Making Time

I’ve often posted about time-management before. Whenever I’ve posted recently, my focus has been about trying to find time to progress my knitwear design ideas. I thought it might be useful if I posted about how I’ve recently managed to incorporate knitwear design into my day. It was nothing short of making time.

Where ideas germinate...

Where ideas germinate…

One of the things I’ve figured out is time. Over the years I’ve tried different a approaches to getting tasks done such as Flylady, HabitHacker or Pomodoro Technique. Each to them advocates setting a timer for a specific length of time and working on it until the timer goes off.

Flylady’s motto is “you can do anything in 15 minutes”. When your 15 minutes are up you take a 15 minute break. Habit Hacker recommends two 11 minute sessions – one to pull something apart and the next to put it all back together again – with an eight-minute break afterwards.

Both of these shorter time periods are ideal for tackling chores about the house. If I was trying to get stuck into a longer task in work I used Pomodoro Technique. The time period for this technique, a Pomodoro, is 25 minutes long with 5 minute interval breaks. After four Pomodoros (i.e. two hours) you’re meant to take a longer break of 20 minutes.

After trying all of these strategies I’ve eventually progressed to a personal system of time-keeping, based on 12-minute time slots. I do what I call a brain dump and list out – in no particular order – all the tasks that are vying for attention in my head. Then I’ll assess the list to prioritise the tasks in terms of how important and/or urgent they are.

Finally, I assess the prioritised tasks for how long I think each will take – in multiples of 12 minutes. In this way, I can quickly assess how many tasks I can get done in a given time. If I only have an hour but I have five high priority tasks I know I can only spend on average 12 minutes on each. Or perhaps I’ll allow 48 minutes for something that requires more focus then I’ll take a break by doing something else for 12 minutes. This is currently how I organise my workday.

Adopting this method was very helpful in figuring out how my daily morning routine could be adapted to incorporate some time for knitting design. I determined a logical sequence for my morning routine tasks from when I got up until I left for work. By dividing the time into 12 minute slots, and assigning each slot activities from this sequence, I automatically became more focused on where my time was going. In turn this meant that by getting up only a little earlier I was able to fit in a 48 minute session for me to focus on designing.

Excerpt from my bullet journal

For Time it is a precious thing…

Rather than have timers going off constantly throughout the morning I have a mental timetable of what I should be doing at specific times. As a result my morning routine looks like this:

6:00 get up, use bathroom
6:12 load the washing machine from previously sorted clothes baskets
6:24 have breakfast
6:36 knitting design session begins
7:24 buffer slot: make a cup of tea / wake any kids not yet up
7:36 ablutions, dress for work
8:00 fold the laundry hanging to dry; hang the load just washed
8:24 cajole the kids to get their shoes and coats on for school
8:36 drive to work to start my full-time job.

I’ve been doing this for the past six weeks and it’s being working really well for me. It’s only thanks to this focus on time that I’m now able to sit down and knit design swatches and figure out details of the designs that have been buzzing around my head for years! As a result, I was able to send a design submission to Knitscene three weeks ago and I’m about to send a different design submission to another print magazine in the morning.

If I hadn’t taken the time to get to grips with time I would never have found time to make time.

Do you think this approach would work for you? If you have time-management tips and tricks to share I’d love to hear them.

Taking Charge

Time-management guru, Alison Mitchell, has a wonderful exercise in her book “Time Management for Manic Mums” to demonstrate her “Wine Bottle Theory of Time Management”. You get a jug and try to fill it with apples, blueberries, caster sugar and wine.

  • The apples represent the urgent and important tasks, the things you have to do or you’ll get bitten in the ass like going to work, paying bills or feeding kids.
  • The blueberries represent important tasks but there’s no urgency – doing them will save you time in the long run like setting up a system for making sure bills get paid on time. For me, following through on publishing patterns is in this category.
  • Then the caster sugar represents tasks that are important to, or urgent for, someone else – in my case that’s housework. I do it because I know it makes DH happy when it’s kept on top of, but it would be low on my priority list otherwise.
  • And then there’s a bottle of wine – ah… wine! It represents all the things I’d rather be doing like crafting, twitter, Ravelry – than the important things I should be doing.

You get the idea: if we fill our jug / day with wine or caster sugar first we’ll struggle to get the important apples and blueberries in there. If you put the apples in first the smaller items of lesser importance will fill in around the gaps.

Case in point: this morning, instead of washing the floors as I’d planned, I played with an Excel spreadsheet of my stash that I’d exported from Ravelry. Naturally, the floors did not get washed at all as my “wine” task took over my time.

