Last night’s trick or treat was a success! Im building house cleaning routines and working on my “shining the sink” habit from Marla Cilley’s (the flylady) system. I’ve done several stints with her system, but here’s hoping this is the time that sticks! I was able to get my kids ready and made up, trick or treat, watch our annual viewing of “Its the a Great Pumpkn, Charlie Brown!”, shine my sink, and vacuum the whole house. It may seem small, but I’m super proud to keep going in building these small habits that will eventually join together to keep my house on “autopilot”. The more I have that stuff under control, the more I can work on my hobby-sewing and design! If interested, check out flylady on YouTube or google her! She has a way to make cleaning fun and helps people become more organized 15 minutes at a time.
I love the other side, don’t you? The grass seems to always be greener there! You have babies, you want them to be big. They get big, you want them to be babies. You have a sewing room, but you want to move your stuff to the living room so you can get more done. You do that and don’t realize how good you had it until you come across pictures of your sewing room the way it used to be. Alright, maybe that last one’s just me, but that’s what happened to me this morning as I was looking through my pictures trying to decide on the post for the day. I came across a set of what was meant to be “before” pictures for a post on organizing craft spaces.
I’m glad to have my epuipment in a more accessible space, but these pictures make me long for the cohesion I once had. Everything was in one spot! That was nice. Now I cut, sew, and iron in my living room, but have to run upstairs for fabric and pattern making supplies. Oh well, there’s always a trade-off, but here’s to reminiscing of days gone by:
This used to really drive me crazy, but it’s pretty inevitable on any flat space, isn’t it? I’ve gotten much better about not piling stuff on top of my cutting table and leaving it there now that I work right in our main living space. The downside? My daughters now use it to pile backpacks, coats, scarves, toys-and occasionally the cat-onto.
This cabinet had all of my knit fabrics in it. Now it has my kids’ craft supplies. (And honestly, I’d much rather dig through the bins my fabric is in now than let them have free access to their craft stuff, so in this case the grass is greener on my new side of the fence!)
It was really cool having my fabric stored openly, so I could see just what I had. And if you look really closely, you’ll see the expensive Shark steamer I just had to have to steam my wedding dress, plus it would be ever-so-practical, I told my husband, because I could use it for everything, all the time, but I never used. . .not once! Man, he’s smug when he’s right!
The Moral of the Story:
Memories of the way things used to be are to be cherished, not longed for. Why go back? Let’s look ahead to bigger and better!
Also, husbands can be horribly annoying when they’re right, so when they question a purchase and you find out you were wrong, don’t return it. Just keep it in your closet for years and years and pretend like it’s worth it because it will be very useful one day . . . invaluable, even!
Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can finish today, right? And don’t mentally put off everything in your life until that Mythical Saturday-you know, the one you schedule house cleaning, family time, grocery shopping, date night, home repair, DIY, 8 loads of laundry, sewing, sketching, and ten or twelve other things that you swear you’ll get around to, because you have that day “free.” Procrastination can be a problem for creatives, and so can overbooking our time. We tend to overestimate what we can do in a certain amount of time. And when we come across a task that we really don’t have time for today, in our mind Saturday’s an inviting blank slate- distractionless, and filled with unoccupied time. Until Saturday comes, that is, and we remember just how little time we actually have to juggle.
I have found my Saturdays completely filled up on paper when I’m planning, but none of it ever gets done! I used to attribute it to having too much time, which makes me tend to think I’m ok as the time ticks away until suddenly it’s 8 in the evening and nothing on that long list is checked off. I know that’s some of it, but I’m starting to realize that just as my expectations for myself can be unrealistic, my expectations for how productive I’ll be on Saturdays often are, too.
If you, too, suffer from The Mythical Saturday Syndrome, there’s hope! I’m not sure exactly what it is yet, (I’m still trying to figure out just how to plan attainable goals for my Saturdays and as I come across tips that help me, I’ll share them with you guys) but I know it involves battling that old monster of perfectionism. And I know one day I’ll not only defeat that monster, I’ll harness it’s energy for success in life, art, and design. It’s my quest. (And just so you know, in this fantasy quest, I’m both the Princess and the Knight in shining armor. Oh, And Bruce Willis in Die Hard.)
