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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Organizing for Productivity

This year I have committed to a number of challenges and also making quilts to help other nonprofit organizations. I will also support other organizations and causes as they come to my awareness. I am a member of a couple of bimonthly small quilt challenge groups, and I find these groups very good for helping to stimulate my creativity and also as a way to help me keep moving forward with my art. Most of these quilts I need to make are small (some as small as 9" x 12" and some around 16" x 16") so they are very do-able in reality and don't require a lot of storage space while they are waiting to go off to their destinations..
I want to share the ways I have found to get mine done. It works for me, and I have a pretty heavy schedule. You might want to give this a try.
The first thing I do is to print out the guidelines or rules for every challenge in which I want to participate, or every fundraiser coming up. I put those and the entry forms in my calendar book in the right month. I constantly thumb through my calendar book so I am clear on which ones are priorities so that I can be working on the right projects..

The second thing I do is cut a batting (and I use a felt a lot for battings these days) the right size for each quilt I am going to make and I put them all in a pile pretty much in order. I love felt. It is an excellent foundation, and sometimes I can allow it to show around the edges or on other parts of my designs. The great fiber artist, Pamela Allen taught me this great lesson. She said that it is difficult to start a painting if you don't have a canvas ready, so our batting (or you could use a background fabric if you like instead) is like our canvas for beginning our piece. If we have nothing ready, it is much more difficult to get started. Once we have the batting cut or a background fabric, even if we change a lot of things, we have something to help us get started, and it makes life so much easier. The project doesn't seem nearly so large and overwhelming when I have this much going already.

Next I make notes to myself or sketch out some ideas I have for each piece. Strangely enough, with the way I am doing this, I can come up with a theme I want to pursue as soon as I read the prospectus. This is something I was never able to do before. So I make notes and/or a small sketch, and I put these things with the batting or fabric backing. Sometimes I will cut out a backing fabric as well, knowing I might bring it around to the front to create my binding, so I always cut it larger than my batting. Again, this is another issue resolved in my mind, and I figure I can always change any part of these additional things if I need to or want to.

I also did one more thing, and that is something for you to look at. All of us should examine all the things we are doing from time to time and determine if we need to do all of those things. We can help ourselves a lot by cutting out unnecessary activities, or perhaps those that we are really struggling to continue to keep up. One of the things I used to do was to cook a lot. Now I live alone, and I want to take good care of myself physically and eat a good diet, but cooking every day is time-consuming and doesn't necessarily help any of us in the long run. I have a decent freezer and a refrigerator, and so now I am cooking big pots of soup, or stew or some other one-dish meals, and I pretty much eat those for the hot dishes. I WILL make a salad, but then that is something I can make up very quickly even for a substantial salad for dinner, and it needs to be fresh. I do my work up front when I am shopping, reading the labels carefully to make sure they are low in sodium and also sugar. So whatever I make up, I already know is healthy, and I don't have to stop and look it up.

I cut out some other activities too that were beginning to overwhelm me. I have this nonprofit, and I have been doing live exhibits for years. But with working full-time as a paraeducator for special needs children, and with all of my other involvements, I needed to step down from the exhibits. They are a huge amount of work and time and I just couldn't maintain that and still do the other things I need to do. Someone else who is very well qualified and whom I have known for years and who has a strong sense of ethics stepped up to the plate, so that was a good move for me. I am always giving to others, but I need to do my own things to fulfill my own needs as well, so now everything can get done and I will still have all of my own personal projects that I find fulfilling and relaxing. I can still run the nonprofit and provide other kinds of assistance too, and it is a very good thing for others to learn how to do what I do.

I hope this is helpful for you. I know I have truly struggled with keeping up with things in the past, but now I feel like I can stay on top of everything. Enjoy your weekend.