Sunday, July 8, 2018

Top Three Tips for Time Management

Every time I give my lecture "Time Management for Quilters" I hear from people, days, weeks or even months after who tell me they picked up a few tips that really helped them get more done. Some ask me to go into things in more depth. So here are my 3 Top Time Management tips, the things I do that really help me get more done.

1. PLAN--MY JOURNAL


I have always kept lists, usually on slips of paper. Eventually, the paper would get tossed out and sometime later I would wish I still had it. So when I learned about "bullet journals" a couple years ago I was intrigued. As I read about the concept I felt like you could spend all your time creating a journal about your life instead of living your life. But some of the ideas spoke to me so I adapted the idea to a format that works for me.

I started with a simple blank lined pages journal, picked up at a bookstore. One good pen that I liked the feel of and one ultra fine Sharpie, in Fuchsia, that's all I use. The inside front page is the Index. On the left are the  months listed and the page numbers they cover. On the right are what are called "Collections" but in the next edition I will simply call them "Pages".  I am on my second edition:

For each month, I start with one page that is the overview of that month, things I want or need to get done that month. Besides quilt deadlines, there are things like "book airfare for..." or "Send Supply Lists for Workshops to..." At the bottom of the page I keep a running total of Quilt Tops Completed" and Quilts Completed" that month and the cumulative total for the year, just because it is easy to do this way, for no other reason.

After the monthly overview page, each day I list the things I want/need/hope to get done that day. To the left of each item is a square box that I check off when the item is done. At the end of the day, if the item is not done, I use the fuchsia marker to draw a down arrow, meaning that item got moved down to the next day. If I decide i will not do that item at all, I draw a line through it. Some days have lots of items, some days few, but each day is listed. I usually list tomorrow's items at the end of today--I know what I'm going to be doing the next day.

I don't carry the journal with me, it sits on my desk at the computer. When traveling, I simply list something like"Saturday June 16-Wednesday June 20, San Diego Canyon Quilters".


The Pages/Collections list is the secret to this system for me. Whenever I think of things I want to keep track of, I create a Page for that, wherever in the journal I happen to be at that point--today it would be in the middle of July--the next blank page is 88. I add the Page name and page number to the Index at the front of the journal and it is easy to find whenever I need it. Here are my current Pages:

Quilts to Finish
Tops to Quilt
Labels to Make
Class Ideas
Internet Purchases
Blog Ideas
People to Make Quilts For
Quilts to Photograph
Where Did I Put?

One of the best of these is "Internet Purchases"--any time I order something online I put it on this page, page 8 in the journal, what it is, the cost, the seller, and then I check off when it arrives and when I pay the credit card for it. Before this list, I would get the credit card bill and wonder what that item was, a book? a sewing notion? Personal or business? Now I check page 8 and know instantly what I bought.

The last one is the most recent. Any time I say "I'll put this in a safe place" I add it to the Where Did I Put? list. Now I have a backup for my memory--aging is a real thing.

Your list will vary, start with those that make sense to you and add to them as you like.


Why does this save me time? First, it keeps me on track to get things done, on deadline or because that's what I want to do that day. Second, it keeps my ideas in one place, so I can find them again. Third, it keeps me focused--I never say "wonder what I'll do today?" I can break down a task into the required parts and give them a time slot.

This does not replace my calendar on my computer/phone/IPad--I keep that fully updated with appointments, trips, birthdays, etc. The journal simply works for me, keeping me on target for each day. Perhaps you'll find a different system.

2. THE 15 MINUTE PLAN

Today I have the luxury of working in my studio 9-4 most every day but it wasn't always that way. When I started quilting 35 years ago I  had two kids and a husband, a household to run, several paying jobs, including tax season for 34 years, where I often worked 60-70 hour weeks, was always active in my local guild with all the jobs that entails, and I still found time to make some of my best quilts, of my own design, hand quilting many.

In teaching new quilters I came up with the notion of the "15 Minute Plan". If you have to wait until you have 3 hours of uninterrupted time to start, you'll never get anything done. Break your quilting tasks into 15 minute jobs. Before work, if you have 15 minutes, you can:

Select the fabric for the next block you will sew
OR Cut the fabric for the next block you will  sew
OR Figure out how many strips of binding fabric you need and select the fabric for it
OR Cut the binding strips, sew them together if you still have time
OR Press the binding seams and binding
OR CLEAN UP THE CLUTTER--15 minutes of putting stuff away really helps so the job doesn't grow to an hour-long massive clean up

I always have something ready to sew right beside my machine--if I had 15 minutes I could sew this:

Before I leave the studio today, I'll have something ready to sew tomorrow.

What can you do in 15 minutes, besides play Solitaire or Angry Birds?

3. LEADERS AND ENDERS--Make FREE Quilts

I am a huge proponent of the leaders/enders process made popular by Bonnie Hunter.

Why do I love it so? It saves time, thread, aggravation and fabric bits. All you need to do is have a PLAN. Simple shapes work well for this, squares or triangles are easy. As I am creating quilts, I cut the leftover fabrics into the size "scrap" that works for the plan I have. Currently, it's 1.25" finished half square triangles; before that it was 2" finished four-patches.