Playing with my stash spreadsheet is a favourite game of mine as I try to plan my next knitting / crochet project based on maximising how much stash I’ll use up. With almost 74 kilometers of yarn to work through it’s an understandable obsession.

This week is my first of 10 weeks of parental leave (hence all the blogging action!). For six of those 10 weeks, we will be living in the south of France so I was developing my knitting plan around working with cotton and linen to cope with the heat. In fact I bought a new project’s worth of linen with this plan in mind when I was at La Droguerie in Paris last week. This is the logic that has me struggling with 74km of yarn!

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Haul from La Droguerie, Paris

However, rather than a stash-dive being my usual exercise in choosing “wine” over “caster sugar” this morning it turned into an “apple” moment as a realisation dawned on me…

You may have noticed the “current status” of my two design ideas in my last post was “stewing”. If you recall my previous blog-post “Potential” I had challenged myself to publish an average of one pattern per month for the next year. I wrote that in November 2013. So where are the seven or so new patterns designed by me?

Sadly, still in my head!

And here’s the why: I’ve been busy! The wrong kind of busy – I’ve been filling my jug/time with going to work; looking after the kids and house; knitting or crocheting; working through stash… or teachers’ presents… or items to enter in the local horticultural show. I’ve allowed myself to be so “Busy” with busy-ness of everyday things I’ve avoided the the business of being a designer: knuckling down, swatching and sketching, pattern-writing and testing.

Rather than fill my 10-week-carafe with delicious French wine and come back from France with three new cotton or linen sweaters and several dishcloths, I’m taking charge of my pitcher to pick some juicy “blueberries” from my stash to swatch with instead:

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It’s all in my head…

One day in my life

One of my favourite books is called “Time Management for Manic Mums”. It’s a terrible title, which actually prevents me from buying it for all my friends who are working-mums. What Mum wants to be told they’re manic?

You always feel like you have more to do when it’s all buzzing around your head. One of the main exercises that I’ve learned from TMFMM is “The Daily Dozen”. This is where I’m meant to sit down for 12 minutes and plan and prioritise all that’s to be done the following day. Whenever I’ve done this and actually followed through with my plan the next day, it has felt fantastic. However, as we all know: The Plan often bears little or no resemblance to The Reality.

  • 6:09 – Alarm goes off – spring out of bed, throw leggings and a coat over pj’s and go out to walk the dogs for 30 mins
    • 6:29 – Alarm goes off – switch it to snooze
  • 6:37 – Return from walk, and jump in the shower
    • 6:37 – Alarm goes off – switch it to snooze… again
  • 6:45 – Get dressed, start to wake the kids, put on a laundry wash
    • 6:45 – Alarm goes off – switch it off and consider getting up
  • 7:00 – encourage kids to set the table and sit down to eat their breakfast
    • 7:00 – Get out of bed because one of your kids is demanding attention / breakfast / ransom for their sibling’s freedom
  • 7:45 – Encourage kids to finish breakfast and get dressed
    • 7:45 – Plead with your offspring, for the umpteenth time, would they ever tell you what they wanted in their bowls because you’re running out of time / patience / milk
  • 8:05 – Encourage kids to get teeth & hair brushed quickly so they can have some playtime as a reward
    • 8:05 – Start panicking because you’re still in PJ’s and may have to abandon all hope of getting a shower
  • 8:25 – Encourage kids to tidy-up toys because we’re leaving in a few moments
    • 8:25 – Start harassing kids to finish breakfast / brush hair / brush teeth / get coat on / get shoes on / all of the above
  • 8:40 – Leave house to drive The Earl to the crèche and then walk kids into school before continuing on to work
    • 8:45 – Leave house in a blind panic to drive DD & DS1 to school first or else they’ll be late; and then go on to crèche and continue on to work
  • 9:20 – Arrive at work, sit down and begin follow your workplan that you drew up the previous day.
    • 9:30 – Arrive at work and realise you’d arranged a meeting at 9:15 halfway between your home & work because you were trying to be efficient with your time… but you’d forgotten. Leave the office to drive halfway home again and arrive at meeting 30mins late. (This actually happened to me on Monday.)

The Road to Hell, paved as it is with the best of intentions, continues in this vein for the rest of the day. By the time the evening rolls around, quite a gulf has opened between Plan and Reality.

