Happy New Year to everyone who celebrates it today! For those of us who do, it’s traditionally a time for reflection on the past year (or 3 or 4) and thoughts of what the next year will bring. The later always has overtones of hope and anticipation, at least for me. I love to dream about what might be (if I’m super woman and well-organized). My dreams always exceed reality and the realm of physical possibilities but, that aside, I enjoy the dreaming. In dreaming, magic is possible.
I’m a pursuer of organizational magic. I’m always searching for ways to make me more organized, and therefore more productive. I have lists galore, I’ve tested every possible way to organize my “stuff”. I’ve learned a lot, but I’m not an organized guru (sigh).
One of the practices I’ve participated in over the years has been the habit of New Years Resolutions. Not so effective I found, to make a list of things to accomplish. When I didn’t finish them I felt like a looser. So I tried picking goals instead – closer, but my goals were too lofty or vague and not attained. There was also the feeling that I had to “finish” my goal or it didn’t count. My next effort was to choose a Word for the year. This is a popular practice amongst my Art Quilt cohorts. Ah, a much better approach!
But last year I started thinking of my word for the year as my Theme for the year. It’s pretty much the same thing but feels like a more accurate description of the process. No pressure to finish a list or goal, just the commitment to work on improving or making progress on a theme. A theme is not just a word, but a concept; a word with a little more focus.
Last year my Theme was Progress. With a sign on my wall, mirror, cupboard, and door, where I’d see it several times every day, I did make Progress. I made more progress than ever before in reaching one of my goals (I built a real website, I took my fused glass buttons wholesale, I finished several personal projects, and I got (and kept) more “stuff” organized). I should probably interject that I limited my goals to a very short list. Another thing I’ve learned the hard way is that a long list of goals is certain death – at least to reaching any of them. Also, everything takes at least ten times longer to accomplish than I honestly thought it would :-0 But, Progress was made, and a lot of it (for me). So, the whole theme thing worked!
This year’s theme is Systems. I need to get some Systems and routines in place for taking care of production, order processing and accounting practices. All of these Systems will help the work-flow go more smoothly, efficiently, and accurately. Leaving more time for creativity. Well, that’s the plan.
What do you hope to accomplish in 2014? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
One of the benefits of offering a wholesale line of my fused glass buttons to independent yarn and fabric shops is that it gives me a great excuse to visit them and peruse their goods. I am a yarn, fabric, button, and bead junkie, I confess my weakness to all the world.
So my latest trip to Seattle was loaded up with stops at a variety of shops designed to cater to my weaknesses. One of the shops I visited – and now has a selection of my fused glass buttons for sale in their fabulous store – was Tricoter. This is an “ultimate” knitter’s shop. They carry the most luscious yarns I’ve seen in one place, as can be verified with the yummy skeins that came home with me, including a to-die-for skein of Alchemy’s “Tweedy”. Can I just say “ahhhhhhhhhh’?
If you are in the Seattle area, you must stop in and see what they have to offer – and ogle some really fine glass buttons too 😉
As most of you know, I’m a button junkie. But I’m also a button snob. Yes, just add it to my list; button snob, yarn snob, fabric snob, bead snob Sigh. I guess I’m just a hopeless snob.
Back to my button obsession. I had been frustrated by the buttons available in stores for decades. When I put tons of work and expensive fabric or yarn in a garment or accessory, I want buttons to be the crowning finish, not just a plastic afterthought to hold it closed (I told you I was a snob). I would comb through trade shows and specialty shops for the right buttons, just to come back, too often, disappointed. I decided to make my own when polymer clay became a big thing, way back when – but alas, my results were not to my satisfaction. Then my DH started playing with hot glass. Wow! The colors, the contrast of glass on fiber…
I nagged him to make me fused glass buttons, he did. I loved them! I begged for more. Then more. And more. He generously offered to show me how to make them myself (a survival tactic I suspect). But after my first batch, I. Was. Hooked. The magic that happens when glass is exposed to heat is, well, magic! Sometimes the results are a complete surprise, changing color in the kiln. It’s as exciting as pulling yarn from a dye pot.
Yes, it’s been said I’m easily entertained.
