perhaps a timer would be a good idea?
Can you recommend any program or do you just set the windows stopwatch?

Nathan Rufus June 23, 2010 at 3:55 AM

Alex,

Your talents would be totally wasted knitting.

Has it even been that long since I was last here. I’m sure I’m not imagining that this place has had a complete facelift. (…I hope it’s not the computer I’m on, I’m at the “day job” (boooo, hissss) at the moment…)

The last part of your post is golden. Multi Tasking is a business persons worst enemy. (…It’s funny how in the non-business world it’s seen to be a good quality to have. My mrs always tells me I’m rubbish at multi-tasking. I just tell her “I know”…)

Jigsaw puzzles, haven’t done one of those in years. But the way you’ve used it to explain breaking down your goals, makes perfect sense.

Thanks for this post Alex. (…great timing as well as I’ve just set myself a new goal…)

Reach new heights,

Nathan

Alex June 23, 2010 at 2:34 PM

Aw shucks, thanks Nathan. I’m not a big fan of knitting but I do like a good yarn (oh that was terrible :) )
LOL! Yeah I got bored (ok distracted is more the word) and redesigned the header and colour scheme, much prefer it like this actually.
Thanks for the awesome feedback on the post, and don’t worry I think all males are unable to multi …

task. (sorry phone rang and I can’t answer it AND type – I rest my case) :)
Thanks for stopping by Nathan, now don’t wait till I redesign to come back this time! (j/k)

Scott Barron June 23, 2010 at 8:04 AM

I hate puzzles. My life has always been puzzling enough without adding anything extra. I also don’t have a lot of patience… As I’m called in America, “hot mess”.

I like Jean’s idea with the timer. I always tell myself that I’m going to download a timer program but haven’t yet. I always find it difficult to actually stop what I’m doing when the time is up.

I stay organized with my “to do” lists. But I’m also guilty of giving up when something becomes either extremely boring or I no longer see the benefit.

Damn, this feels like confession.

Alex June 23, 2010 at 2:31 PM

LOL! It is OK my son, although it has been too long since your last confession so I’m glad you made up for it here.
I’m with you on the too hard basket and before I learned about SMART goals I had all my goals and dreams stored there.
I could never use a timer because for me each task gets a day. You know what, now that I have written that I realise perhaps I could do with a timer after all!
Thanks for stopping by Scott Barron (see we’ll get you ranked man LOL)

Sam Schuurman June 23, 2010 at 10:41 PM

Hi Scott

For months and month I too have been meaning to download time tracking software. I even know what software I want to use (Klok: http://www.getklok.com/) but there seems to be a mental barrier. Like I’m afraid that as soon as I do I’ll realise that I’ve been completely messing up my life.

I’ll make you a deal I’ll download mine and use it if you download something similar and use it? Let’s get over procrastination together – maybe we could even form a support group.

Alex, I love the idea of separating aligned small goals by day. I’m going to try and apply this because my days are absolute chaos at the moment. I’ve got about twenty things to do and need a structure to actually deal with it. Awesome post – great insight and great concept to base your message around (the puzzle).

Anna Haller June 23, 2010 at 10:37 AM

I love SMART goals! I first learned about them working in the corporate world and everytime we had to set some goals for ourselves it really made us think specifically as opposed to generally which is really great when it comes down to implementing them.

Can definitely relate it to being a jigsaw puzzle, haven’t done one in ages though, maybe it’s because my whole life is a jigsaw puzzle! It’s good to have the big picture in mind but like you said it’s crucial to break it down so you can accomplish one part of the puzzle therefore completing and putting it all together in the end.

It’s important to remember though that we need to relish every moment of the process as well and take the time to soak in what we have learned, not just in jigsaw puzzles but in life. We often rush to reach our goals but the journey is always more memorable than the destination!

Anna

Alex June 23, 2010 at 2:28 PM

Hey Anna, what an awesome value add comment!
Too right SMART goals are the way to go but I really love your point at the end. Too often the bigger picture is the goal, and even when breaking this down, time needs to be taken to celebrate the small success – and enjoy the ride!
Thanks for pointing that out Anna, have an awesome day!

