Quilts · Something to Think About

The Calendar is my Friend. Repeat.

Too Much Social Media.jpg

I read this cartoon, from Stephan Pastis, some time ago, and I’ve saved it as it seems like it hits a bit too close to home with that wasting time on social media thing.  But rather than harp on that tired subject again — social media is ruining our lives — I’d rather take it a different direction, and talk about the one thing that helped me manage my social media as it relates to quilting: I made friends with my paper calendar.

In blogging, I used to just write blog posts at random: if I had made a quilt, or ran across something cool to share, I did.  But once another blogger said she scheduled her blog posts, I realized that she thought about them, worked out when she wanted to them to show up. In other words, she used that old-fashioned tool of calendaring her posts.


I use a small desktop calendar, and circle the date and pencil (not pen) in a code word, so I know what’s happening.  It helps me space out things (not always successful on this, but I’m working on it).

I came home from QuiltCon, vowing to work smarter, determined to change up how I used my favorite calendaring book, the Get To Work Book.  Too often I was using it as a journal — you know, writing down the things I did, or needed to do, and crossing them out in yellow marker when they were completed.  Yeah, even if I’d just written them down.


These are the project pages at the back of each month.  Post QuiltCon, I dumped wrote everything that was in my head down on paper.  I then took time to break it down into tasks, slipping a few onto every week of the month. Has it helped?  Somewhat.  I know now what I have to work on. I  don’t know about you, but I tend retreat to social media when I am bored, or perhaps, overwhelmed.   I can also be easily distracted by the wonderful eye-candy on Instagram (but in some ways that’s another topic for another day.)



In his article, “Warren Buffett’s ‘2 List’ Strategy: How to Maximize Your Focus and Master Your Priorities,” James Clear makes the point that even though many things are good to do, if they are not your top priorities, they will distract you from what’s most important, and from what should be given your best and undivided attention.

He notes that “Every behavior has a cost. Even neutral behaviors aren’t really neutral. They take up time, energy, and space that could be put toward better behaviors or more important tasks.”

Some other tips:

  • Simplify your media.  If you do Facebook, get off of Twitter or Snapchat.  Leo Babuta writes: “You can be a part of a social network and not participate all day long…I’ve consciously decided that I’d prefer to be creating rather than always connected to the social stream.” (from Zen Habits)
  • Notifications (from FB, IG, etc.) are a huge time sink.  Bubata recommends turning them off: “Don’t be notified everytime people post things or reply to you or follow you or email you or comment on your blog.”
  • I also liked the tip from Elizabeth Grace Saunders in the article “Front Load Your Week,” when she says “To minimize stress, spend less time worrying about planning exactly how long every activity will take you to do and more time front-loading your calendar by putting your most important activities with deadlines early in the day and early in the week. For example, something due on Friday should start appearing in your schedule by Tuesday afternoon…Front-loading gives you the ability to stay on top of projects that take longer than expected without getting stressed or working into the wee hours of the night.”
  • To follow up with that, front load your day.  Know when your best energy level is, and stack up tasks for that time.
  • My favorite focusing device is to ask myself:  “What do I want to have completed at the end of this day?”  That question alone has propelled me through me many a foggy moment.
  • Humans come first.  My husband is El Numero Uno, then my family, then friends.  After my husband, the order is flexible.
  • I am also a human.  (Obviously I have several firsts, but it all works out.)  By saying that I am a human, I need to be aware of how I feel after sitting scrunched over, reading my small screen. I need to be aware of how good a walk feels, even if it’s in the middle of the day, and only around the block. I need to be aware of how I feel when I can’t get anything done, because I’ve spent too long reading on the web, instead of getting to my work.  I need to be aware of how good it feels to have my life ordered, and not frantic.

Some regular tasks help me order my month, such as:


Gridsters March 2018
Marsha’s block for the Gridster Bee, March 2018

Sewing Obligations, such as blocks for my mates in the Gridster Bee.  I like jumping on it and getting it done at the beginning of the month (see tip about front-loading, above–I like to front-load my months, too!).


Turning the calendar to a new month.  I believe that with all my digital calendars, at times I lose sight of how time can be structured and used.  Bringing forward that new page reminds me to check my project lists, re-order priorities, bring on new tasks.

It’s not harmful to be involved in social media as many interesting and significant discoveries, as well as new friends, can be made this way.  Some nights, when I’m too tired for sewing tasks, I like to read blogs.  I use Feedly and Bloglovin’ to help keep my reading organized and to follow up with people on Instagram, and Facebook.  It’s enjoyable to see what everyone else is doing.

Do you have tips for staying focused?  If you care to share, please leave them below in a comment.


15 thoughts on “The Calendar is my Friend. Repeat.

  1. Recently read “Rapt: attention and the focused life” by Winnifred Gallagher and found it excellent. It was way deeper than I had anticipated, but there were enough nuggets throughout which helped me understand a number of my motivations or triggers. I am the paper-calendar queen (have no less than 8 throughout the house) and you won’t find “social media” on any of them! Before retirement (11 years ago when SM was still in early-bloom stage), I was wed to my Blackberry (and pager before that) so have lived through the addiction. These days I’m much more focused on things I want to get done than looking at pretty pictures of whatever. My SM catch-up time is limited to very early morning (5-6 a.m.), and a bit in the evening as a break from doing needlepoint/watching TV. And I’ve become quite good at unfollowing folks who post a zillions pics or shares — too much is still too much!

