It’s so easy to focus on short-term deadlines. It seems so logical to focus your work on whatever is due next, right?
For me that’s a big WRONG.
Focusing on the short term deadlines means that those big projects that I’m really excited about get pushed back, and pushed back, and pushed back. Or – even worse – they get done in a rush.
I do not do good work when I’m in a rush.
I’ve learned that I work best when I do a little work, then sit back and let it rest a bit, then look at it with fresh eyes. In order to do that I need to plan for that time.
Really, really plan for it.
With a calendar.
I don’t use anything fancy. I print out a month per page and then I do all my planning with a good, old-fashioned pencil. Everything is subject to change and it’s easy for me to erase and rewrite. I plan 3-6 months in advance and keep them all on a clipboard that I drag around with me wherever I’m working.
You can click on the image to make it bigger if you actually want to see what’s coming up next month. 🙂 I have almost all my blog posts for the month planned – just a few days open for whatever comes up. For the purposes of this post, the Sunday blocks are where the action’s really at. That’s where I plan my favorite part of my job – my sewing.
Every one of my projects goes through four basic stages. I plan for three of them.
That happens at any time. It’s coming up with the idea and jotting it down in my sketchbook.
Sometimes there’s research involved (just how big are a mouse’s ears in relation to its head?) and sometimes an idea comes fully formed.
I don’t usually plan for this – but I document my ideas as best I can so they’re waiting for me when I’m ready to make them real.
This is when I make all my prototypes. I set aside a week for this phase of any project and that usually works just fine. Some projects come together on the very first try. Some of them go through a lot of iterations before I’m happy with them. (You can read more about my process here.)
I like to make a prototype and then let it sit a bit before I critique it – at least overnight – so I can look at it with fresh eyes in the morning. Sometimes those fresh eyes tell me that what I thought was a mistake is actually kind of charming – I just need to tweak it a bit. Sometimes they tell me that something I thought was charming is actually pretty ugly. 🙂 But I find that budgeting in the time to let it rest and come back to it is critical.
Making the Finished Item
This is when I do the step-by-step photography for the pattern.
For most projects I set aside a full week for this too – that gives me a cushion in case my prototyping runs over. 🙂
This encompasses so much! It’s editing the photos, writing the pattern, proofreading the pattern (several times), writing the shop listing and blog post, etc. I set aside a whole week for this too.
Mapping It Out
So – let’s go back to that calendar. In any given week I’m working on prototyping one project, making the final version and photographing the step-by-steps for a different project, and writing the pattern for a third project.
The dreaming happens all the time. 🙂
I don’t blog on the weekends, so I use the Sunday blocks on the calendar to remind me of the big picture – what I’m supposed to be working on that week. That way I don’t get into the trap of working blog post to blog post.
Next week I’m prototyping a monster doll for The Dress Up Bunch, making a final version of the Gulp monster and writing the pattern for the Puppy Quilt.
What About a REALLY Big Project?
Like writing a book? Well, that’s really just a bunch of smaller projects! I might break it down a chapter at a time, or a project at a time, but at its heart it’s just a bunch of smaller projects that I plan for and fit into my calendar in just the same way.