Time Management for Crafters (and everyone else)

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Today I’m going to switch gears. I just got accepted into a craft show. I’ve done this show before but this is the first year they made it a juried show, which I have no problem with. I’m tired of seeing people sell obviously commercially manufactured goods at craft shows (Pampered Chef, Tupperware, cheap Asian imports, etc) and this particular show has always advertised that everything is handmade but some decidedly non-handmade stuff has slipped through the cracks in recent years.  

I realized that I only have 4 months until the show. I haven’t been working on anything because I wasn’t about to invest all that time if I wasn’t accepted.  But now I am behind the eight ball and need to put it in high gear. 

Keeping in line with my current philosophy of mindful living, I am trying to extend that to my crafting (for which I could be accused of having craft ADD – I want to try all things). I have decided for this show to focus to bags, jewelry and knitted accessories. I have had success with these categories, I have the supplies on hand and I enjoy making them. 

I’m not really interested in doing the craft show circuit full-time for several reasons. First of all, I don’t want to carry around the inventory of things that don’t sell (remember I’m trying to downsize). Second, while I am interested in pursuing a design career, I don’t want to have to make everything I sell. It would limit my income to how much I can do in so much time. Third, I hate production work. I don’t want to make the same exact thing over and over and over again. For my long-term goals, I am really more interested in designing and teaching. But, I do have a large stash of stuff that I am trying to reduce and since I enjoy making things, why not make some stuff and sell it? I get the gratification of designing and creating things, I clear out some of my stash and I make a little cash on the side. Sounds like a win-win situation to me. 

I have about 18 solid weeks to work on the show, which if properly managed, will be enough time, “properly managed” being the key. I know myself well enough by now. I am capable of coming up with the most amazing plans but end up falling short on the follow through, mainly because I try to do too much. I tell myself that I’ll spend 6-8 hours Saturday and Sunday and then 3 hours every night working on stuff. Who am I kidding? By the time I get home from work, make dinner and generally unwind, I’m falling asleep on the couch because I’ve been up since 4:30am for my run.

Which brings me to a good point. How is it that I can get up at an ungodly hour (I am not a morning person) 4-5 days a week for an activity that I wasn’t even fond of in the beginning and have managed to do it consistently for going on 6 years? It’s because I have a running partner. I am accountable to someone who helped me remember. Plus I enjoy her company. Obviously I am capable of dedication, perseverance and commitment if it is framed in a way that suits my temperament and personality. My mistake all these years has not been the plan per se (unrealistic expectations aside), but the system that I have used to implement the plan. The system needs to match my temperament. My goal may be to have X number of items completed and if I work backwards I can decide that I need to make X number of things a week but how I set up the system to remind/motivate myself to make those is going to be my key to success.

Here’s what I decided to try this go round and it really boils down to just two things:

  1. Remembering 
  2. Preparation

First of all, I need to have reminders in my face, all the time. I have bought tons of calendars and date books only to abandon them within a week (you’d think I’d learn). This time I put my schedule on the fridge – where I can’t miss it. I am also using an online calendar to post my deadlines then setting up automatic reminders. I’m already in the habit of using it for my job so I know it works for me. Just in case, I’ve also put a note on the fridge to remind me to check my calendar. And if that wasn’t enough, I’m trying to figure out the best way to use the alarm on my phone as another reminder. I know, it seems like overkill but my biggest problem is not procrastination – it’s that once I get home I’m easily distracted (mail, chores around the house, getting dinner, etc) and it’s bedtime by the time I remember I should have done something.

Once I remember, I need to have materials ready to go. I have made a very bad habit of eating at my desk at work. The “experts” say you would be more productive getting away at lunch and I agree that a change of scenery is good. So I decided that my lunch break would be a perfect opportunity to work on some of my projects. The key will be to have a bag ready with multiple projects (I want choices) ready to go – materials, supplies and patterns all handy. This way when I am at lunch I can just grab a project out of the bag and go. Much can be accomplished an hour at a time.

This leads me to a little sidebar on time management and preparation. I need to quit looking for the big chunks of time. Sure I’ll have them here and there, but I work full-time and have an active social life so having everything ready to work on if I have a spare 15, 30 or 60 minutes can accomplish a lot. Plus, working in small time frames is easier to buy into than trying to schedule 6 straight hours.

For sewing projects, another way I can be prepared is to have the material cut out and make sure that I have all the supplies (zipper, interfacing?) that I need to actually complete the project. Having to stop in the middle because I am missing something really plays havoc on my momentum.

This is a different approach than I’ve used in the past but given the one I was using didn’t work, this can only be an improvement. I’ll monitor how it goes and adjust accordingly. Hopefully, at the very least I’ll figure out a better time management process.

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One response »

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