“Should you make that project?” is another post in the Studio Habits series.
If your project list is anything like mine, it’s crowded with ideas and plans for new and unfinished projects. I often say I could go a couple of years without a new idea and still not run out of things to work on!
When faced with such a smorgasbord of choices, how do you choose what to tackle?
This is a list of the questions I ask myself whenever I start a new project, and usually my answers give me clarity about my choices:
Is it a clear YES? Am I passionate about it, or is it something that must be done to meet a promised obligation? If it isn’t a clear YES, it’s often a NO that we just haven’t come to terms with!
Can I finish the project by the deadline in a way that makes me proud of my work? This is a big point to consider if you’re trying to build a reputation for your work, and this is where tracking your time helps you make these decisions.
Can I finish the project by the deadline without being super-stressed out about it? There’s enough stress in our lives without adding more!
If I work on this project, what might I be missing out on? Is there another project that will make me feel more fulfilled? Is there something else I would rather do or learn?
Is it the best use of my time right now? Will working on this be sweeter if I get other obligations done first?
Am I working on it because I already have invested time and money into it? Sometimes, we throw more time and resources at something because we think that honors our initial investment; it’s called sunk cost bias. But if you stop to ask yourself “Would I buy this fabric again and use it for this pattern again” and the answer is NO, then abandoning the project might be the wisest use of your time and money.
Will making this project affect my important relationships? Will I be cheating myself of time with my favorite people? Time with good people is so very precious.
Can I hire out or delegate any portion of the project? The actual quilting has always been my least favorite part of the process, so I began hiring that out to two wonderful long-arm artists a couple of years ago. Yes, it took a shift in my budget, but I now have time to do more of my favorite parts (designing and sewing the tops) – and I no longer stress (or stall) when something needs to be quilted.
Can I change my process to make a step easier or more efficient? While I love to finish my bindings by hand, I’ve started finishing them by machine sometimes so that I have more time for other things. I also recently bought a new, faster machine!
Am I doing this because it’s popular? Good things are popular for a reason, and there is great camaraderie in being in a group or quilt-a-long, but do I really want the finished product more than I want to do something else?
Will it teach me something I want to know? I recently took a very cool curves class from Jen Carlton Bailly, and came away with a handful of blocks that begged to become something bigger. But what I wanted was the knowledge of how to sew curves, and I got that in class. So I put one block with the instructions in my reference binder, and donated the rest (and some supporting fabrics) to my guild’s charity sewing program. My cast-offs will be someone else’s treasure, and I don’t have this cluttering my to do list or taking time I would rather spend differently. I give you permission to do the same!
Remember, you probably got into your hobby or practice because it was fun. A few strategic decisions will help keep it that way!
Better found Now than Later! Thank you VERY MUCH for the Permission Slip to NOT finish a project! I have a “log jam” of projects that suck the energy from me when the guilt-of-incompleteness washes over me. I had started a pile “to donate” after a just a little more assembly or work … but now … the pile will go to a volunteer quilting group, or two, that I know in our small coastal community (Seaside, Oregon). Thank you many times over in 2018!
Anytime you need permission, I have it for you!
This is why we call you “SamWise”. I have been looking at my collection of projects without knowing where to start. Now I have this amazing list of questions with which to challenge each projects place on my “To Be Done” list. I would like to transfer some of these projects to my “Wow! I Finished It!” list. Thankyouthankyouthankyou!!!
This really is helpful. My daughter took an economics class and told me about “sunk costs” early last year, and it has really helped me with looking more realistically at a lot of stuff. I’m now 63 and feel like using my time on things that give me a resounding “YES!” is the best for me for my remaining 30+ years 😉 – plus, I’ve earned it – haa! Thanks so much for your thoughtful essays, Sam! I do look forward to your posts.
Thank you for your kind words!
Then there is the UFO I call “mindless quilting” that needs to be kept around for a long time, I pull it out when I’m brain-dead and need the comfort of sewing something.
So timely Ms Sam. I have a huge pile of UFO’s that drag me down and I don’t want to do any of them but…..I really need the practice of quilting them so I preserve because I just need the practice. I will not get better at quilting without more practice. And it teaches me that not every step is fun. Sometimes this hobby has parts that aren’t as much fun.
And now you know why I hire out the quilting!
Thank you for this very needed wake-up call. I have so many projects to finish, including a king-sized quilt for an April wedding to quilt. Instead, I started playing with a quilt block that looked like fun, but certainly should have been put on the bottom of the list, instead of working on it today. Lots of snow here, so it’s definitely ‘sewing weather’. This article made me face the reality of what I have to do, in a good way, and I plan to be more realistic in the little time I have to sew. BTW, the real fun part of this hobby is the FINISHED PRODUCT!
Thank you! I have a to do list that’s insane. Do I really want to finish that Dresden plate? Or do I want to finish that baby quilt for a beloved niece’s first baby? I love to give quilts to my family. So I have my answer! My problem is wanting to make so many quilts because I love the pattern or color scheme or current popularity. Time to weed out the time sucking, unfun, bored-with, not my style.
I hope a cull works well for you!
I just made the decision to split the pieces of a mystery quilt into 2 small quilts. Best idea ever! I already finished one top as a super cute baby quilt that I freaking LOVE!
Thanks for the great post & I will be looking into “sunk costs” to learn more.
I have only abandoned one quilt. It was too dark, depressing & I just wasn’t enjoying it. But I agree, if one doesn’t like what they’re working on, it just becomes a time suck! Quilting is my zen space & I thoroughly enjoy it. I have a very long list of projects ahead of me & lots of fun fabrics to work with. I finish one & go on to the next as a prize for finishing the last one. Some I’ve liked better than others, but only one was totally ugly in my opinion. It was a free BOM & I’d done my best, but am not into modern quilts & just when I finished & was ready for the bonfire it would make, my granddaughter begged me to finish it for her. I couldn’t refuse that beautiful little face!! In looking back, that was the ugliest quilt I’ve ever worked on, but I learned so much from working on it!! So many new to me techniques!
“for love” quilts are always awesome!
Great Piece of Advice! Enjoyed it very much. Giving me notice to live by my feelings and not continue horsing around with some things that I can no longer control or really want to keep on my TO DO LIST! Thanks for a wonderful WAKE UP CALL! Used to work near where your studio is before we moved back home to Idaho. Miss Oregon a lot but doing well here. Would be fun to drop in to one of your meetings or just see your studio. Rosalie
Hope you have fun choosing a smaller to-do list!
I truly, truly love you!!!! And I appreciate all of your advice!!! One day, I’ll be able to follow it all!! <3 <3 <3