Mike Roosa June 23, 2010 at 1:13 PM

Good advice Alex on breaking things down. I often have way too many projects going on at once and do feel overwhelmed at times. I think if you decide which is most important and which will make you feel the best then move those to the top of the list.

Alex June 23, 2010 at 2:26 PM

Hey Mike, nice tip and summary man! I could learn a thing or two about being succinct LOL! ( I swear no matter how hard I try, all my posts end up around the 1100 word mark!)
Thanks for the comments man. How was your vacation?

Mike Roosa June 24, 2010 at 6:37 AM

Vacation was excellent, wish I was still there. Did you get my email or do you have my emails on auto delete?

Alex June 24, 2010 at 8:40 AM

Yeah tell me about it! I am having issues with my mail host(ongoing it seems) but if u sent it to alex@alexwhalley.com then I should have it (at work ATM and on iPhone)

Jonathan Beebe June 23, 2010 at 2:51 PM

Haha that was pretty hilarious when you first started describing how your mom did the jigsaw puzzles and you stared in horror, I needed that laugh lol

Either way, that’s a great connection you made between being overwhelmed and putting jigsaw pieces together. It always helps to break things apart into manageable chunks… and if you’re REALLY doing 5 or 6 jigsaw puzzles together at once… that’s pretty crazy lol

Sometimes all it takes to get organized and focused is to take a break, make sure I get a good night sleep (usually when I feel overwhelmed, I trace it back to being sleep deprived), and I also make an effort to break things up into manageable chunks. Then I make some coffee, and just start taking action… sometimes getting started is the hardest part.

Thanks for another great post Alex… retweeted!

Alex June 23, 2010 at 4:27 PM

Thanks Jonathan.
Love your comments man, always get super stoked when I read them, so thank YOU for that. Glad you liked the analogy and yes I have been trying to do 5 jigsaws at once…whoops.
Great advice on the taking a break aspect, really. I overlook that so often and even when I do take a break I sit there feeling guilty that I should be in there (the study) creating something or writing something. So even when I do break, I don’t really. Thanks for reminding me to actually do so. (this is different from celebrating small wins, this is literally just stepping back from the ‘puzzle’ and I guess in keeping with the analogy, taking a break helps remind us what the bigger picture looks like and may keep us motivated to psych up again ..after the break of course!
Thanks for stopping by and for ReTweeting! (everyone: learn from this man, RT!!!!) :)

Chethan June 24, 2010 at 12:24 AM

Loved Reading it and Retweeted this Post… You people are so much professional in comparing real life things like jicksaw puzzle with blogging and online marketing… I am really impressed with the kind of writing…

I want to learn more and more from you! I am fan of yours :) from today

Alex June 24, 2010 at 10:24 AM

Hey Chethan, thanks so much for that awesome feedback, really glad that you are finding value here and I hope you get a lot more!
Awesome ReTweet with kudos too so thank heaps for that my friend!

John Soares June 24, 2010 at 12:28 AM

Alex, I like the jigsaw puzzle analogy.

I have written goals. I review them at least twice a month and revise them as necessary, and I also evaluate the actions I’ve taken towards those goals to make sure I’m doing the most important things, and that I stop or revise what I’m doing that’s not working well.

Alex June 24, 2010 at 9:45 AM

Hey John, what an effective system you have, that’s awesome man, I think I’ll copy your summary.
Thanks for stopping by John

John Soares June 25, 2010 at 11:16 PM

That system has really helped me a lot.

Alex June 26, 2010 at 12:35 PM

I would love to say it has helped me but at the moment I am surrounded by ‘pieces of puzzle’ and still sorting the forest from the trees.

Dev | Technshare June 24, 2010 at 3:18 AM

Wow What a Jigsaw Post man :P . Another super awesome post alex. You’re doing awesome job man. I really like the last part of this post.. ! Great !! .
Breaking things down is really great idea.
Thanks for sharing this great Post. Just Retweeted and submitted to BE. Thanks.

