10 Lessons I Learned From Building Jigsaw Puzzles

I’ve had a longstanding love affair with jigsaw puzzles and this past Christmas was no exception. Although it’s been quite a few years since I took on the challenge of fitting together 1500 tiny pieces, I decided to do just that on the floor of my parent’s living room.

Amazingly I got most of the puzzle put together in last five days. The first five days was a very slow process filled with a lot of doubt.
Amazingly I got most of the puzzle put together in last five days. The first five days was a very slow process filled with a lot of doubt.

In the past, 1500 pieces would easily take me a few weeks and that’s if I’m not doing much more than eating, sleeping jigsaw but although I was on break, there wasn’t going to be a whole lot of time to laze around. I still needed to make sure the children had a good break, spend time with my sisters and parents, friends and oh yeah, promote my new children’s book, Island Days.

I began on December 27 and it needed to be done by January 5 as we would be leaving the following day. Honestly, I didn’t see how it could be done but I was willing to try.
My mom always resourceful found me a nice sized box to take apart and build the puzzle on. My eldest girl looked at me and the size of the pieces and declared she wasn’t interested but I couldn’t have been successful without the one thing she helped me with.
Puzzle making is tedious business but I find it a great way to think through problems and come up with ideas. By the time I was over 10 days later I’d discovered a few lessons that I hope to practice for any challenge or task I face.

I got the kids at my book party to put together puzzles of the cover of Island Days.
I got the kids at my book party to put together puzzles of the cover of Island Days.

Get Organised.

My daughter Nia color coded the pieces and separated them into different bags based on the section of the board she felt they would fit, that made all the difference in the time it took me to look for pieces and then figure out where they needed to go. I am not the most organized business owner but I’ve found great wisdom in using my planner to work out the tasks that I need to accomplish and within what time frame. Use either an electronic or written planner to be sure to stay on top of things. Make your lists and check them twice.

Start with the small stuff.

As always do the task that is easiest to do first. In the case of a puzzle, start with the edges and build the frame. It makes it a lot easier to fit the pieces when you know what and where they will be connected. It also helps to build confidence and creates the start of the vision you can focus on.

Doing it section by section helps to keep things on track rather than working all over the board.
Doing it section by section helps to keep things on track rather than working all over the board.


I’m a notorious multi-tasker but I’ve found it’s not the most effective way to get things done. Rather, one thing at a time and with my full attention gets the task done better and in less time. While fixing the puzzle I would often want to jump between sections if I felt stuck but I found putting my energy into filling in the pieces right where I was, made the best use of my time and provided results.

Overcome the Fear.

My dad would walk by or the kids would say “Wow, you sure you can get this done before we leave? Why didn’t you wait until we get back home to do this?” The doubters will show up early to discourage you but you have to stick to your guns. Yes, I knew it was very possible that I would not complete it in time with all I had to do and did while on holiday but I was determined to give it my best shot. I did doubt myself often in the beginning but as I went on, it was less about finishing it and working to complete the goal I set for that day. It reduced the pressure significantly.

Make time for other things.

As I said this puzzle adventure was in the middle of the Christmas holidays and there was no way to get around family outings to the beach, a book party I’d planned or other activities with the children and my sisters. Having other things to do made the time I spent on the puzzle more enjoyable and purposeful. It helped to keep me on task as I knew I didn’t have all the time in the world to do it but just needed to use the time I had more effectively. You will find that when you can walk away from that big or little project and enjoy other things for short periods of time, you will come back to it more energized and focused to keep going.

Stay in the present.

I get paralysed if I spend too much time thinking about the future and the impossibility of it all. You can think too much about how something is to turn out that you are not doing the things in the present necessary to attain the outcome you desire. Stay in the moment and take each thing as it comes.

Help Will Come.

By the time you are well on your way and stop feeling panicked about all you need to do and the fears disappear, help comes. My son came by a few days before I was done and added in a few pieces. I appreciated his help and willingness to just hang out with me. Often we get so desperate and needy that we actually push the very help away with all of the negative energy we are emitting. Relax. Breathe. Trust. You have everything you need to get the job done. When outside help does come it will be just what you need to finish strong.

Pat yourself on the back.

Don’t wait until it’s over to say well done. Look back at what you’ve accomplished and cheer yourself on. There will be many tasks you do which you can’t share until it is well advanced. Give yourself a moment and an ice cream to celebrate your progress. Now get back to work ?

Be Persistent.

Mission Accomplished!
Mission Accomplished!

I cannot stress enough how important it is to stick with your vision. Just keep working it day in and day out to receive the outcome you are after. From time to time I would work on the puzzle upside down just to have a different perspective but the goal remained the same. Your strategy may have to change at times but keep the goal in mind and stay on it.

Do it Again!

So I have no desire to rebuild that particular puzzle ever again. The thrill is gone. However, the process that helped me to complete it on time and maintain my puzzle passion intact, won me some cool points with my family, will be deployed on other projects starting right now.