A few years ago I got hooked on Sudoku. Approaching it like trying to figure out a magic trick, I tried all sorts of clumsy systems to unlock the secret of fitting the 9 numbers in squares, rows and columns. Not much luck.
Then a friend gave me the first key of looking for easy placement. Then I read a book and found all the other routines that would eventually help me figure out even the most difficult puzzles.
Why keep doing it, then? Because, even with the routines, a good amount of focus and attention is needed to solve the difficult puzzles. I have found that if I get distracted while going through each routine I will miss putting a number in a box and will be faced with with a glaring error.
Sudoku makes me think of how things often unfold at work. Attention and focus to tested routines will bring me home time and time again yet I allow distractions to take me off my game and I arrive at less than stellar outcomes.
A casual look at Sudoku may lead one to think there are 9 number sequences to place. It’s actually that times 3; except its more than just 27 separate sequences. The boxes, rows and columns are woven together so solving for one affects the others at the same time.
Again, a lot like meeting a difficult work challenge. For each big challenge, there are usually many tasks to solve with each reliant on others based on timing, resources or people available, not to mention the dreaded “factors beyond our control.”
The appeal of Sudoku is that by by following several routines, in order, with focus, I end up solving a 5-star puzzle.
Back at work, when facing a difficult challenge, I use the Sudoku energy to see a bunch of interlocking puzzles that need to be sorted, decoded and simplified to yes/no answers.
I still do the 5-star Sudoku in pencil because, sometimes, when I lose focus I get it wrong. And then it becomes painfully obvious how the rows, squared and columns are interlocked. My only solution, as hard as it feels at that moment, is to erase the whole thing and start over. Only then, I usually see some lapse in following the routine or a distraction that led me to miss placing a number.
How many times has a small lapse led to a less than preferred outcome? How that outcome led to other less than preferred outcomes. Sudoku reminds me that I really don’t work in a silo, that my work contributes to the work of others just as their work contributes to mine.
Sudoku tells to always make the time to break a challenge down to managable chunks, stay sharply focused, and check my work. I ignore the process at my peril. It’s great when the routines lead me to several simple answers leading to the grander predicted outcome. Goal accomplished! No eraser needed….
What routines help you solve problems? What do you do to stay focused and not let distractions lead to less than hoped for outcomes?