So, the result is that I make a lot of buttons. I sell them on Etsy and at a few shows, and now in some great Independent shops. The latest to join my list is the wonderful bead shop in Ypsilanti, Michigan ~ Stoney Creek Beads. If you are in the greater Detroit or Ann Arbor area, and have a penchant for sparkly things, you should check them out. They have some of the most wonderful beads, along with glass lamp-worked beads by local artists, ever. And the owners are a delight to visit with!
Why a bead shop, you wondered? Glad you asked, have you noticed the trend to use buttons to clasp bead necklaces and bracelets instead of boring ol’ toggles? Glass buttons are perfect for it 🙂
So, thank you Jenn & Sue for carrying my fused glass buttons.
On November 2nd, 2013, just in time for Holiday gift shopping, comes the best Arts & Craft show. Glass Act! A group of highly talented hot glass workers, puts on a fabulous gift show called Winter Wonders. It’s got some seriously high quality hand-made items of glass, jewelry, and more (you know me, fiber is involved 😉 by some of the best glass talent in Michigan. Well attended and worth the drive to Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. It is a great place to find unique gifts for everyone on your list! There is also a great treat table – yum!
We’ll be vendors so join us for glass art and goodies!
Remember this? It’s a sweater for my Mom. She wanted a simple, v-neck, belted, wrap sweater (similar to one I knit for myself in the 70’s) to wear in the fall and spring. “Sure, easy!”
Did those words ever come true? For any one? Sigh.
The saga so far;
In this post, I talked about trying to knit it with an unknown pattern and a knitting machine – both were a disaster. After ripping it out multiple times, I sent the finished sweater to Mom, knowing it was too small across the front. The pattern had a few issues, it had pencil wide fronts, for a wrap sweater. Oy.
When I got it back I ripped it completely out and started over with an Ann Budd top-down pattern and knit it by hand (posted here). All went well, it was all done except for the final sleeve and hem length. Wanting to make sure of them before I finished it, I took it with me to Seattle last month and tried it on her. It was a bit snug around the middle and needed to wrap more. OK, I ripped back to the under arm and did the math to add about 4″.
Apparently, I can’t do math. Having reached the hem (again), I had managed to add 10 inches to the waist. It was a friggin’ tent.
Sulk. Rip, rip, rip…
You’ll get it eventually Mom, really you will.
It. Will. Not. Beat. Me.
To be clear, I was just disgusted with my own lack of knitting savoir-faire. It’s still lovely yarn to knit with and I’m still knitting (which is what I really like doing) so no harm done – other than putting off my next project a little longer 😉
Every once in a while you make a sweater that just turns out awesome. The yarn is delicious, the pattern is cute and easy and the fit is perfect – knitting nirvana!
While on vacation last year, I wandered into Seattle Yarn in West Seattle and fell in love with a cute capped sleeve cardi they had made-up in the window. The pattern was Moussaillon by Cléonis (Little Cropped Cardigan) which I found examples of on Ravelry (my iPad is always so handy in these situations). I then zoomed in on the hand dyed yarns. I mean, a girl has to shop while on vacation, right?
Not too surprising, I ended up with a lovely Malabrigo Rios in colorway #870 Candombe. Stunning deep purples with a touch of bright gold. I saw the colors, fell in love, then touched the yarn – no going back, it was MINE!
Some of the details I loved about the sweater were the side to side knitting-all in garter stitch, the shaping is accomplished by short rows, and it has an adorable picot edge on the sleeves and hem. The only thing I was not wild about was the way it hung open at the hem in front. I solved that problem by adding a few more short rows under the arms to add more swing at the bottom hem. My experiment worked and I didn’t even rip this puppy out once in its making – that will come as quite a shock to those who know my knitting habits well. Let’s just say I really get my money’s worth out of my yarns as a rule. BTW, the additional rows brought my leftover yarn from the finished project to a 3″ piece, I kid you not!