I just found out it’s important when planning your time to schedule time for…wait for it- planning your time! Mind blowing, isn’t it? Now that I’ve had someone explain that to me and I’ve incorporated it into my life, it’s something that I simply can’t believe I’ve missed for all these years! How did that get by me?
I’m an uber-nerd and at just the thought of creating effective systems, well. . . I hear angels sing. Or maybe it’s just the crazy person in my head singing. But it excites me! I love the idea of my life being a well-oiled machine of prioritized tasks and time investments. I love starting out, pen in hand, making– joyous gasp– a list! (If you’re reading this, I know you love lists, too! Only deranged wackos hate lists. And maybe people who are just naturally organized, but we hate those people. We could never hate them as much as we love lists, though!)
I’ve tried all my life to develop systems for creating order in my life. With my internal organization lagging behind thanks to my creative/ADD brain, I’ve had to find external ways to overcome that. Whether you have ADHD or time management just eludes you, or you just love those darn lists so much, I’ve put together some common themes for a successful time management system.
1. Make it work. . .for you, that is.
What is your life actually like? Who are you, what are your habits? Take mental note of your needs, expectations, what things come easily to you and what things are like pulling teeth to get yourself to do. Consider how your energy swings throughout the day and the week and your normal habits. (If you watch tv in the evenings, is it realistic to plan a schedule where you do all of your chores in the evenings?) Don’t mark your calendar and make your schedule based on how you would like your life to be in an ideal world and as if you had amazing energy all day long every day, while only having to sleep for 5 hours a night. THAT’S NOT REALISTIC! If you tend to be more tired as the week wears on, schedule more of your evening activities on Mondays than Thursdays, for example.
For me: A time management mistake was that I would always make my plan on paper very ideal. I always planned as if I’d get up an hour and an half earlier than I had to and as though I’d stay up late at night and maintain a consistent, high level of energy throughout the day. And since I have narcolepsy as well as ADD (the one actually accounts for the other) It’s not realistic to think my life will just change and I’ll get some magic stream of energy that never wavers. It didn’t seem totally stupid while I was doing it, but now that I’ve gotten smarter, I can see how ridiculous that notion is. (To see a post of mine about unrealistic expectations, click here.)
2. Plan time to plan your time.
Such a refreshing notion! This has been a key for me..and it will be for you, too, if you haven’t done it already. The reason that it’s so important is that we take all this time to set up a schedule or an organizational system for our lives, but no time to maintain it and keep it going. (I’ve tried flylady’s control journal and the Sidetracked Home Executives card file system. I started…and gave up on, both of them, although I still have my card file system in case I ever get disciplined enough to use it and I recently went back to a modified-and easier-version of my control journal.) The problem comes after we inevitably mess it up and stop keeping up with the system or schedule. We just never go back to the drawing board to iron out the kinks in our plan and to re-motivate ourselves to keep it up. If you put the planning time in your plan, you can use that time to review your goals and maybe change your strategy if it needs to be tweaked.
For me: Sundays are now my planning time. I get out my control journal and the front section is schedule/planning. In it I have a list of the two or three main tasks for each day of the week, my work goals for the year, my work goals for the month, and the list of characteristics and habits that are important to me. Those include things I want to remember to keep up because they’re important to me (like Bible study and family time) and also things I’m not good at yet, but want to be (like mailing out Christmas and Thank You cards.) I learned the importance of scheduling time to plan time and doing your planning based on who you want to be instead of what you have to get done from a study we did on Bill Hybels’ Simplify book.)
3. Forget the to-do list.
Like I said above- plan based on who you want to be, not what needs to be done. Thanks, Bill Hybels. (Although I feel like the s on the end of his name makes me sound uneducated if I say it out loud. Like I’m one of those people who just add unnecessary esses to the end of words for no reason at alls. Get it?
If you get a good, WORKABLE schedule, you will have built in the time to tackle all those to-dos throughout your week or month.
For me: I would make my weekly plan based on everything I thought I should be doing. I’d look at all the things I needed to get done: House, work, family, projects. I’d squeeze all of those goals into my schedule as if I’d be able to get them done in the first week or month.
4. Pick a lane. Or in this case, a day.
Designate certain days for certain tasks. Especially if you’re one of those people who gets stuck doing something once you get into it and have a hard time pulling yourself away. Just allow for that in your schedule.
