When I’m deep in the tired mind blahs, mindlessly wandering through my Feedly list can sometimes yield nuggets that flash in my brain and perk me up. I follow Zen Habits, and this week Leo Babauta’s words plonked into my brain with a spark.
What caught my eye was How to Have More Focused Hours in Your Day. I see a lot of these change-your-life-in-the-new-year articles. After having lived a few years on this planet, I usually just ignore their advice, but I did like this:
[Any] success I’ve had in increasing my focused time comes down to three habits:
• Asking myself what meaningful, impactful work I can get done today.
• Creating space for the meaningful work instead of just doing busywork or being distracted all day.
• Working in fullscreen mode and diving in.
So I was interested to see that he and I have the first thing in common. I’ve used something similar for years: after I’ve ditzed around for part of the day, I ask myself “What do you want to have done before you quit working today?” and after identifying that ONE thing, I get to work on it. It’s cured a lot of procrastination issues when I use it.
He expands by noting that “Most of us just dive into our inboxes, social media, favorite online sites, and busywork to start our day. We might have some bigger tasks on our lists, but they get lost in the woods of our day. It’s an incredible habit to take even a few moments at the beginning of your day (or the end of the day before) to give some thought to where you’d like to concentrate your attention. What is worth doing today? What is worth focusing on? What is worth spending the limited time you have in this life?” [italics are mine]
He approaches the second idea — of creating space — in a more roundabout way. It’s almost like we have to trick ourselves. He says “Set aside the next 20 minutes for writing, or getting moving on a big project. I don’t have to do the whole project in this time, but just the act of giving myself more space to focus is a huge shift. This is more of a mental act than a physical one: you just tell yourself that it’s time to focus on this important task. You breathe, and say, ‘This is worthy of my attention and effort right now. Let’s put aside everything else and give this some space.’ “But it’s also hard to get going when your sewing space looks like this.
Notice the chair is clear. I can still do some work. That’s what he means of working in the third idea, fullscreen mode: ignore everything else around the edges, and just focus in. I used to only be able to work in a very clean, very tidy sewing room. But I got over that. I still like to clean it up, and did leave it sort of clean when we went up to Utah to help Mom and Dad clear out their condo of 30 years, in preparation for moving to a senior community, but I brought back various sewing things, a small Viking sewing machine THAT WAS MADE IN SWEDEN (I know, I know!) and I just plopped them around.
I spent three days quilting My Small World, and now it’s ready for borders. I need to put a slim border around my Temperature Quilt before I move forward, and just like that…I am making a list in my mind about what I want to do first.
It’s also helped that the busyness that has been present in my life since — say, about September — culminated with our First Monday Sew Day this past week (pictures, above). It’s quite gratifying to see Hayley, a beginning quilter, turn out such pristinely perfect pinwheels (lower left corner). She’s only been sewing for about a month, and puts me to shame!
Here’s our flier from that day, where we covered snowball blocks and half-square triangles:
For the handout, click on this title: FirstMondaySewday_Jan6_2020
Still working on revising Home, Sweet, Home–there are lots of new illustrations to make — as I will be teaching this a lot this year and want a shiny new version to take with me when I visit Guilds. I also began new duties as VP of Communications for our local Modern Quilt Guild, and have my first board meeting next week. I’m impressed with all the service I hear that you give to your Guilds and wanted to do the same.
Finally, I always begin the new year by writing my thank you notes. These, from Quiltfolk, were perfect. I hope you all have good beginnings to your new year!
10 thoughts on “It’s that New Year Stuff”
Very interesting. Like you, I already start my day with one thing that must be done, though I haven’t consciously recognized it until reading your post. I have a short list in my head, and most always accomplish it. It sure helps to be retired, doesn’t it?! I enjoyed seeing your little identified clean-ups. I’m still like the “old you” who needs to work in a mostly organized space – at least stuffed into the closet, behind closed doors! We need to see more of that old Viking though. Lovely that your Sew-day group gave you flowers. Looks like everyone had a great time. I understand what a lot of work it is to re-design/improv a quilt pattern. Good for you to be offering more to your students! It’s always fun to see what you’ve been up to. Looks like a great start to 2020.
I’m striving to be more creatively productive in 2020 and beyond. My word for 2020 is Balance. I’ve made a list of projects I want to complete this year and I’m in the process of prioritizing them in my mind as I prep for our upcoming guild community service/QOV sew day. I think my 2020 Project List posted on my sewing table’s bulletin board will help keep me on track. Also limiting my online time and avoiding too many rabbit holes that can eat up an entire afternoon or longer is a must for me. I enjoyed reading this post – thank you for sharing.
I think I have good intentions to get at least one productive things ticked off my mental list each day, even if it’s getting 10,000 steps in, while on school holidays. But once it’s school term, just getting through the day is my aim! Linda is right, being retired helps I’m sure. Ok, time for my walk!
Great post for the beginning of the year. I like setting a timer for 30 minutes and just START it, whatever that “it” is, and the time usually flies. Take a short break, then repeat. I do allow for “down” days or “recovery” days though where nothing much gets done. I love that term “full screen” – an apt metaphor in our digital age. Love your sewing room and what a treasure to have the old Viking from your Mom.
What a perfectly-timed post: things to really consider before the year has taken us for a ride instead of the other way around! With life moving at breakneck speed (regardless your age, I think), having tips to slow it down even somewhat and get cracking on those things we’ve prioritized is a good thing – thank you! Personally, I get up a couple of hours before my family and get the time-wasters over with so when the bustle starts, my engine is warmed up and I can make some real progress. And yes, being retired helps a ton! Am anxious to see more of the old Viking and to hear how your teachings go (that new pattern flyer is great – good job!). Happy New Year!!
Ah, welcome new year 2020. Words like self-care, mindfulness and balance are swarming around in my head. In December I started down a path (or rabbit hole) seeking ways to stop or avoid brain shrinkage as I turned 60 and my mom developed Alzheimer’s in her 60’s. I am determined to do all in my power to keep from going there. Finishing up a hand sewn signature quilt from my daughter’s wedding in October. Fingers crossed. 🙂
Really the only way I get things done is with lists. I’ve found that it does a couple of things. It helps to organize my scattered thoughts of all the vague “things I should probably do” and helps me both prioritize, AND make the time to get the things done.
And I totally have lists within the lists. And I absolutely write down and cross off extra things during my day!
I love those note cards! So simple and elegant. I like the idea of focusing on one thing that can be accomplished in a day–and then everything else is just icing…
Every time you write a post like this I end up rereading it and trying to form a thoughtful comment and then days go by. Doesn’t speak well for my tendency toward procrastination does it? Last year I found I was more productive when I stopped thinking about doing something and just did it. Several projects finally got done that had been ‘ideas’ for years. Plus I did a couple of very spontaneous projects and that felt great. I do have a first thing that I’ve done for years and it feels very satisfying. I just need to extend that concept into my studio life too.
Hi Elizabeth, I’m a fan of Leo Babauta; he’s very practical. We’re in the middle of a series of trips, so I’m behind on my email and comments!