I added four, 3/4″ round fused glass buttons (by me, of course) 🙂 The buttons are a round Wasser black with a rosy gold dichroic square and a light amber glass “gem” in the middle. I call them “Crown Jewel” but sadly the Wasser glass (which I love because it has a lovely soft-melt quality) has been discontinued so I don’t know how many more I can make. 😦
I used The Knitmore Girls method of sewing on my buttons with grosgrain ribbon button band and backing buttons (links are to the two videos on how to do this). The only place I went astray from Gigi’s method was by adding a narrow (3/8″) grosgrain ribbon to the button side to stabilize the button edge and to add that same narrow grosgrain ribbon around the neck. The sideways knit garter stitch just did not make for a cooperative neck edge – way too stretchy! The hand stitched ribbon just along the inside edge stitch of the neck was the perfect solution.
The final touch was being able to wear it into Seattle Yarn on my most recent visit, two weeks ago. I was stylin’ 😉
As I mentioned in the last post, taking classes and reading every book, article, and yes, blog post, etc. on the subject(s) will help, but they take precious time. My goal in this series of posts is to “think out-loud” about the journey I’ve been on. With any luck, some of it will prove helpful and you may be able to get a few nuggets or helpful tips on your Organizing, Time Management and Productivity – before you reach retirement. In the meantime, I guess (for me) better late than never, sigh…
The are as many methods for being more productive as there are people who have tried to figure out how to be. That’s because it is largely an individual kind of thing. We are all wired differently and different things work for us. We have many different times of day when our productive mojo is at its peak. We have many different work styles. We all have different demands on our time, schedules and energy. The list goes on and if you do the math, it turns out to be about a bazillion variations on the theme.
For me, organizing and time management are only two-thirds of the formula for being productive. You have to be organized to be productive but being organized won’t make you productive. You have to be able to manage your time – but being able to manage your time won’t make you productive if you don’t have your ducks – all happily quacking – in a row (my eyes are crossing). They set the stage, but don’t give lines and actions to the actors. Some direction is needed. Then some action.
When I take the time to plan, my actions are more effective. Planning is part of setting up routines and systems. I heard that collective groan. It’s not all that bad, they can be as flexible as you need them to be, so can a plan. Here is what is working for me (this time around).
Yes, I’ve gone through many years of trials and tribulations, just plain ignoring it all, tweaking and testing. I have a bad habit of giving up on a system when it starts to fall apart for what ever reason. In desperation, I eventually try again. This time things seem to be sticking – so why couldn’t I have figured all this out before now? I blame The Lord of the Cosmic Jest.
Know what you want/need to get done. Set up your routine so that you have wiggle room. My morning routine consists of things I need to get done before I start my “work” day. I tried setting up a schedule that had me doing certain things at certain times (i.e. 7am to 8am – walk dog, 8am to 9am – breakfast and plan dinner, 9am to 9:30 am…). Reality check! I could never stick to the schedule, even when I gave myself more time for each chore. I just get too distracted! I would get off schedule and get frustrated and give up on the whole routine. Chaos would return and things went back to hit ‘n miss because I forgot to take into account my working style. I’m a deep dweller and the most important thing in the world to me at any given moment is what is in my field of vision.
Know your working style. I have learned the hard way that starting out in the studio or office means NOTHING else will get done all day. I simply won’t stop what I’m working on to do mundane (muggle?) chores. I want to spend my precious time on what matters: making buttons, creating stuff, running my business – not on stuff that won’t matter in a hundred years (or less). But, some boring things still need to be done: fixing dinner, doing laundry, scheduling the house keeper (someone has to do it!). Fix: I’m getting in the habit of doing them first.
So, the recent tweak that is working? I have a set amount of time in the morning to do the domestic chores. I have a cut-off time to be at “work” (in my office or studio). I make it late enough in the morning so that I can reasonably get the things done I need to do first (assuming I stay on task). Anything that isn’t finished (by cut-off time) has to wait until that night or the next morning. Period. Instead of a time based schedule to do certain activities in certain time slots, I have a check list of things that have to get done (not too detailed). There is just something very satisfying about ticking boxes on a check list, and knowing exactly what I have to do makes it easy to take action. 😉
☐ walk the dog
☐ update task list
☐ start dinner
☐ start laundry
☐ next chore
You get the picture. Since I couldn’t seem to stick to doing things in the same order every day, this eliminated the frustration and feelings of failure that the time-table method brought on. The important part is the cut-off time, it’s not negotiable. My next strategy was to learn from my working style that office work can suck me in and never end. Apparently there is a part of me that is unbelievably anal when it comes to book-keeping and computer stuff – and we won’t even mention the black-hole that’s the Internet. Fix: I go to the studio first, then the office chores in the late afternoon. Again, there is a cut-off time when I stop and go finish fixing dinner. The rest of the night is to relax with DH (maybe fit in a few chores not finished in the morning) and work on my personal knitting, weaving or handwork project.