For me: I used to try to get like 20 minutes of every single thing I aspired to do in on any given day. I actually thought it was necessary to do all the important things each day. I figured I should be able to exercise for 20 minutes then study Spanish, then read for 20 minutes, then sew for an hour then do some pattern making…and so on…for, like, 50 items each day. Instead of assuming I’ll wake up tomorrow with a triathlete’s self discipline, I changed my schedule to match my personality. Now it looks like this:
I blog daily Plus:
Mondays: Sewing, List Items to Sell
Tuesdays: Pattern Making and Sewing
Wednesdays: Sketching, Watch fashion shows, Sewing
Thursdays: Photography practice and take pics for my blog, Learning-continuing education on blogging, sewing, Youtubing, etc.
Fridays: Craftsy Sewing Class, Look at other blogs, Social Networking
Note the lack of details. This keeps the schedule flexible and keeps me from pressuring myself into squeezing an unreasonable amount if items into my day.
5. Keep it regular.
That way if you skip it, it’ll come back up soon. Haaaa!!! This is like the way we get to stick it to the system…that we made, of course, but it’s still satisfying! If you do your bathrooms on wednesdays and you skip this week, don’t (metaphorically or otherwise) kill yourself over it. Don’t screw up your Thursday trying to make up for it. Just wait until next Wednesday! That sounds like freedom from guilt for me, people!
For me: I don’t really have a cute story of how I used to mess this up, because I’ve pretty much always known how helpful this could be if I could get a weekly schedule in place. I’m only now getting to where I’m using-and sticking to a system. I still don’t do it very well for chores, but I absolutely HAD to make a schedule for work since I’m working at home now and it’s going off like a charm. And by “like a charm” I mean I hardly ever do what I have listed for each day of the week, but it sure feels nice not to have to beat myself up over it, knowing that I’ll get to it next week!
Happy Scheduling, y’all. (Hmmm, I can’t get away with saying that, but it looks just fine when I write it. Go figure.)
While cleaning someone’s clock seems to have a negative connotation, (I guess depending on whether you’re the one being hit or the one doing the hitting.) cleaning someone’s closet is close to the nicest thing you can do for a person. And since not everyone will let you into their closet just because they know your neurosis is strong enough that you may physically die if you don’t get your hands on it (Thanks, Amanda. I know you truly love me!) I suggest doing it for yourself. A little post-holiday pick-me-up. A gift for your nerdy side, if you will.
It’s one of those things that we dread and put off for months-or years- and are astounded by how little time the task takes once we actually do it. Nothing like killing yourself with shame and anxiety over your procrastination on something that takes 5 minutes to do!
In the case of my bathroom closet, it took 25 minutes start to finish. I timed it because I wanted to know just how long this task I had put off for, hmm, at least 2 years would actually take me. 2 years of dread vs. less than half an hour of work. Our mental procrastination scales are very warped, aren’t they?
Here’s my closet the way it was. Belts flung around, piles of stuff stacked on top of piles of other stuff. Clothes, empty toilet paper rolls for crafts we never do, a blue basket of who-knew-what. Every time I looked at my closet I thought “I need to clean this.” And then I never did. Sure I would tidy it up, but it wasn’t functional because nothing had a great place of its own.
And everyone knows (or should know) the only way to remedy that is to empty the space you’re cleaning completely. Set a timer if you tend to get carried away with the details. Leave that for another day. This is not the time to start washing out your makeup brushes or sampling your array of lotions. This is a purge and sort. Keep the big goal in mind, which is to put your closet back together in a reasonable amount of time so that it’s organized and will serve all your space needs.
Here’s all my crap. I had like 3 or 4 of those gigantic peroxide bottles! I could have kept Lady Gaga blonde for months! This is the point to pick out the trash and/or giveaway stuff. Since this was my bathroom closet, I had no “Goodwill pile.” If it was my coat closet, I would have needed one. After picking out stuff you no longer have use for, pick one category of stuff to work on and put up everything in that category…and only stuff in that category! I did my towels first, since they were easy and getting them out of the way made it look like I had a lot less stuff to deal with. (Organizing sometimes takes strategy just to overcome our own excuses!)
