priorities lead to productivity

2016-06-10 18.57.29I’m going to talk about how I make quick progress but first I have to show the quilt that I finished last night.  I think it was back in January when I was watching Quilt In A Day on TV when I saw this pattern. I realized I had 2 packages of Tonga Treats island batiks that came as an extra when I had ordered fabric for something else that would work well for this.  I made short order of cutting them into half square triangles and throwing them up on the design board to figure out the layout – at least I hope it’s obvious that I spent time figuring out a layout instead of just throwing them together – and then I used my 1.5″ strip cutter to cut the sashing.  You can’t see it in the picture, but later I used my 4.5″ strip cutter to add 2 borders, one teal and the other a dark purple like what’s in the center of this one.

It took next to no time to sew the top together but then I set it aside for a while to make sure I finished the quilt for my sister before she arrived, etc. I quilt so much faster when I don’t use a ruler, so I made really quick progress toward the end again. I received a phone call that really stressed me out when I was sewing on the binding so I’m sure that part isn’t perfect – but imperfect and finished is better than perfect and unfinished!

img_0324I think the most common question I get on my blog is “how do you get so much done” with regard to sewing. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I work full-time and my title can best be described as project manager (we have crazy titles at work that don’t mean a thing to anyone except those in HR).  In other words, it’s my job to figure out what the big projects are, then break those down into key components, and then into individual tasks.  And I do that on several projects simultaneously at any given moment.

So….there’s nothing magical except to say that since I’ve been successful at doing that job for a number of years, I’ve just transferred that over to my personal life also.  That being said, I thought I’d share some screen shots of the planner I use for quilt projects. There are 2 questions that I answer when I have a block of time, whether it’s 5 minutes or 5 hours.

urgent-imporant Is it urgent, and is it important?  In terms of my quilt projects, right now I have a Bloom quilt top that’s finished but not basted or quilted.  Quilting it is somewhat important because I don’t like unfinished projects, but it’s not urgent because it isn’t a gift to anyone in the next few months.

I also have the red, white, grey and black fabric that I bought to make into a quilt for myself sometime.  Not all that important and definitely not urgent.


On the other hand, the daughter asked if I would make her a quilt to go on her bed at college.  I love her to the moon and back so of course that one is important, and school starts in 2 months so it’s urgent.  In fact, it’s getting really urgent.  Then I also have 2 requests for Christmas quilts – those are important but with 6 months to go, it’s not as urgent as August.

For years and years (and years and years) I used a Franklin planner; the kind that you write in your daily tasks and move them from day to day if you don’t get them done. It’s set up to prioritize tasks as A, B, or C, etc.  I switched over to their app on my tablet a couple of years or so ago but it does the same thing.

img_0325What isn’t shown here is that last step.  Let’s say I have 5 minutes to get something done.  I’ll go down my list of tasks and see if I have anything that’s urgent and important that I know reasonably can be done in 5 minutes.  Is there something to press – maybe binding strips that need to be pressed in half or fabric that I’m going to cut tomorrow?  Or maybe wind some bobbins for the Sweet Sixteen?  It might even be tidying up my work space so that I don’t waste time trying to find my scissors. It has to be done so I’ll fit those into 5 minutes.

Or if it’s a lunch hour, then I’ll go through my list and say – hey, I can cut out enough pieces for another row on the college quilt in 5 minutes with the Accuquilt Go; that gives me 50 minutes (plus 5 minutes to grab a sandwich!) to sew all the wings on and then I know that when I’m done with work, I can come back and sew on the large triangles to complete a quarter of a block.

If I have 5 hours to sew – that would be on the weekends for me – then I usually break it down into 1 hour increments.  In other words, I’ll look at 5 different quilts or at least 2 quilts that have a lot to be done, and set a goal that I feel like I can reasonably get done in that amount of time.

For me, it’s those 5 or 10 minutes here or there though that really make me more efficient for the hour long blocks of time because I set everything up ahead of time to be able to make the best use when I do have “free time” to work on something.  So that’s my answer.  If you’ve ever seen the illustration of a jar with different sized marbles…figure out the particulars for the large projects – i.e., I want to finish a quilt by Christmas – then put in the smaller marbles – i.e., I want to piece the quilt top by August and then basted by September and then quilted by November.  Then finally fit in the smallest marbles – i.e., today I have time to sew 3 blocks and in fact, right now I have time to cut out those 3 blocks

It’s commonly referred to as executive function skills in case you want to read more about that.  Finally….I write it down.  What gets written…gets finished – for me at least.  I hope you have a great weekend!


23 Comments Add yours

  1. Now I don’t feel bad about having so many projects going at once. I don’t have them all listed, but I do sort of evaluate the time I have and work on certain parts or projects based on the time I have. My problem is I have a lot of projects that are not urgent and I’m not sure what to do with them. I need to set up a schedule to make sure I do at least one of those a month just to get them done. I didn’t participate in my guild’s UFO challenge this year (where you name the project and get them done on a time frame and are eligible for a prize).

    1. Our next guild meeting is “fix my quilt” which means we don’t have a featured speaker. I might skip it since that’s not my current issue.

      1. You may be able to help others though, or learn how to fix things that might happen in the future. I have a modern improv quilt that I made to be 2 sides, but on the back I had some marks (grabbed a permanent pen instead of the frixion pen), that I could get out of test scraps. So I just went “oh well, it is what it is”. But this morning I decided to put it into a show that suspends the quilts so you see both sides of all quilts. Then it came to me, why not put some appliqué over the marks. I did, problem solved.

        1. That is a great idea! I’ve accidentally grabbed the wrong pen before. That’s a great way to solve the issue!

  2. Great post! Thanks for the time management tips!

    1. Thank you!

  3. I am a Project Manager too! And I work full time, but you remain my role model of productivity. Perhaps I should apply some PM concepts to my crafting – ha! Do I need a quilt project Gantt chart!??! 🙂

    1. Yes! Yes you do need a Gantt chart! Last night my husband emailed me a copy of a Gantt chart that he drew up – for a mini vacation we have planned. I told him that was so wrong!!

      1. Oh your husband has a great sense of humor!

        1. Yes he does!

  4. It was really interesting to read how you organise yourself to achieve so much! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you!

  5. Maxine says:

    Great post, very motivating. It’s a reminder to take charge of your time and be the master of your day.

    1. Thank you! That’s a great way to think about it!

  6. I enjoyed your post. Sometimes I am asked how I find time to write so much. My answer is that I love doing it so I tend to do it all the time – fitting it in the tiny corners of the day as well as the scheduled blocks of time. You are very organized and I suspect you organize your time around quilting so much because you love it. It’s great to fill your days with what you love.

    1. That is so true! You stated it perfectly.

  7. Lisa E says:

    Yeesh! I’m tired just reading this!

    1. Haha! I’m on row 7.5 out of 8 on the hunters star quilt. So close and yet so far since that means I’m close to basting it.

  8. Excellent time management tips.

    1. Thanks!

  9. lorigreer says:

    I liked your time management approach. It’s satisfying to find slivers of time to use productively.

    1. Thanks! You nailed it – it is satisfying to look back at the end of the day or week and see where I have made progress.

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