Monday, December 19, 2016

Motivational Monday - The Task Master!

I recently had a conversation with someone who said they would love to have a secretary. Yes, while that would be nice, I would rather have a wife!  Someone to keep track of my life and do the nasty jobs for me. WAIT - I don't do nasty jobs (I'm very spoiled).  So what I truly need is a secretary. While that isn't going to happen, I'm trying something new this year and I've nicknamed it The Task Master.

Before I get to that, I want to recap where we are. The intent of the Motivational Mondays is to help us get 12 (or whatever number works for you!)  UFOs completed over the course of 2017. These are the projects that you would just love to see finished, but for some reason, you've been putting them off. You were to choose a maximum of 12 (13 if you were going to work on a project in December).  Next up was to write the list on a piece of paper or if you have a notebook, write the list in the notebook. Remember, this is 12 projects over and above the normal quilt stuff that you do!!!

There are no hard rules in this project. If you need to swap out a project, great. Make sure you SWAP, not add.  If the project happens to be brand new, but it's imperative that you complete it this year - that's OK. If you have major time constraints and you can only manage 2 projects, that's OK!.

So what exactly is the Task Master and why is she yelling at me all the time?  It's basically a TO DO list.  BUT not just any old TO DO list. Nope - it's a well thought out list.

There are project planners on the market. Heck, there are even quilt project planners on the market.

Here are several that you can check out - but make sure you check them out AFTER I tell you what I did. I'm very OPINIONATED about these planners so don't let me influence you!

1. The Quilter's Planner  What I don't like - there is a block per week. I do NOT need more temptation. This is essentially a daily planner. I work all day and can't schedule in hourly time slots to work on a project. No - I want something VERY specific towards MY projects. I also could NOT schedule in that at 3 PM on Friday afternoon that I'll work on Project X.  That's way too hard and I would fail after the first day!

2. Scrappy Planner   This one is very expensive. I believe there are pages for 52 projects in the book and if I were going to be making 52 scrap quilts - that would be great. Nope - I'm trying to clean up the mess, not start over.

I wanted MAXIMUM flexibility so I went to the dollar store (Dollarama) and purchased a $2 spiral bound notebook. I made a bright orange cover for it.

Here's what I did - starting in the front of the book, I'm making my lists. There is my list of the Dirty Dozen (my 12 projects for 2017).  If I don't write them down - I will NOT remember which ones I chose. There is plenty of room at the bottom of the pages to swap out or there is good old WHITE-OUT!!

One list category

Another page will have the list of gifts that I plan to make/finish for people.  This has NOTHING to do with the Dirty Dozen - it's just a list, because trust me, there are some gifts that have been waiting to be gifted for MANY years.

Another page will have items that need to be completed for the guilds I belong to. Another page has projects for work. Another heading might be quilts to be quilted.

You don't have to create any of these lists, but they are a HUGE eye opener. When the list (s) go beyond one page, you know that you're in trouble!

So make as many lists (categories) that you want. As you're writing the list, maybe this is the time to start culling???  I know some of you are talking about that.  You may also want to make notes - quilt X is for Amy.  Quilt Y is to be donated to X charity.

I like lists, I like being able to check things off.  It also helps me to prioritize things and remember PRIORITIZATION is key to getting anything done!   If you have 12 gifts to make, do you really want to commit to making another gift???  Think about that BEFORE you say YES!  For me, if I don't have it written down, it's super easy to FORGET any prior commitments. That is why I was upset when I lost my other book - all those lists were already written down.  I can recreate them, but it's taking time.

Another section of the book is where you break down EACH project of the Dirty Dozen.  I wouldn't break the project down until you're ready to work on it - just in case you change your mind about one of them.  It isn't enough to say - Finish the tree skirt (which is my December project).  Where is the fun in checking off ONE thing when it's all complete?  Nope - I broke it down like this:

1. Check the box for the project status/missing fabric
2. Piece the seven inserts
3. Add the two borders
4. Make the binding and the backing
5. Quilt the tree skirt
6. Bind the tree skirt
7. Make the label

This is assuming for me that I want to get this project completely DONE!

