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Archive for February, 2016

OrgTools

These are some of the tools I use to organize and prioritize my tasks.

Let me start by saying I’m a list girl. I have lists for personal and household stuff and I have lists for my professional life. In fact, I’ve broken down the professional tasks into separate lists by topic: shows, teaching, lectures, webwork, business development, development of new lectures and projects (my favorite), and more lists that would bore you silly. The number of things I am juggling can be daunting – in fact, the mass of stuff I have on my lists can be downright paralyzing.

To keep things in perspective and to stay focused (my word for the year), I do three things that keep me sane and help me prioritize:

  • I write down ALL tasks. Tiny and massive, commitments and wannado-projects, I write them all down on the appropriate list. Benefit: Once it’s on paper, I can use that brainspace for other things.
  • I date every task. I include the date for when I added it to the list and if there’s a hard deadline, I add that to the list AND to my calendar. Benefit: Once I see a task that’s been lurking on the list for a while without any action, I either delete it as not important enough to do or I make it a priority to get it done.
  • I create a daily list by pulling the top priority items. I try to create this list at the end of the day when my brain is full of what didn’t get done and what’s looming on the horizon. I sometimes do this in the morning, but it’s overwhelming and counter-productive to sift through the multiple lists early, when I need to set the tone for the day. I start with that didn’t get done the previous day and then take a look at the master lists to see what is next. Benefit: Throughout my work day, I’m looking at that day’s tasks. It’s a manageable list and I don’t lose track of what I must get done.

Once I started making these lists and using them on a daily basis, I realized that I had to learn to say no. There’s this huge pool of what I must do and precious little discretionary time for things that I want to do but haven’t made the list. Recently, I was invited to make a small quilt for a Quilts of Valor fundraising auction to be held at the America Quilts Expo in Des Moines, IA, in May 2016. Do I have time? No. Is it a priority in my business? No. But I’m doing it anyway. I want to do it and I feel it’s right to do it. Something else will have to wait or come off the list entirely. I will shuffle priorities. It’s important to be realistic, but reserve a few “yesses” so that you can do a few things that really feed your soul.

Next week: Productivity through Biorhythms

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Some people think that productivity is all about planning. Yes…and no. Planning is vitally important, but it will only get you so far. Sooner or later, you’ll actually have to do the work. As we said in the middle school where I taught: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

 

Red Fabric Ready to Sew into Bags

Planning can save time: I grouped these gift bag fabrics together to avoid changing thread color.

The Road Map
Planning can help you create a road map. Planning can help you determine where you need to go (long range goals) and how you will get there (interim tasks). Planning is safe. Planning is easy. For some of us, planning can scratch that organizational itch, putting all of our tasks and ideas in a nice list where they belong.

 

I use lists when I plan. I have master lists of goals and tasks. To keep from being overwhelmed, I break down big tasks into steps. Every morning, I start with a short list of things that really have to happen that day. In a perfect world, I end the day by assessing what I accomplished and creating the short list for the next day.

BentTreeColorPalette

Not all planning results in a to-do list. This project color palette resulted from careful planning.

I know I need to work on planning when:

  • My work surface is covered with sticky notes and scrap paper covered with mini to-do lists.
  • I’m lost or running in circles. That’s my signal to sit down and plan my day/hour/next ten minutes.
  • I can feel the whoosh of deadlines passing me. Seriously. Being behind and missing deadlines is a signal that I need to plan more effectively. I’m still working on this lesson.

Quicksand
The dark side of planning is like quicksand. We can get so bogged down in planning that we lose track of what we actually have to do. The more we struggle in the planning phase, the harder it seems to get out. Getting stuck in the planning phase can lull us into complacency and render us ineffective.

I know I have to focus on work when:

  • Deadlines are looming.
  • I realize I logged onto Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram just to check in…an hour ago.
  • I want to do something fun or work on a personal project. I earn the time with check marks.

Once you have your plan in place, how do you decide what to do first? Next week: Prioritizing!

 

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I think a lot about productivity. I’d like to be more productive. I plan to be more productive. Amazingly, some people actually think I’m productive. So, why don’t I feel productive?

The answers are so simple that I’ve decided to share them with you over the next four weeks. We’ll talk about perfection, planning, prioritizing, and productivity through biorhythms. Ready? Let’s get started!

Perfect vs. Done
When I was working in the corporate world, I had a very wise boss who seemed to have my number from day one. I am a perfectionist. There. I said it. But it’s important to know when you need perfection (math, taxes, brain surgery) and when good is good enough. My boss used to say, “Let not the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Translation: “Please give me your work product – I’m sure it’s fine.” In some cases, he was right.

Tree quilt for client

Perfection (or as close as I could get) was the goal for this client quilt.

If you, too, are a perfectionist, consider why you work beyond the demands of the task. My reasons generally fall into two categories: either I enjoy the process and I get lost in it, or I lose track of how exactly how well this task must be completed. It helps me if I can look — really look — at the task. Will it be published? Will others see it? Is this the first step in a longer process where long-term success depends on high quality work in the beginning? If not, then I can probably find a way to streamline a process and save some time.

If you could spend one hour doing two tasks well enough or one task perfectly, which would you choose? Well, you do get to choose. Now consider what you could do with that saved time if only you could stop working on a task as soon as it is done enough. You simply need to figure out which tasks require perfection (or near perfection) and which tasks just need to be done.

There will be times when your inner perfectionist demands to be heard. If you can afford the time and it will give you satisfaction, give in to that demand (but not every time). It will make you happy…and a happy quilter is a productive quilter.

Picture of my featherweight

Molly, my 1935 Singer Featherweight

My Story: I was recently given an amazing, unexpected gift by a long-time friend and I want to savor every minute of my time with it. (Thank you again, Linda Cooper!) I am now the proud owner of a 1935 Singer Featherweight 221, which I have named Molly. I want to learn all about it, clean and care for it, and take it on the road with me when I might have a little time to sew. I could have sent it out for service, but no. I sent out for the parts and (with my husband’s help) cleaned and serviced it myself. I am documenting Molly’s journey in a notebook. If you know me in real life, this is no surprise. My inner perfectionist wants to document Molly’s history and keep records for when she moves on to her next owner (since I know she will outlast me), and so I gave myself permission. I didn’t have to do it; I wanted to do it. This has made me a very happy quilter.

Next week: Planning — A Road Map or Quicksand?

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