At the start and end of each line of chain piecing I start with a Leader and finish with an Ender--two units of fabric that I piece while sewing other things for whatever quilt I am actively working on. Here you see the Leader, a block unit being created and an Ender:

We tend to have the most trouble keeping 1/4" seam allowances straight at the beginning and the end of chain piecing. This helps keep you straight as you start sewing the important part, here the block unit being constructed, and end straight as you leave the block and go to the Ender. We also have difficulty when we rethread the machine--occasionally, the machine likes to "eat" the points and create a "bird's nest" on the bottom--I would much rather have that problem on a small, unimportant bit of fabric than my lovely block.

And it SAVES THREAD. Quality thread is not cheap and it just breaks my heart to see a student sew one little unit together, then pull it out of the machine with at least a foot of both top and bobbin thread attached, only to cut off that thread and throw it in the trash! Chain piecing keeps that waste to a minimum.

To make this system work, all you need is a plan, a quilt pattern that uses simple units you can easily cut from scraps and sew as you go. Here are just a few of the Leader/Ender quilts I've made in recent years:

Queen-size FourPlay, pattern by Kinch and Storms

Doll quilt from a charm pack

Rainbow Baby Nine Patches

Queen-size Tumbler, Bonnie Hunter Leader/Ender Challenge project

I hope you find an idea here that helps you. The lecture is full of lots more but these are the 3 I live by. What tips/tricks do you use to help you get things done?

Let's quilt!

Barbara

51 comments:

  1. The journal doesn't work for me. I've tried. Leaving a project on my cutting table does. I spend some time on that project before I move to something else - lots of time it is my 15 minutes a day - that does work! I am now doing leaders and enders, too. You mentioned good work habits, Barbara - thank you!

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  2. Some great organizational tips here. Thanks for sharing them, Barbara!

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  3. I love your 15-min plan! Not only would that help me get something done every day (and not lose momentum) but I think it would help with procrastination. Sometimes I don't want to work on a project because I can't see what I need to do next so I get stuck. Coming up with a 15-min next step I think will help me get unstuck and keep moving forward. Thanks!

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  4. A friend pointed me to your page. I use a similar Bullet Journal idea. It helps to have a list of what I want to accomplish in a day. I can get a lot of stitching done in 15 minutes!

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  5. I love journals ... I like the way you lay yours out. The 15-minutes is so huge. Even if you just do 15 minutes a day for six days, that's 1-1/2 hours at the end of the week. Especially on work days, there's no way I could do an hour and half at one sitting (my days are just too long), but I can manage 15 minutes! Leaders/enders...just haven't gotten there. Yet! Great post, Barbara! :)

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  6. Great ideas, I use a version of the bullet journal idea as a way of keeping all of those quilt ideas/sketches together, the expanding index is critical for finding those ideas a year or two later, and the headings are what are meaningful to each individual, much better than someone else's categories. thank you so much for sharing

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    1. Making it work for each person's specific needs is the key.

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  7. Hi Barbara, I wanted to express my thanks for your blog. I LOVED your post about your Q20 Machine. I now have my own and while I’m an experienced sewist and embroiderer, I’m a newbie as a free-motion quilter. I have adapted your 15 minute rule for practicing free-motion on blank quilt sandwiches several times a night. Now instead of thinking I’ll never get out of the right-angle zone I think “I can do this!” I use a planner for work but now will make some pages for quilting and sewing jobs. Thanks for the inspiration and sharing what works for your. See you at TQS blog.

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  8. I have always been a list maker - I have a list of quilts to make/finish, with the deadlines for the competition entries. After doing a time management course, I also keep a daily diary in which I write the things I want to get done that day, which includes quilting. As each job is done I cross it through with a red pen - I get a lot of satisfaction from a page with lots crossed through, but it doesn't always happen. Some jobs get listed day after day, but it still acts as a reminder of things I need to do. I aim to do at least 20 minutes sewing every day.

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    1. Isn't it great to cross off a finished chore?

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  9. Thanks for the great tips! I do use leaders and enders, but tend to just use them over and over instead of create a new project with a lot of them! I just had the thought that I could do some improv piecing with leaders and enders and have enough to actually make another quilt soon! I started using the quilter's planner this year and it worked great while waiting in carline to pick up my grandkids each afternoon. Since school has been out, I haven't even opened it - but I am getting it out today and getting back on track! Thanks, Barbara!

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    1. Improv piecing would work well, just have pieces near the machine and add them as you chain piece. I'll bet not thinking too intently about how to sew them will help the "improv"ness of the sewing.

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  10. I love the journal idea! I started doing something like that in a notebook to keep track of projects but this is even more organized. I have a nice journal that some friends gave me and I wondered what the heck I was going to do with it- now I know!

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    1. I needed it easy enough to use regularly and organized enough to be helpful. Enjoy.

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  11. I have a lovely journal book, never used, and you have inspired me to put it on my desk and use it daily! Also, the 15-30 minutes a day will get me on track...I sure do have some quilts planned. After all, that is what brings me joy...the doing. Thank you Barbara!.

