As most of you know I usually have quite a few projects going on at the same time, and so I’m in dire need of something to help me manage them. I do use two different apps, and my calendar and everything but still I could never quite see the big picture.
Then I had an idea. Back to the roots! Something that helps me spread out all the projects, see them all at once but that’s still portable and small. I didn’t want to establish a huge whiteboard or cork board and have all my students and every visitor to the house see what I’m currently working on. And I spend a lot of time working in the kitchen, or my bed, or other places so small, easy, and portable was what I needed.
This is what I came up with:
Index cards. I know this is not a new idea but it works surprisingly well. Each project (and a project is everything that takes more than one or two steps, is not routine, and takes longer than a few minutes) gets its own card. “Leftover Sockyarn Blanket” has a card, but so has “write my own songs”, or “plan next year’s vacation”, or “get a functioning bathtub”. As soon as I have an idea for a project that I really, really want to do one day, or that I’ve already started – my life isn’t all that orderly sometimes – I write it down on a card. Along with the date, and the very first step I can do to start it. Often I also add the second step. I like it when I can see that there’s this one small thing I can do first, and after that I can do this other small thing.
Nothing more. I do note if the project is in planning, in progress, or finished, though.
On the picture above you can make out an envelope in the top left corner that says “Do”. I ended up sorting the cards into four piles: “Do”, “Wait”, “Find”, and “Finished”.
The “Finished” category doesn’t really need an explanation, I think. That’s the one I pull out when I’m a bit down, and feel as if I never accomplish anything. The “Do” category is what I’m mainly working with. Those are the things I’m actively making progress on, however small, the knitting projects sitting in the kitchen that I pull out and knit on for example. The “Wait” category is for things that are on hold at the moment. For various reasons. Like the “leaner to draw”-project, that’s on hold because I have too many other things going on so that’s not happening at the moment. Or the denim skirt I want to sew is in the waiting pile because I want to finish the orange skirt first so I have a pattern to work from.
The”Find” category is a bit embarrassing, I have to say. I found that I have quite a few projects on hold because I can’t find the things to finish them. The reason for that is the massive pile of stuff sitting on my dresser. It accumulated when I was depressed, and so far I’ve only managed to sort it, and put it in plastic bags so that it is easier to dust. Well, I did put all the leftover yarn away recently so there might still be hope.
But in those piles, and in some drawers, and I don’t know where else, there are things like the buttons I bought for the mittens I made. I need to find both in order to finish them. Or the zipper that I know I bought for the cardigan I’ve been wearing for almost two years now but I don’t quite know where it is. (The cardigan is in my closet. At least I know to find that one.)
One of these days I’ll have a house again where I know exactly where everything is. In the “Find” envelope are also things like me wanting to learn how to play Bossa Nova strums on my ukulele. Because I need to ask my husband to give me his João Gilberto CDs. Which I can’t find on my own because he has way more CDs than me, and unlike mine his aren’t organized alphabetically.
Just about every Monday or so I sit down with my index cards of projects and look through them. Which next step is finished? What do I do next? Which isn’t? Why? Can I do something to make this easier or faster? Is there something else I want to learn or make? How can I do that?
I sort cards from one envelope to the other, something that seemed urgent and exciting might wander back into the “Wait”-pile, something else gets pulled out from that and ends up in the pile of things I’m actively working on.
All of these projects are things that don’t really have a deadline, and most of them are things I’m working on because I like to, not because I must. But still, even if I make things for pleasure the making needs to have a bit of structure so that I don’t feel overwhelmed. Charting progress helps me when I feel like I’m working, and working on something, and nothing moves. Like that two pounds of fiber I spun that will eventually become a cardigan. For months and months I spun away on that, five minutes here, ten there, and I fly as if the big bump of orange always remained the same. Then I divided the two pounds into small chunks. Chunks that could be spun in two hours. And I noted my progress each day. Now it’s all spun up.
Do you have an organizing system for projects? Do you need one? Is it digital, or is it a list in a notebook?
I’m curious to know.