Monday, July 27, 2009

an little organisation tip for non-schedulers

Originally posted here (but changed up a bit for the blog).

I'm quite a procrastinator, so it has taken me a long time to get to this point. (Well, I'm not really sure what 'this point' is, because I've gotten much better since I started Heidi & Seek, but I still procrastinate.) I find that I'm a big workaholic when it comes to being online and promoting that way. But when it comes to making things, I've built it up in my head that's it's maybe more effort than it actually is, so often I have to use some strong willpower to get away from the computer, head over to my studio space and start making.

I've tried making timetables to schedule blocks of time, but I can never stick to them. I guess they just don't make me feel very in control. They don't cater for creative types like me, where sometimes I get an idea and just want to run with it, regardless of what I'm 'supposed' to be doing at that moment. So lately I've been working without particular goals, and not getting very much done consistently. I have spurts of making and spurts of procrastinating.

So I made a little notebook to help me instead. It's filled with weekly charts of blocks of time that must be completed by the end of the week. I don't schedule time, I just have a weekly goal that I can work on at any time. I colour in each block as I complete it. So far it's working better than any other system I've tried. Here's how to try it for yourself.
  1. Firstly, work out how much time, on average, your items take to create. Then place them in a box, using Word or Photoshop or whatever you prefer. It might look like this, for example:
  2. Work out how many of these you can realistically complete in a week. Then subtract a few, because we're going to start small. I worked out how many days a week I have to work on my label (4), then how many items I want to make each of those days (5). I'm using a conservative estimate to start with because I don't want to feel too overwhelmed. That's 20 items per week. That's my goal. Yours will probably be different.

  3. Put all the blocks in rows and columns on a page each. (I printed three weekly charts to a page to save paper, then cut them out). If you want to work four days a week and make 3 items a day, and your items take about 25 minutes to make, your chart will look like this:

    I've purposely not written the day dates at the top of each column, beacuse I don't want to feel 'behind' if I've not done all the day's work or too boxed in, just that I have to make some more by the end of the week.

  4. Paste the chart into a notebook with a week to a page, and write the week dates at the top of each page. For each item I make I will colour in one block, until all the blocks on the page are coloured in, hopefully by the end of the week.

  5. I've come up with a reward (mine is a visit to an op shop or second-hand market), which I may only happen when the week's blocks have all been filled in. I can then 'cash in' my week's chart for the reward.
I'm treating it like homework. If I've been slow making during the week, or even if I have to take a day off to do something else, I have to catch up by the end of the week and make sure all those blocks are coloured in. Whenever I have a spare however many minutes, I'll make one thing, and these will add up. This is why I recommend you don't try to push yourself too hard when you're starting this. If it seems too overwhelming you might give up.

Make it fun! Use a cute font for your charts and colour the blocks in with your favourite colours. If you're using a plain notebook, dress it up by making a collage on the front or covering it with fabric. I haven't decorated mine yet, but I'll post it when I have.

The benefits of this method are:
  • It encourages you to set goals. Most successful people set goals for themselves.
  • You can track your progress in a fun way. You can see exactly how you are or are not meeting your expectations of yourself.
  • Writing how much time it will take puts the task in perspective and makes your creating seem more achievable. Sometimes when I have an hour or two to spare I don't think to make an item because it seems like a bigger committment. With the blocks you can see right there that it's really only about a ___ minute committment.
  • It's not just for makers, you can apply it to any project if you can accurately estimate how much time it will take you to do, then break it down into small pieces.


rejenerate said...

This is a REALLY good system! Thanks your sharing...I think it will work well for me - thanks Hayley :)

Veronica Darling... said...

Thanks for checking out my challenge! I've followed you now, so hopefully I'll check up on you again! LOVE refashioning and sustainable-ness ethcial fash too!

Good luck with your schedule! I got home at 10.30am today, so am pretending sewing is my day job (instead of my real one that starts at 5am)...

Ali-bell said...

wow, we have very similar work ethics! anything that can be done on the computer or sitting on the couch gets done immediately, but anything bigger gets put off. I tried timetables too, even setting reminders on my phone to make me do it, but it would always go off when I didn't "feel like" working. now I have a system similar to yours, and I find it makes me much more productive! I've also found you can trick yourself really easily, a lot of days I'll say "ok, I just have to START this assignment, so I'll work on it for just 15 minutes" but once I get stuck into it, I can work for hours until it's done. makes it much easier to get motivated to start if you think it isn't going to take long!

JoolzGirl said...

I love this system. I'm very much the same as you with getting things done. Colouring in blocks, and having rewards is most definitely my cup of tea - I will be giving this a go for sure :)

jarsika said...

This is sensational! It helps with the structure but also allows for creative freedom and even naps :)

Lesha said...

Your are a goddess. I organize my "projects" by name in a little book I got at Michaels, but have the same computer vs. "making" problem. I am soooooo going try this, punch holes and put it in my planner for that week. You, as usual, rock.

Isis said...

what a great idea, i thought i was super organised but i've never tried organising my time quite like this before, have to give it a try... i think it will be particularly useful as i seem only to be able to work on things for short bursts... thanks for sharing

x isis

Kreativlink said...

This sounds good!
But as I do know me, I'd probably spend hours to make that look supercool and creative - or expand the idea to a superdupertodolistagendajournalbook ... and, in the end, I'd only have that and nothing else done :)

Heidi and Seek said...

I'm glad you guys got something out of this post. Would love to hear how it works for you!

Christine Vivian said...

Thanks so much for this wonderful idea. As someone who is struggling to promote my business, create new styles, and manage all of this with a chronic illness, I think this method is a great way to manage time without feeling guilty. I appreciate you sharing this.

Christine Vivian said...

I was so taken with your idea, that I blogged about it on my lupus blog, in the hope of helping others with chronic illness. If you're interested in checking it out, you can find it here:

Thanks again for sharing this idea!

Heidi and Seek said...

Hi Christine, thanks for that! I'm really glad you found this useful and will be having a look at your blog to see how it's working for you (hopefully very well!).