Here’s my top shelf. First aid and medical on the right and makeup on the left. I DID NOT sort my makeup on this day! I know it’s a temptation of mine to get off onto cleaning tangents and before I know, I’ve spent hours organizing all my hair clips and bands, and I’m still surrounded by huge piles on the floor and I have no more energy to put it all back together. If that’s your cleaning story, you need to remember to set a timer and not get caught up in the little stuff!
Hair stuff…Also not sorted, well at least not in a way that everything’s standing up straight and it looks magnificent, but that wasn’t the purpose of this. The styling products, combs, and brushes are on the left. The headbands, clips, and beads are on the right. And that’s GOOD ENOUGH!
***TANGENT ALERT*** I had to really, really work hard to get to a point where I could be okay with “good enough” instead of “perfect”- which doesn’t really exist anyway. A lot of people with messy, unorganized houses are actually perfectionists, surprisingly. They don’t clean because it takes them hours to do what most people do in minutes and it gets exhausting. If you fall into that category-and I did-work on the “GOOD ENOUGH” philosophy! It will turn your life around. If you take on one project, don’t let it become ten projects. If I did this closet 5 years ago, after an hour, I would have ended up with perfectly organized hair stuff and makeup. (I would have started on the tiny items first.) I probably would have gone shopping for the perfect containers and I probably would have left the new baskets by my front door and piles of stuff sitting around the closet floor for a week or two until I got back to it. Trust me. Focus on Finishing your organizing project. You can always go back and take one category and go nuts. One day I’ll get my makeup better organized-probably. But if I don’t, it doesn’t really matter, because I know where it’s all at. And I can get to everything else in my bathroom easily. My family can quickly find everything they need and the best part is, my husband didn’t come home to a gigantic mess and ask what happened only to be confused by my response that, “I’m cleaning.” If that scenario rings a bell for you, we share a private laugh. And I love you!
(Click Here to view my post on why I blog about organization so much.)
I love glass containers. They just pretty everything up! I stuck band aids in here instead of with the first aid stuff on the top shelf because my daughters need to be able to reach them. You know, for when they have those owies that they swear are there and are killing them, but you have to squint to see them when they point them out. Moms and Dads get it.
And here’s the finished closet, in all its simplistic goodness! 25 minutes! Best part is, it’s actually finished!
Here’s your challenge, should you choose to accept it, and I recommend that you do: Pick ONE area that drives you crazy. Set a timer for a reasonable amount of time, take everything out, and put it back in so it’s nice and neat and WORKS! Don’t get carried away with details!!!! You’ll be surprised how quick and easy it is if you’re goal is Functional instead of Perfect, which, as I’ve already said, DOESN’T EXIST ANYWAY!
Organization is something I talk about a lot on this blog. The reasons are tri-fold. Here they are:
1. This blog is directed toward a creative audience and creative people are messy.
Maybe you don’t like to sew or design, but you love to express yourself creatively through your style. That’s being artistic, too. And the problem with creative, artistic people (aside from being completely mad) is that we’re generally pretty unorganized naturally. The nature of creative thinking means we take off on flights of fancy- over and over again. Our last great idea is trumped by a newer one, which isn’t necessarily better, but it feels like it to us because of the intrigue of it’s newness. So we scrap the old unfinished project for the shiny new project and BAM! We’re elbow deep in clutter- physically and mentally. Bottom line: We start a whole lot of new things and have a tough time finishing them! (Ok, maybe it’s just me, but I think it would be hilarious if at this point, the blog post just ended! Wouldn’t you wonder what project i’m off doing now?)
2. Being truly organized is my White Whale. I want that bad boy! And I bet you do, too.
I often describe myself as a “Messy Type A Personality.” My brother, who, I assure you, is a real Type A in the sincerest form of the term, endearingly calls me an “A Minus.” You’d think it would sting, but it rings too true! And the truth is, it would drive me crazy to be a legitimate Type A. Ugh, all that responsibility and the world on your shoulders? No thanks. I’ll leave that to all the firstborns of the world! But I do have enough of those personality traits to understand the value of a life well-planned and lived. I have the mental clarity that they have to see what needs to be done. I just don’t have as much natural ability to actually get it done. Maybe not ability. Maybe more like stamina.
