Picture puzzles, no matter what variety you choose to solve, can be, well, puzzling. The following tips and ideas can take you well on your way to putting together a solid solving strategy that will help you solve picture puzzles every time:

  • Put together a solving routine. You don’t need to play the same music and grab your coffee in the same cup each time you sit down to do a picture puzzle. Instead, map out the order of the steps you’ll take to attack the puzzle. For example, if you’re tackling a spot-the-changes puzzle, try going from left to right, starting at the top and working your way to the bottom. Or try working it by sections in an orderly fashion (A1, A2, and so on, or A1, B1, and so on). Remember that whatever solving routine works for you may not work for someone else. No matter what you choose, find a routine you can stick to.

  • Check for the obvious. Although it may sound rather apparent, glancing through the puzzle to look for obvious things that you may be missing can be a useful strategy when beginning to solve a puzzle or when you get stuck. Sometimes focusing on details makes overlooking the obvious easy.

  • Use a pattern. Regardless of the type of puzzle you’re solving, using a pattern, a systematic approach to scouring each nook and cranny of the puzzle, keeps you focused and helps ensure that you don’t go over the same spots repeatedly. Using some type of pattern should be part of your solving routine.

  • Keep track of your work. Keeping track of what you’ve done and where you are in the puzzle helps you find your place if you have to take a break. It also helps you avoid reviewing details you’ve already checked out.

  • Dig out the details. When you’re looking at details, be as specific as possible. Don’t think of grass as just grass; think of it as long, wispy, green-yellow, ornamental grass or yellowed, bare grass that needs some mowing.

  • Take a break if you’re stuck on a puzzle. Especially if you’ve been solving for a while, you may just need a break. If so, take one, but don’t quit!

  • Free your mind. Clear the clutter from your head before you solve a picture puzzle. Get your to-do lists in order, put whatever is bothering you aside, and then focus on that puzzle.

  • Maintain focus. Limit the intrusions you’ll encounter by picking a good spot and time to solve your puzzles. Prepare for any interruptions that may distract you and try not to stop working on the puzzle until you can note where you’ve paused.