So that was the easy part.  Now the hard part. Starting from the back of the book, I have ONE page per week. What are the QUILT related tasks that I want to get done that week?  Now - DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT just write out a huge list.  NO NO NO!  Think about how much time you have that week. If you're going to be away all week, then perhaps you only have a small hand work item on the list or maybe you have NOTHING at all.  If you know you will have lots of time during the week, then think about what you want (and can) to accomplish. Remember that everything takes longer than you think.

Here's where your lists come in.  Check out the Dirty Dozen project for that month.  How much can realistically get done this week? The first two items??  Great - write them on the weekly TO DO list. If you want, write the rest of the items in for the remaining weeks of the month. That way, if you still want (or have time)  to work on other things, you won't forget that you have committed to finishing this particular item.

Don't be afraid to break things down in great detail.  If you only have half hour time slots, break the projects down small. If you know you have hours each day, the project may not need to be broken down too much.  It will depend on how you work and your system may change as you get into it.

My very first Weekly TO DO list

The next two weeks - shorter lists!

I wish, there was a  magic solution to our mess. But there isn't.  This book will ONLY work if you're committed to it. I keep saying that The Task Master is yelling at me - well technically it's my subconscious that is doing the yelling. Should I really be starting a new project when I've already committed (to myself) to get project X done?  I write EVERY little quilt task in that book - sew on the label, sew on the hanging sleeve. Hey - I like crossing things off!   I feel accomplished and I can see what I have completed each week.

Now what to do if you don't get everything done in the week you planned it?  I used to carry forward those items, essentially rewriting them.  I didn't like that.  So here's what I do now - in my NEW book:

  • I finish an item (in the week it was scheduled) - I highlight it in yellow. 
  • I didn't get an item finished that week, I leave it. But as I work into the next week, I know that those tasks also have to be completed. Which is why you don't want to create another huge list when you have leftover projects from the previous week. When they are completed (late), I highlight them in BLUE. 
  • Sometimes when I'm working, I realize that I forgot something and I'll put that item in the current week or even the coming week. If it gets done in advance of its week, I highlight the task in orange. 

The highlights will help you with future scheduling. Are you constantly not getting everything accomplished? Then perhaps you're writing too many things on the list. It's better to have FIVE things completed than 20 things NOT DONE! You have to be true to yourself on this one!!!!   DO NOT set yourself up for failure by over committing what you can do!

Now you don't have to get that sophisticated.  The idea is to break the projects down, write down ONLY those that can be done that week. DO NOT recopy items to the next week. Leave them UNHIGHLIGHTED - that's the Task Masters' way of shaming us!

And here's the thing - I'm on the fourth week of this system. There isn't a whole lot to do this week. Why??  Because I'm behind and if I write stuff in this week, it will not get done. So it's OK to have a catch-up week.

I try to sit down on Saturday evening - could be any time that works for you. (Honestly - it takes about five minutes!)  Figure out the next steps on your Dirty Dozen project and whatever else you need to get done.  Write that down. Writing it down is like signing a contract with yourself - well it is for me! Trust me, there have been nights when I wanted to just sit and read and I thought - NOPE - I said I would get this done and I had better. So even if I don't get it completely finished, I do make headway.  If you think you can only sew ONE label on that week - then that is all you can accomplish!  We're not trying to conquer the world here, but we do need to be committed.  I did mention that somewhere along the way.

I also post inspirational quotes (from a book that came in my stocking one year). I rip up the pages, and I glue them in.  Use markers, doodle - whatever you want to make this book yours. I figure it's going to be an awesome journal of my quilting journey for 2017!!!

Let's get those lists made up and those projects prioritized. It's almost 2017!!!   Next week, I'll share with you what I've accomplished since I started this at the end of November.  I will say that I'm not normal!  I'm obsessed with quilting and we shouldn't compare ourselves to anyone else!

Have a super day!!!


Don't forget, there is a Facebook page so we can provide feedback and help to each other.  Search Motivational Monday on Facebook if the link doesn't work.


  1. I think this is a WONDERFUL idea. I'm in. I'm ALL in. I love crossing off things from lists. Thanks for the idea. Happy Holidays. ;^)

  2. What a great idea. I want to try it. AND stick to it.
    But, first I have to finish the projects for Christmas.

  3. Great idea! I have had project books in the past, usually drawing books. I used it in sections...inspirational cut out pics, ideas, lists, then a page or two for each project. I love your idea for a book to leave at my sewing machine to keep me on track. I will still keep my project book, and keep on track with your idea! Thanks.