Because let’s face it, creatives, following through is boring! Making a plan? Wonderful! Sticking to it? Blah- Not so much! Planning is creative. It involves imagination and ingenuity; it’s right up our alley. But living out the plan requires good memory, perseverance, and the ability to cope well with boredom. I wish I had even one of those traits! Or maybe I don’t. (Decisiveness is another trait on the list of characteristics creative people often don’t possess!) Because it’s best to know who you are, understand your strengths and weaknesses and be able to live a life directed toward your talents, not obsessing over your shortcomings. It’s okay (and necessary) to learn to be “Good Enough” in your weaker areas. We don’t have to be walking palm pilots with emaculate houses. But we do need to have a system that work for us, not against us, to foster our creativity.
3. Being organized promotes freedom.
I’m not trying to beat any non-Christians over the head with this stuff, but there’s such a close analogy with this to spirituality that I can’t not write about it: From the outside looking into church, religion, and walking with God, it seems so restrictive, doesn’t it? It seems like there are a million rules in the Bible and “why would I possibly want someone else telling me how to live my life?” Never mind that He’s the Creator of the universe and He made people and knows better than anyone else how we work. We just don’t want His rules! The beautiful dichotomy there is that once we decide to follow Jesus and be His disciple, we start trusting His Word because we love and trust Him. We want to try to follow His rules because we want to please Him out of our love for Him and because we know theoretically that they’re guidelines on how to live the kind of life He made us for.
And then, the incredible happens as we get used to following those rules…they make our lives better! We find ourselves happier and more stable- better parents, spouses, friends. We make more responsible decisions because we’ve become more emotionally healthy and want to live wisely. We find-miraculously-that those rules we fought so hard against for so much of our lives are really the framework for our freedom! We find that without God, we were never truly free and that the “straight and narrow path” that looked so boring and offensive to us before is really not so hard or unnatural when God’s the One we love most in life because He blesses us with the ability to live life truly to the fullest. It’s pretty phenomenal how He works that out in our lives!
Similarly, having external structure in your life allows you to accomplish your dreams! Once you find a system for organizing your space and your time that actually works for you, the cool part is your system takes over a lot of your workload. No more wondering where to put stuff or spending more time deciding what to do with your day that actually doing it. When you have a comprehensive, DO-ABLE plan, it provides the architecture around which you can build your life, your business, your hobby, what have you. And if you’re a nerdy creative like me, you’ve been dying to find a good mix of system and play. I strongly encourage you to keep at it. Get organized ENOUGH (not perfectly) to fulfill your dreams and goals. And remember, a little organization goes a long way for us. Keep your structure light and easy and, perhaps most importantly, changeable! We love a little chaos! We do. And when our lives are adequately organized, we can have all the chaotic, inventive madness we want- without it taking over our lives. Well, maybe just a little.
The Moral of the Story?
I’m gonna get myself and you guys organized if it kills me. Because only then are we freed up enough to be doers and makers. (I feel like that’s actually more fun, but sounds more boring than being movers and shakers. Hmmm. Someone should write their congressman!)
How do you build a wall? One stone at a time. That’s the way I’m organizing my house- one small victory at a time. Every Christmas I swear next year will be different. I’ll sort all the toys and get rid of a bunch of the old ones in advance so once my kids get all the new toys, their playroom will be a beautiful landscape of orderly bliss. There will be plentiful space for the new stuff and we’ll put it away while in wonderful moods and probably humming in unison.
But then, every Christmas comes and goes without me preparing space in advance. We have Christmas and clean the wrapping paper and cardboard mess and get out the Barbies and play sets. I forbid them to open any of the craft items or anything I’ll have to help them with because I know how much cleaning, purging, sorting, and woo-sah-ing I’ll have to do. And “there’s no way we’re getting out paint on top of this mess, girls. Have you gone crazy? “(This year the EZ Bake oven was the exception- and that’s only because my husband loves to cook and helped them with it.
I’m ever so happy to announce that we’re making real progress, however! For the two weeks of my kids’ winter break, my focus is spending time with them, doing some crafts that we often don’t have time to do together (like teaching them how to make embroidery floss friendship bracelets, which we’ve already begun) and getting my house organized. We’ve had a lot of upheaval this year and we’ve changed rooms around a few times, causing, well, a headache! The biggest change to deal with is that my sewing stuff is no longer in my sewing room. I moved it into my living room. If you love to sew, you know that there is excitement and pride bursting out of me right now! That’s the dream, isn’t it? To have all of your stuff right smack dab in the middle of your house. Sewing while the husband watches football? I could happy-faint! But, despite my intense delight, I didn’t really know what to do with the sewing room. I still have my fabric and half-done projects in there.