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  12. useful tips... Thank you!!
    I have one of these quilters planners my daughter gave me - never used it. The normal copy-book seems more natural, and if I have more time to ddedicate to quilting, I'll fill up more, and if I don't it can stay there till next time.
    I do leaders and enders...

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  13. Thank you for a great post! This is how the bullet journal is supposed to work. It's supposed to be simple and not another project itself. I am going to see how many of your ideas I can incorporate into my day. I've been having some motivation issues lately.Thanks again.

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    1. Motivation can come from success--just start.

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  14. The ""I'll put this in a safe place" I add it to the Where Did I Put? list."

    This summer I am decluttering "paper" which is in all rooms, all locations. Quilting topics are everywhere I look. I can't remember ever seeing the item, it has served no purpose; it was suppose to be my memory. Stick It notes work if you know where they are.

    I can't wait to use a journal. I must have 20 blank journals just waiting to be used. My new memory organizer.

    Thanks,

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    1. that's right, we need all the help we can give ourselves

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  15. I've found the 15-minute plan useful for all parts of life. As one commenter said, it alleviates procrastination. For me, a key element is to actually set a timer for 15 minutes. If I'm tackling something I don't really want to do, I can tell myself I can do anything for that amount of time. And if I'm having too much fun, the timer reminds me I may need to go do something else. If you spend time on Pinterest...set a timer!

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    1. For sure--the black hole of Pinterest swallows a lot of us. I agree--I'm willing to de-clutter for 15 minutes, then I can play.

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  16. I love your journal tips! I use basically the same idea with a journal at work and it’s life changing... really! I never thought to use a sharpie so I will definitely incorporate that for moving items over.
    Dedicating 15 minutes is something I need to start! I haven’t felt like sitting at my machine for months and this sounds like something that will get me started again!

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  17. Two things that stuck out to me...the where did I put it and the 15 minute goal. I must admit I am a Solitaire abuser. So I will now try disciplining myself to checking my email and then go right to my machine and work on what I laid out to do when I finished the day before. Great tips.

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    1. I admit to daily use of Solitaire and Angry Birds, after I work all day in my studio. Life is supposed to be fun, right?

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  18. I am so GLAD I used my 15 minutes to read this article! Seriously - these are wonderful ideas. I have heard of "leaders/enders", "Spiders" and other names but never tried them. Thanks for the push. I am list maker all the time. I have a project book (on #4) which is a spiral bound sketch pad. That is where I do "all" my thinking and put measurements / notes etc. After changing my kitchen I wanted to make new curtains and could easily access all the information in book #1. I will be trying out your notebook - sounds like a great idea. Thank you!!

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    1. Bet you get right to it since you are familiar with the benefits of writing stuff down.

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  19. I have looked at the bullet journal idea before but was unsure how to make it work for a quilter. I will have to try your ideas. Planners, even quilt planners have not worked for me in the past. Love the 15 minute idea. I am already using the leader and ender idea.

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    1. When I first started reading about bullet journals they sounded WAY too complicated with lots of "rules". Keep it simple, works for me.

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  20. I get way more done when I use a list. But for now, you've made me tired, so I think I'll take a nap! LOL

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  21. I've always been a list maker----on scraps of paper! Then I have to spend time looking for the list. Notebook works so much better. Also the 15 minute rule and leaders/enders I've used but forgot about them. THANK YOU SO MUCH for the time management tips.

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  22. Thank you for these tips- They really make sense so I am going out to buy a book. Do you also have any suggestions for articles/ tips/ideas that you print, cut out etc. - I try to keep them together but often know I have got an idea somewhere and can't find it. Thanks
    Joanna

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  23. I have been using Leaders and Enders while making my grandbaby a crib quilt. I am surprised at how quickly they add up! Definitely going to keep this habit up. I start out great guns ablazin’ with my Quilt Planner but seem to peter out each year. I am not happy with myself about this...too pricey not use fully use. Plus, I tend to fall into the “don’t have enough time or energy to finish anything so why bother” camp when my health issues flair up. I know I’ll feel better with just a few minutes a day in my studio, just have to take that first step in the door...

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  24. Great hints, thank you.

    Say what you may about horoscopes, I'm a Gemini and something I read many years ago about Geminis certainly is true for me. Geminis are known for making lists and then losing them. Your idea of putting them into a journal is brilliant. Hope I don't lose my journal now!

    An idea I find to be very helpful is one I learned from Pepper Cory. Keep a pad of post a notes by your machine. Before you leave your machine for a break jot a quick note about where you are or your next step. When you return, it is so easy to jump back in.

    Penny

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  25. Dear Barbara, Your lecture on this was great last night at Lakeview Quilters Guild. My journal wills start today! Never too old to learn and improve. I am the 74 year old who was doing the block demo.

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  26. Thank you for an excellent lecture tonight at FCQ! It was a great evening!

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  27. Loved your lecture last night at FCQ! Ran right home and got out all those blank journals I have (not all blank, as it turns out) and will pick one to start with! I've used starters and enders before and fell away from it, but got one fun quilt out of it. will start again! Thanks again! Wish I could have come to your class today, you're funny! Belly laughs are good for the soul!

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