I'm not very good at drawing. My drawings of people and objects with depth usually looks like what your 5th grader does, but not the talented 5th grader. But I found a trick that helps me draw not only depth, but complex things as well.

It involves taking a picture you want to duplicate and laying out a grid of lines over it. Then you just draw the same grid on another sheet of paper, and instead of trying to draw the entire person, landscape or horse, you focus on one little box in the original grid and draw the squiggly lines you see there. Then move one box to the right and do that again, and again, and again, and eventually you've drawn the entire scene. Carefully erase the grid lines that are left, and you've drawn better than you really can by freehand!

I've been asked by some DBA's how to approach a complex project, and I think the trick is to do the same thing. I lay out an imaginary "grid" or work to do. The first grid I lay out is really large:

  • Design the database solution
  • Implement the solution
  • Set up maintenance (both database and code-related) for the solution
  • Set up High Availability (HA), Disaster Recovery (DR), and Security for the solution

Then I set up a finer "grid" on each of these - Design breaks down into:

  • Define the business requirements
  • Look for nouns and verbs
  • Turn those into tables and relationships
  • Tease out the columns for the tables
  • Normalize the tables
  • Set up the Referential Integrity...

And so on. I do the same for each of the main "grid" segments, and then off I go. Sure, this is just turning big problems into smaller ones, but I find that it really helps - it removes the stress, focuses the attention and allows me to create a fairly accurate timeline for my part of the project.