~Dev

Alex June 24, 2010 at 8:42 AM

Awesome Dev! You’re my champion BE Submitter dude. Awesome, and thanks for the high energy comments and support as usual mate!!

Jeffrey June 24, 2010 at 7:07 AM

Hi Alex,
Funny you should bring up the subject of jigsaw puzzles. I’m a master of sorts. I’ve never seen anyone who could even remotely come close to my skills. I’ve always been able to finish up within about 18 months or so, those puzzles that read “from 2 to 4 years” on the side of the box. Just one of my many talents I guess! And now, I’ve recently taken up flying lessons to broaden my horizons!

Alex June 24, 2010 at 8:38 AM

Lol! U haven’t heard that one for ages so thanks for the awesome early morning giggles! Awesome. Let me know how the flying comes along. :)

Anne Moss June 24, 2010 at 4:18 PM

Love the metaphor and your conclusion! Need to keep this in mind – I have quite a bunch of puzzles on my desk as well…

Alex June 25, 2010 at 8:15 AM

Hi Anne,
How awesome that u continued my analogy! ;)
Puzzles are fun but i agree that there are too many pieces everywhere now. Maybe I should take up colouring by numbers or something
Thanks for stopping by Anne

Louis June 24, 2010 at 8:15 PM

Hi Alex,

Funny analogy of goals setting with Jigsaw Puzzles. Breaking down your goals is definitely the way to go and work towards the main objective.

- Louis

Alex June 25, 2010 at 8:10 AM

I love analogies and I think this ties in well. Now to heed my own advice!
Thanks for stopping by Louis.

Blog Angel a.k.a. Joella June 25, 2010 at 1:28 AM

I know it’s all been said before, but when it gets right down to it, it’s all about BABY STEPS. Take it slow, walk before you run and break everything into more manageable pieces. Anything is more manageable when you take small bites. Don’t believe me? Try sticking an entire piece of pizza in your mouth at one time. Ready? Okay, swallow. LOL

Great article Alex. We all need to be reminded every so often that you shouldn’t bite off mare than you can chew in any one go.

Alex June 25, 2010 at 8:09 AM

Hey Joella!
What a beautifully eloquent response. I love your analogy tied in with an age old saying, BRILLIANT :)
thanks for your value add Joella

Joe Boyle June 25, 2010 at 1:17 PM

Lately, I have been using my dry erase board for daytime goals. I try and break my day into tasks I want to complete. So I might write comment on 50 blogs, retweet other people’s articles, or something of that nature. The more tasks I have, the more determined I get to finish them!

Great post and rock on, Alex!

Alex June 25, 2010 at 3:05 PM

Hey Joe!
Nice man, and looking at what you are achieving it’s clearly working for you.
Thanks for stopping by man, YOU rock on brother!

Dave Doolin June 25, 2010 at 3:48 PM

I’ve found that goal setting is all well and good, but if my plans include completing tasks I don’t know about, then I’m going to get in a bind sooner or later. Usually sooner. Then the plan gets chucked out, or it shrinks, or it gets refactored into smaller pieces where the end goal gets pushed further out.

A lot of people in this space don’t realize that the Kern’s, Rowse’s, Walker’s, et al started 5 to 10 years ago, when there was little competition. And it still took them *years* to achieve success.

BTW, I’ll be hitting you up back-channel with some notions for on-page SEO specialization. I see you are starting to dig into that.

Alex June 26, 2010 at 12:40 PM

Hey Dave!
You hit on some very good points about the realistic nature of things. The best laid plans of mice and men…
I suppose if you can approach something realistically then you can plan for the unexpected (oxymoron?) but as you said, even the big guys took years, with NO competition!
Thanks for pointing that out and providing that angle on the post.
Waiting in the wings back channel, yeah definitely focusing heavily on on page SEO (it’s all keywords after all!)
Thanks for stopping by Dave!

