in Life, Problem Solving

The Art of Breaking Things Down To Bite-Sized Chunks

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”

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Let’s say you want to be a Designer, if you are just starting out on that path, that goal is very daunting, it seems out of reach, how can we make it tangible, bite-sized and easily chewable?

It is a regular experience, we have a big pizza in front of us, we want to eat it but we don’t take the whole pizza and shove it into the mouth. We cut it down into 6 or 8 slices, not only it becomes easier to hold and bite into a slice but also lets others take a slice of their own. Furthermore, we don’t try and shove the entire slice of pizza into our mouth, we take smaller bites and enjoy it. Similarly, we can and should break down a hard problem into smaller slices and further into bite-sized chunks to understand and solve better and have fun doing it.


Second part of the quote above “but not simpler” is important. One can go down the path of chunking problems into smaller pieces but after a certain point there are diminishing returns. We should know when to stop, just as we adjust how much of a slice of pizza we need to bite off so that it can fit in the mouth and it’s easy to chew. We could slice the pizza into 100 slices instead of 6 or 8, is that necessary? In most cases, not only it’s unnecessary, it’s counterproductive.

In my experience, breaking down the hard problem into 6 chunks or 6 questions and repeating that to 4 – 6 levels deep is usually enough to get to that bite-sized chunks that can be tackled easily. Not only small problems are easier to solve, they also give us ammo, motivation from completing a task is the best motivation there is. That power propels us to finish even more smaller problems and before we know it, we have eaten the whole pizza and now it’s time to burn those calories, put on your shoes, let’s go for a 6 mile run!

I understand the pizza analogy only goes so far, I already know to eat a pizza, all pizza slices are more or less the same. What if I don’t know what to eat? What if I don’t know that I need to eat? What if I chose the second slice and not the fifth slice, things could be completely different in a real life situation!