This approach has helped me stick with a schedule that actually gets things done. It’s loose enough, and flexible enough, that I can live with it long-term. It also takes into account my peak creative time and my working style; blocks of time that allow the deep immersion into a project that I like, mid-day for about 2-½ to 3 hours – my attentions starts to wane at that point – then it’s a good time to move to office work.
Now that I have a working (and flexible enough) schedule, what else makes for being productive? Habits and systems. For all the small things that have to be repeated everyday, I do it the same way every time until it becomes habit. It is totally amazing how much faster and more efficiently you can get a chore done if you do it on auto-pilot. Seriously! I used to dread the huge chore of cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. Years ago I figured out how to make it a system, which became a habit: After dinner (with DH’s willing help) I immediately clear the table and rinse the dishes, put them in the dishwasher, wipe the stove and counter. It takes 5 to 10 minutes max and I never have to face dirty dishes piled up later. It is a habit to never leave a dish in the sink. It gets rinsed and put in the dishwasher; auto-pilot, habit, never becomes a piled up problem. Build your habits one at a time – most people fail with these small things because they try to do more than one, giving themselves overwhelm. Pick the one thing you hate most and causes you the most grief. Make it a routine, a system, and do it – the same way, at the same trigger (e.g. finishing dinner), every time, until it’s a habit. It takes about 30 days of diligence to create a habit. Then, keep it going. Eventually you couldn’t break it if you tried! My current habit I’m working on is to limit my e-mail time by checking it on my phone (it’s harder to follow links that way) in the morning for orders or other important business messages – with a time limit (my timer is my friend). Then I don’t look at it again until office hours and I can use the computer and chase a link or two that is important enough – again, with a time limit! This is a tough one but I’m making progress. I have also turned off all alerts on my phone for e-mail, Facebook and Twitter – I look at them on my schedule, not theirs.
I design systems which eventually become habits. Do you have important tasks that need to be done the same way every time and in the same order so things don’t get forgotten? Create a system or work-flow. I have one for when I receive an order. I used a Mind Mapping App like Scapple (for the Mac) or Simple Mind (for anybody) that creates things that look like Org Charts (but more robust) and actually make a chart for what I do when I get an e-mail notice of an order. The first step is to print it out, then I have to interact with the customer, get it into my bookkeeping system, inventory system, set up the schedule for getting it filled and shipped… If I don’t have each of the 14 steps written down, something gets forgotten and I have to explain to the customer why I dropped the ball. Not good. Systems and work flows make it all happen efficiently.
Rewards help too. My morning habit is to walk the dog. I used to putz around until I eventually put it off entirely (she does have a fenced, big back yard). But the walk was good for both of us and I really wanted to get into the habit. I made a routine; get up, brush teeth, dress, put on walking shoes, put dog on leash, go out-door. Same way, same order every morning for a month (yes, a great deal of discipline was needed). When I got back I could have my first cup of coffee, not before (reward!). Now it’s auto-pilot stuff. It does help that the dog expects it and won’t give me any peace if I try to fob it off.
Did I mention that systems and habits get things done? What repeating tasks do you have that can be made into a system, then a habit?
What about stuff that is different, like your big, one-time project to take over the world and create a zombie sanctuary? My Secret Sauce for making progress on projects and goals is project planning, management and task lists; what needs to be done and in what order. Look at your long-term goals, which one can you start working on now? What project would be a good first step? What tasks need to get done and in what order to do that project? What’s next?
So, this was a long post. What are the big take-aways here?
Know what you want to do.
Make a system or habit out it.
Sometimes my project for the day is just to plan my upcoming projects. I have a system for that too. All about Project Management in the next post of the series.