Sibyl - alternaview June 25, 2010 at 8:54 PM

Alex: I really liked this post and thought the comparison you made was a good one. We really can easily get overwhelmed, and I think it is important to direct your focus and organize your approach. For me, that means realizing that I can’t accomplish everything at the same time and so I have prioritized my goals and then lined up my short terms goals accordingly. I liked the approach you shared as well about setting small goals that are all geared toward a common outcome. I think you really do need to solidify an approach that works and organizes what you are trying to accomplish.

Alex June 26, 2010 at 12:37 PM

Hey Sibyl,
You summarise the important points about this post beautifully and hit the nail right on the head when you said “I think it is important to direct your focus and organize your approach” Nice!
Thanks so much for your insightful comment and for supply us with an alternaview ( :) )

Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire June 26, 2010 at 4:06 AM

Alex,

Love the new look of your blog! Very professional. The new header is awesome.

-Joshua Black
The Underdog Millionaire

Alex June 26, 2010 at 12:34 PM

Thanks so much Joshua! You rock for going out of your way to give me that awesome feedback!
Rock on Underdog!

Sally June 26, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Hey Alex

I liked this post, but I don’t like jigsaws at all, never had the patience for them.

Someone said to me on my blog once “how do you eat an elephant….one bite at a time” or something like that, kinda cool I thought and it reiterates your idea of setting smaller goals all geared towards one main outcome.

Sally :)

Sally :)

Alex June 26, 2010 at 12:33 PM

Hey Sally! How was your affiliate summity thing? So jealous!
Yeah I have heard the elephant phrase before but who would want to eat an elephant anyway?
Thanks for stopping by Sally!

Bailey Ing June 26, 2010 at 9:20 AM

Hey Alex,

Wow, Nice revamp here. The redness is so firey and gives your blog a new dynamic!

Jigaw puzzles man. I spent two days on the run doing one with my cousins over Christmas of a world map. It’s amazing how time flies by……. I guess in the same way that when you do set SMART goals, that even tedious goals seem to get done quicker too.

Obviously T refers to Time right? What I’ve found has been helpful for me is by setting an allocated amount of time for a certain task. But not only that, I use a little kitchen countdown timer that ensures I don’t over run on what I do.

Hope you’re doing well and enjoying your new freedom from the JOB.
Catch up soon,
Bailey

Alex June 26, 2010 at 12:31 PM

G’day Bailey, how are ya mate?
Thanks for the awesome comment about the new look, yeah I got bored one night. :)
Yeah T is Timely, meaning that you need to set a finish date/time for what your goal. I suppose it can also apply to setting actual time limits to how long you spend on each task. Jean mentioned doing this actually so it clearly is a good thing to do.
Thanks for your comments Bailey and for stopping by.

Darren L Carter June 26, 2010 at 12:38 PM

Hey Alex,

Great post. I totally agree with taking larger goals and breaking them down further. I forget to do that sometimes and then it does start to feel overwhleming. But once you start breaking it down you see that there are a lot of very achievable little things to do that all add up in the bigger picture.

Haha, I like how knitting is your default for if you give up on everything else.

Thanks for the really good post!

Peace,
Darren L Carter

Alex June 26, 2010 at 1:50 PM

Hey Darren.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Yeah I am with you, I get overwhelmed massively and even when I break it down it still confuses me! LOL That’s when I realised I had more than one puzzle going. hahah knitting is my default because I figure since I like a good yarn, maybe knitting won’t be so bad (awesome dad joke/pun and I dont care what you say, that was wicked funny! :) )
Always good to see you here mate!
Peace back at ya

Pokemon DVDs January 8, 2011 at 6:13 PM

I like the way you compare things lol! I am also believe in setting small targets and I feel or I can enjoy it fully while achieving those goals rather than setting up bigger ones and make fumes out of my head on that. If the goal is shorter, you can fully dedicate to yourself in to it and can make the lot of out it. Ty.

Alex January 10, 2011 at 12:07 AM

Thanks for taking the time to comment, even more so because I have not read this post in so long, and it was good to go back and read it again – even started sharing and tweeting it in the hope of passing the love even more LOL
Thanks again

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