The other thing I’d really put off is my girls’ craft supplies. We’ve never really had a proper space in this house for crafting. We’ve had stuff divided and stored in about 4 or 5 different places and would work on the kitchen table…occasionally. Doing crafts with them has been something I’ve dreaded for a long time- only because the supplies have been so scattered and unorganized. My thought was to store their craft stuff in my “sewing room”, but I hated that idea a little, too, because I didn’t want to have to carry it all downstairs every time we did a project. As I was going through the craft stuff in my sewing room, my daughter walked in and said, “We need a table in here.” Brilliant!
Why in the world had i not thought of that? (Probably because I was used to having way too much squeezed into that tiny room for so long and didn’t realize that now I have space for something like that.) Now my much anticipated goal is to find a secondhand table and chairs and use it as a craft room! It’ll be a space where I can store all of my fabric for sewing, my shipping supplies, my design area, and, best of all, I can craft with my girls with very little set-up and tear-down! (The actual best part is that their craft supplies won’t be out in the open to get dragged out when I’m not upstairs so that I walk up and find a terrible paint-glue-glitter-stickers-on-wooden furniture surprise.) Long story short, I’m stoked!
The Moral of The Story:
Find a good space for crafting so you can do what you enjoy without it becoming a chore.
And for the love of Pete, keep the glitter and glue under lock and key!
As my readers know, I have no qualms about being an open nerd. You guys are about to see that soar to a whole new level, though! Since I’m home with my daughters now, I’m taking a break from everything I normally do besides blogging and chores to spend time with them and enjoy the holidays. (Is enjoy the correct word for extremely last minute shopping and wrapping in the dead of night and any time you can find when your kids are otherwise occupied?)
I’m very blessed to be able to spend this time with them. I’m excited for Christmas morning and the many other Christmas parties and events we have going on this week. I’m excited that we finally got the cartoon version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. But most of all, I’m excited to be able to clean my closets! Don’t adjust your screen. You read that right. If I were a superhero, all I’d need on my utility belt would be a label maker. And I would straight Save The Day!
I know a lot of crafters that share my affinity to label making. It runs in our blood. It’s like nature’s way of balancing out our quirky, haphazard, mayhem-enous ?- way of delving into multiple projects while managing to not put any of the supplies away until our crafting area is overrun. Well, it’s usually more like our crafting area, our living room, bits of our kitchen, and possibly our garage if our current project is very work-y. The creative brain has a way of ironing all that out- and it’s the incessant desire to get organized. And while our houses may not look very organized depending on what stages of creativity we’re in at the time, we tend to be able to put everything back quickly and easily because it has a predetermined place of belonging.
Ah, if only we could stick to those predetermined spaces instead of constantly upheaving our homes to change the way everything is sorted. But, no such luck here folks. In our need to create and become better and better, we’re just going to have to make peace with the fact that we move stuff around- a lot. And we’re generally pretty good at it. That is, if we can make it through the whole organizing endeavor and get everything put back up before we crash.
Which leads me to why I love to organize my closets so much. (Not just my closets, to be honest. I obsess over my friends’ unorganized closets, too, usually until I get my way and they let me have at it.) I always says “Closets are the command centers for your house.” Yes, I know how geeky that sounds, and the actual logic there isn’t very sound, but I say it nevertheless. If the storage areas aren’t organized, it’s hard to even clean your house, because you don’t know where all that clutter really belongs. You end up with a scenario similar to when husbands clean- no junk gets moved off of counters or tables and put up. It just gets washed around. Ok, that better not be just my husband!
So I’m off to the races. If I have any major organizational epiphanies or anything muy entertaining happens while I’m sorting, I’ll be sure to let you guys know!
LEAVE IT IN THE COMMENT SECTION: What are your best organizing tips?