  2. I think a lot about these issues and do a good bit of planning ahead. I have a to-do list app that I love and I schedule some tasks as “stints”–things I want to work on for at least a little time, every day. When I check that box on my app as “done,” it automatically pops up again on the next day. I guess the point is, we both know we have limited time and are trying to be mindful how to use it!

  3. I guess I’ve never been big on screens. I don’t watch a lot of tv or spend much time on the internet. Yours is one of only a few blogs I follow. But I have recently been “pruning my tree” of commitments. The “branches” that feed my soul get to stay.

  4. Fabulous post! I am sending it right on to Lizzie in Sweden. For night owls like me, it is important to schedule work at a time when I am most alert and efficient, even if that means last thing at night.

  5. As for social media, I spent all morning on IG, catching up on the IG Quilt Fest, where you answer a prompt a day for the whole month. I have found already today that I have “met” new people and caught up with others that I am always missing by staying off the internet. It worked better by having the plan that I would sit there and do that specific task.

    I have calendars, but I don’t want to write in them in front of anybody, or leave them anywhere they could be read. It is a baseless worry, as nobody looks in my things anyway, and they never would invade my privacy that way.

  6. Oh my, making friends with my paper calendar is definitely something that has worked well for me. That and lots of scrap paper filled with my to-do lists from everything from grocery shopping to trip planning. I hope you can dial in a system that works really well for you. 🙂

  7. I’m sure the cartoon about social media and its place in our lives will hit home in a negative way for many people. I’d like to offer a different view. I have a friend who is pretty much house bound because of severe medical issues which would require multiple surgeries. Parents are gone, no siblings and friends passing on or with some form of dementia. It’s a solitary life for a person once employed, active and very social. Very low income means there’s no computer or iPad, no long distance phone service and only a TV for companionship and information about the world. When I upgraded my cell phone a year ago, rather than turn in my old one, I gave it to my friend and simply said, ” We’ve adopted you and you are on our family plan.” That cell phone has given her so much pleasure! She’s taught herself how to use it and is now far more skilled than I am at finding things. Surely there are many others out there who have similar lives and for whom a cell phone improves the quality of life greatly.

    1. What a nice and giving thing you did for your friend. I think social media is all about balance. Hey, we’re reading someone’s blog and learning from it. I get lots of info from social media. And it helps keep me connected to my friends living in other states. Just don’t get lost in it or try to follow or keep up with things that don’t really matter or serve a purpose. I’m working on minimalizing and uncluttering my home, and you can also do the same with social media. And in the case of your home bound friend, it’s a great way for her to stay “active” with the outside world. I’m sure she’s thrilled you “adopted” her.

  8. Calendars, ah yes. I put up a paper calendar this year for the first time in several years. I’ve been trying to get myself locked into using the iPhone calendar for everything but, you know, I just like paper. I still use journals as well as notebooks. I like writing it down and seeing in pen/ink. I have a ‘meetings’ notebook, a quilting journal, and the iPhone calendar.
    Don’t you just like to look up once in a while and say, what day is it? There it is, right on the wall. I don’t have to pick up my phone and check it. Picking up the phone may lead to a visit to IG, or FB, or Pinterest so by using my paper calendar I feel like I may be keeping myself away from social media a bit. (I can convince myself of almost anything!)

  9. I am always amazed at those who can do all of the social media AND accomplish things in life. I can go several days without checking out social media if I am working on something else. I do enjoy checking it out while waiting for doctor appointments or early in the morning over coffee. Likewise, I am not a list maker. I have always felt that writing it down wasted the time I could be DOING. I know there will never be the time to accomplish all that I want, but I am okay with that. I enjoy what I am doing.

  10. This post makes me wonder about my motivation or lack of drive. I have ‘to do’ lists but get to things as I can. I also wonder if it has to do with working full time or if Australians are more slack in their drive to succeed? I rarely stress about having time to do things and rarely set or have deadlines. Blogging is taking a backseat because I’m sewing less. But I’m not sure sewing late into the night would make me any happier? Interesting, that’s for sure.

  11. I’ve noticed you seem to be posting less in social media lately – obviously its deliberate. I thought I’d be getting a ton more done now that we are a little less busy and I’ve pulled back from extra responsibilities. In a way I’ve gotten less done, but I’m also more relaxed. I’m actually taking the time to read up on things, not sewing and blogging out of some sense of responsibility. I also seem to have a harder time sewing late at night, too. I cut way back on blog reading, when I do read them its in bursts and only what I have time for. Instagram/fb are still time sucks for me though……Need to work on that.

  12. Loved your post! Last year I returned to a paper calendar (Stephanie Palmer’s The Quilters Planner) after years of every last thing on my smartphone. I had some success, but if you looked at those times I was busiest and most frantic, the calendar pages were blank!! I am using the same paper planner this year, but have also resurrected a file card system I set up years ago that has been really effective for me. So far, and I know it is only early March, I have been able to move projects forward, and even schedule in time each month to move forward (dare I say, complete) a UFO each month. I review my week on Sunday evening and plan menus for the week at that time as well. I have an overall idea of what I want to have accomplished by the end of the month, and I break those larger goals into manageable pieces that I schedule when I do my weekly planning session. I limit my FB and IG to once or twice a week, and am much happier about the amount of time I find myself down those rabbit holes. Husband and family needs generally trump anything I have planned. I also give myself permission to alter the plan for the day for any reason, including the ‘ick, I still don’t want to make those 1104 hexagons for the background, let’s see what else is available to do,’
    TMI! So my best advice is to find what works and try to stick with it. For those of us over the hill and picking up speed, setting priorities is really handy!

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