Tuesday, February 1, 2011

10 Thoughts on Time Management

People very often ask me how I fit sewing into my day, and I never quite know how to answer that. However, after discussing time management with a dear friend, I thought I’d share some of the things that work for me.
  1. Know your priorities. It is helpful to keep in mind what my most important responsibilities are in life. My first responsibility is to God, and then to my husband and children. This is where daily devotions and then housework and quality family time come in. I also have responsibilities in my church community (being involved in church events and with fellow church members) and broader community. I am called to take care of myself physically, mentally and emotionally. This is where exercise and sewing come in for me. Clearly, sewing is not top priority, but I know how helpful it is for me to manage at least some sewing every week. Understanding my priorities helps me to establish my daily routine.
  2. Keep a good daily routine. My days are so much more manageable since we got Caleb and Daniel into a regular sleep routine (with coinciding sleep times!). I have a daily plan written up which includes a morning walk, daily devotions, dinner preparation, computer time, school trips and more. It’s the only way I can be sure that most things will happen on most days. I also like the reliability this gives me – I can count on being able to sort out emails etc after bringing the kids to school, and on sewing for at least one and a half hours after lunch.
  3. Plan, plan, plan. My diary is always by my side. It has a week to a spread, and all appointments go straight in. I also note down the regular weekly activities like housecleaning, and washing on Mondays, Bible study club on Tuesday evenings, grocery shopping on Thursdays. My diary also contains lots of lists – lists of things I need to do (mainly household jobs and other things that don’t classify as enjoyment), lists of things I’d like to do soon (quilts-in-progress usually appear on this list), lists of things I’d like to do eventually and so on. I try to note down EVERYTHING on one of my lists – emails and phonecalls I need to make, things I need to buy, things that need fixing, and so on. Also, if an item on the list is a bigger job, I try to break it down into smaller parts e.g revamp footstools becomes ‘buy sandpaper, sand one footstool, sand the other footstool, apply one coat of finish, apply second coat, buy foam, cut out fabric, sew cushion covers’. At the beginning of the week (actually, usually Saturday evening) I look at the need-to-do list and try to assign at least one thing from the list to each day. If there are many high-priority jobs I’ll obviously be doing more than one a day, but I try to leave room every day for some time spent on things I’d like to do (i.e. make quilts).
  4. Set goals. This is closely related to the previous point. I like to have daily, weekly and annual goals. I try to stretch myself a little without being unrealistic. (Sometimes it takes trial and error to know what ‘unrealistic’ is). I find that if I don’t set myself a goal for the day (for example, to sort out my pantry, to spend at least half an hour piecing a quilt, and to fill a page in my sketchbook) it is too easy for the day to disappear without getting to anything more than the basics. Folding the washing ends up taking twice as long as it needs to, and the half-hour that could have been spent piecing quilts was probably absorbed by blog-reading instead…
  5. Start early. Maybe this is not for everyone, but I like to start the day early. I also find for some reason that I am most productive up until morning coffee time. To me, being up early and getting stuck into my work early gives me a good start to the day, and helps my whole day to go smoothly.
  6. Make wise use of the timeslots you have (or: Make the most of sleeping kids). Last year most of my sewing was done in short time intervals (less than half-an-hour, as for a long time Daniel and Caleb alternated their day-time sleeps so that there was always one baby to deal with). I try to avoid the idea that ten minutes is too short to do anything constructive. Lots and lots of ten-minute sessions behind a sewing machine lead to a finished product eventually. Having said that, if I have ten minutes on hand such as in the morning before school, I usually first consider if there is a quick job on my list that can be done in that time – polishing shoes, scrubbing toilets, collecting dinner ingredients and utensils. I would rather fit all those little jobs into little pockets of time than let them chew into the time that the boys are sleeping.
  7. Make a place. Carve out a spot for yourself somewhere in the house where you can have the sewing machine (or other craft equipment) set up permanently. It is not possible to use those ten-minute pockets of time for sitting at the sewing machine if you first have to set it up. I currently have a sewing table right in the middle of our living space. It is made up of an interior door resting on two stacks of crates. It is not pretty, but I love it. It means that I can sew any time of day and still be around the kids. It also means that if I’m waiting for dinner to cook, or if I have spare time before picking up the kids from school, I can sew for ten minutes. Or at least organise my workspace and supplies so that I’m ready to get stuck straight into it next time.
  8. Love what you do. This is a bit self-evident, but if I was only half-hearted about making quilts, I wouldn’t bother organising my days and weeks in this way and to this extent (and that would be quite fine). Being passionate about my sewing is the biggest incentive for finding time in my week to get to my sewing machine.
  9. A clean house is not the most important thing in the world. I know that I am blessed to have a comfortable house to live in, and that I have the responsibility to look after what I have been given. However, if there is dust on my bookshelves, it’s because I dusted them last week, and won’t be dusting them again till next week. And I’m not embarrassed by this. (Well, I try not to worry about it, anyway). As my husband reminds me, I am a ‘homemaker’ and there is much more to that than ‘housemaid’.
  10. This is not a time management tip, but it’s worth remembering that we all live in different situations and circumstances, and have all been given different abilities, as well as different tasks to do. My friend is a homeschooling mum of four (similar in age to my four) living in a very different culture to ours and I know that I would never be pursuing my quiltmaking in this way if I were in her situation. Other friends have health issues to deal with, in themselves or their children, which can absorb a lot of time and energy. I am thankful that I am currently able to pursue quiltmaking as art, but am also well aware that, as with any of us, circumstances can change at any time!


bronya said...

love it ... thankyou for this - i need to be more diligent as soon as we've moved in to our house (over the next few days) ... perfect pointers

Wayne and Cheronne van der Heide said...

well done Ruth - very nicely written!! Working hard to put all those tips to work!!