Are you good at doing more than one thing at a time? Would you consider yourself a multitasker? These are questions so common in job interviews today, but are they missing the mark? Sure, it’s important to be able to juggle, but that’s all it is. Juggling. No one can actually do two things at once. Research has shown that multitasking is really just making your brain switch back and forth frequently between two or more functions. And it’s not able to do it as efficiently as we once thought.
Each time we switch tasks, there’s a micro-lag in the brain (or in my case just a lag) between stopping what you were doing before and starting the new thing. Now, a micro-lag doesn’t sound so bad, and it’s not…as a singular pause. But the reality of how we work, play, and create today is that we make our poor brains switch tasks several times per hour. That translates into a constant feeling similar to when we go to a room and then think to ourselves, “What in the world did I come in here to do?” (I have those moments at least once a week!)So I think the better question for job interviews-and life in general- is “How good are you at finishing tasks?”
Our brains and bodies function together through automatic processes. Those are things we’ve learned to do so well that we don’t have to manually think about it. We can drive while having a conversation, because our brain can tell our bodies what to do in that situation without any conscious effort on our part. But when we get too many irons in the fire, our brain gets bogged down and we can’t even do those automatic things very well. That’s when you get into situations where you put the coffee pot into the fridge instead of back on the burner. (Why yes, I have done that before!) Or we lose our keys because instead of putting them in the normal spot, we carry them to the next place we went and sat them down there.
So what’s this got to do with sewing and creative work? Don’t artists work this way naturally? A resounding YES! Which is why we need to be extra careful not to fall into the trap of thinking we’re being effective when we’re really just busy. This subject comes up so often for me that I’m sure I’ll post more about it, but for right now I want you guys to think about how it affects your life. Do you ever leave tasks unfinished because you were trying to multitask and got wrapped up in the next thing? Do you have problems finishing projects, but no problem at all starting new ones? If you struggle with this stuff, what can you do about it?
1) Recognize what pushes your buttons.
What things tend to stress you out so you can’t focus as well? Lack of sleep? Loud noise? Not enough noise?
2) Recognize the things that distract you.
Um, let’s tell it like it is, people. If you’re irrevocably bonded with your phone and your heart would die if you turned it off, you’re gonna get distracted by it. Some people get distracted by new projects and ideas. (Such a common obstacle for the creative mind!)
3) Organize your space.
It’s so easy to get distracted when your work space is a mess and you have 4 or 5 projects lying around. There’s a time for everything. When you’re trying to come up with ideas is when you get everything out and surround yourself with fabrics and colors and pictures for inspiration. But if you’re creative, you can’t turn it off, so put that crap up when you’re working or your mind will be racing with new ideas every time you look at something that inspires you.
4) Pick a project and stick with it.
Not necessarily to the end. I’m not a sadist. I won’t make you do that. But it is wise to block out a certain amount of time for a project. Or set a goal of how far you want to go on it. (And I know you won’t be realistic about this, so maybe back that goal off a few steps so you won’t be disappointed.)
5) Know you won’t get everything done in one day.
This is the most impacting realization that I’ve made lately. I used to plan my day and try to cram a little of everything in. Logistically, it makes the most sense. Do one thing for 20 minutes, another for an hour, exercise for 30 minutes in between. But artistic people don’t work like that. What do we do once we get started on a project? Say it with me, “WE DON’T STOP!” Once you’ve made your peace with the fact that it’s hard to turn it off once you get wrapped up in a project, you can plan your life in a way that works for you. I have each day of the week labeled for a particular focus. (EX. Patternmaking on Tuesdays) And it has helped tremendously.
6) Remember your work.
We can get stuck in the trap of thinking we’ll never finish all the projects we’re juggling or getting down on ourselves when we’re in a tricky phase of a particular project. When this happens, CODE RED! Stop being a Negative Nelly and go look at some of your previous work. Remind yourself you’re perfectly capable of finishing and making beautiful stuff. You’ve gone through rough patches before and you can make it through this one if you just keep going. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it would be better to start a new project. Sure, that’s more appealing to our lightning fast visionary minds, but that project’s gonna have its hard parts, too.
The Real Moral of The Story Is:
FINISH WHAT YOU START…EVEN IF YOU KIND OF WANT TO THROW IT OUT THE WINDOW.(LIKE THE STUPID LINGERIE SET I’M WORKING ON.) It’ll get better…You can do it.