  • 8:30 – Kids in bed, finish off folding and putting away laundry, sit down and knit for an hour before bed-time at 10.00
    • 9.00 – Sit down to knit, start watching House or Bones or some period drama with DH while ignoring the mountain of laundry beside you and the fact that if you don’t go to bed until 12 there’s no way you’ll be able to get up early to walk the dogs in the morning

And so the viscous circle continues…

I do not like the SAHM I am

I registered to run the Mini-marathon this year. Ever since my nephew was born with a heart-defect and needed emergency care and surgery in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin four years ago my sister has run the Mini-marathon to raise funds for Crumlin. In fact, she has vowed to do this for the next twenty years – such is the debt of gratitude she feels she owes to the fantastic staff at the Hospital. My plan was to accompany her and help to contribute to her undertaking. However, as she’s run it a few times before, this year she was actually going to run it i.e. at speed, so I wasn’t exactly going to be keeping her company during the run.

I managed to get out training for it once. My sister encouraged me that I could still walk it. I was sceptical. I also had difficulties trying to get my registration letter printed. To get my race number I had to bring it to the RDS on Friday, Saturday or Sunday . However, between DD’s birthday party on Saturday (and getting ready for it all week beforehand) and my MIL’s birthday party on Sunday, getting to the RDS wasn’t possible. Again, my sister offered to get my number for me if I emailed her my letter. In the end, my heart (or my mind or my body) wasn’t in it and I opted out. My sister ran the 10k in one hour and three minutes and said finishing was a great feeling. I’m jealous of that great feeling and more than a little disappointed in myself.  

It’s not the only thing I’m disappointed in myself for. During a recent check-up with the dentist it’s evident my addiction to chocolate, which started during my last pregnancy, has taken its toll on my teeth. I’ve gone from having no fillings to six in as many years. I met my 20-weeks-pregnant-SIL on Sunday and I look more pregnant than she is. I’m also thoroughly fed-up with myself and my “relationship” with housework. I obsess about housework in the same way as many women I know obsess about calories or their weight. I seem to think about it constantly: “when am I going to do it”, “how much do I need to do”, “how little can I get away with”, “how can I avoid it by pretending I’m doing something more important”. If I spent even a fraction of the time doing it as I spend thinking about doing it there wouldn’t be any housework to obsess over. 

I’m due to go back to work on 1st August – two months time. Time is upon me to get mind and body back in shape and get some focus / toning for both. As usual I’ve got books to consult and to help collate a plan, a strategy for what I should be doing and how to get it all done.  

So, here it is – what I want to achieve:

  • Exercising my tummy muscles – I want to get back into using Jorge Cruise’s Exercise & diet Plan. It involves getting up early in the morning and exercising – not really 8 minutes, the whole thing is more like 20 but I really enjoyed it before. I also like the structure it gives to the day: I have to make sure to eat every 3 hours. Plus, I have to get to bed by 10p.m. My problem to date has been that The Earl also likes to wake up early, sometimes at five. However, I realised the other day, maybe he’d enjoy lying on the floor beside me watching my do my contortions – it’s worth a try.
  • Expressing milk – I underestimated how much the twice-daily school run would eat into my personal time. I have found it impossible to date to sit down and express milk for The Earl. Consequently, he doesn’t use bottles at all but, worse still, I haven’t been able to donate to the Human Milk Bank, as I did last time around. However, if I want to keep The Earl off formula for his first year (as I did with DD & DS) I need to build up some stock. Plus, if I want to be able to express at work I need to increase supply and get into the habit now!
  • Spending quality time with The Earl – half an hour of one-on-one attention each day, according to Dr. Sally Ward in Baby Talk. Easier said than done and my main problem is not so much finding time as getting bored long before half an hour is up. This is where the Baby Play book by Gymboree comes in. Now that the weather has made a turn for the better, I’d like to get down to the beach in the afternoons with the three of them.
  • More focused use of time in general –  I’d especially like to put housework into the background by just doing it, not thinking about it. I think if I make myself so busy and focussed in general I’ll be more inclined to just “get-on-with-it”. In part, I’m worried about when I return to work – will I have the right mental attitude to get on with the projects I’m assigned even if it’s something I’m not interested in? I need to get more disciplined with myself. The key to this, and all of the above, is my fav book “Time Management for Manic Mums”. I have to re-read it: I got stuck before on the chapter about procrastination – no kidding! And I still wonder about when I’m going to get to the next chapter about living in the present – ha ha ha!

So now I’ve made my revalation to myself and the world – I’ve written it down, tried to come out of denial. This is the first day of the rest of my life. Here goes…