Hello! Today I’m writing about some things I think about a lot. In fact, I’ve thought about all of these topics in one form or another for almost as long as I can remember. The primary reason I started my blog over nine years ago was to keep a record of these three things in my own life. Creativity, productivity, and inspiration: how do they all fit together? and how can one cultivate more of them on a daily basis?
I’ve had notes for this post in my planner for quite some time, and I have a
good outline for today’s thoughts. I’m sure I’ll need to write about this again down the road (as I’m always learning), but here are some of the things I’ve learned up to this point.
Working in a creative field means that I am always looking for inspiration and planning future projects. And in today’s busy world there are plenty of time wasters–I love John Quincy Adams’s labeling of this as “misapplying time.” Since there are only so many hours in the day, I also spend a lot of time trying to learn how to use my time better (not too long ago I wrote this post on time management for quilters).
Recently I’ve made some changes that are helping me to make the best use of my time: I feel like I’ve been able to be more creative and more productive and yet also have more time for relaxing and spending time with my family. The book Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (The 99U Book Series) has given me some terrific ideas that have really made a great impact on my life. (The book is a compilation of ideas by successful people and creatives in a variety of fields, and I learned much from the ideas and suggestions contained therein).
10 Tips for Increasing
Creativity + Productivity
4. Maintain focus by getting rid of interruptions.
Try to schedule time blocks of uninterrupted creative time. For me this means putting my phone on silent when I’m sewing or working on patterns. When my kids were younger I accomplished this by doing most of my sewing while they were napping, at school, or after they had gone to bed. Find what works for you, and keep those interruptions at bay.
5. Have identifiable tasks to do for your creative time.
This makes larger projects not seem so overwhelming. For example, if I head into my sewing room with “make a new Christmas quilt” as my only objective, I won’t be as productive as if I go in knowing I’m going to cut out a project or make all of the half-square triangles for a quilt. Having larger tasks broken up into smaller, more easily do-able projects makes it easier to stay on task. Additionally, I try to have no more than three major tasks to do for any given day.
6. Limit Social Media.
At first I thought it might be a little ironic that I was writing this in a blog post. But not really. Let’s face it, many of us get a lot of information, and good information, too, from the web and social media. Social media has its place for helping individuals to learn and gain knowledge about a variety of topics. It’s easy to make a plan for managing social media, though, and stick to it. I read blogs in the morning, check Pinterest in the evening, and post/check Instagram a couple of times a day. I don’t have Facebook on my phone which is a huge time-saver for me (I usually only check that once a week).
7. Work on projects just for fun.
As quilters we all have projects we need to do: make a baby quilt for a friend, make a block for our guild project, or make gifts for family and friends, just to name a few examples. But it’s really important to work on things for fun–things that don’t have deadlines and help us to enjoy being creative. It helps to have a “bucket list” of projects for times when we want to just make something for the sake of making something.
8. Let go of perfectionism.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Stop worrying about what you know or don’t know, and create because you want to. I actually just read an excellent article on this topic by one of my favorite designers. Anna’s blog and designs have been inspirational to me for many years, and she will really motivate you to not worry about the “perfect” with her thoughts on this topic in this post.
9. Take time to plan.
When I’m busy I sometimes think I’ll save time by leaving this step out. But it’s so important. I prefer a weekly calendar and usually have a list of things to accomplish throughout the week rather than scheduling every minute of any given day. I look over my calendar each evening and on a weekly basis update for the following week. Use whatever method works for you, but be consistent in your planning.
10. Be ready to begin.
Clean up each evening and have something ready that you can sit down and work on right away. This has helped me more than I can adequately relate. Sometimes I just don’t have large blocks of time in which to work; however, if something is prepped and ready to go, I can maintain steady progress on my projects.
I hope this post will be helpful to you as you continue on your creative path making wonderful quilts and projects for yourself and those you love and care about. I’ll continue to share my thoughts and ideas on these topics as I continue to learn new things on these topics.
Pin the image above so you can refer to this post again as needed. Thanks so much for stopping by and happy quilting!
Susie Hoover says
What a helpful post – thank you! I will also pass some of this information on to my hubby. He could probably apply a few of these tips to his non-quilting job!
Judy H says
I agree totally on all points with you. I use making a quilt in a planner/productivity I give to college freshmen. If I say "make a quilt" that's the end of the process. Then I show you have to break it down…pick pattern, fabric, buy what I need, cut it out, sew it together, etc. As you move through the steps, you know exactly where you are and can stop, put it down and pick it right back up again, because you know where you stopped in the process. Works much the same way for writing a paper for a class.
Social media is my biggest time suck. I've known for a while but ignored it. Honestly, I don't even know how to stop now. This is so stupid, but I've actually googled how to wean myself off social media!
Wonderful tips and great reminders! I'm a list maker and I try to make time for my creative outlets by adding sewing/stitching time to my To Do Lists. You will often see "Stitch 1 Hour" on my list right below "Load/Unload Dishwasher" or "Clean Bathroom". It's a welcome break to look forward to among the tedium of keeping house.
that was a very helpful list! it's good to know other people consider these topics too. i particularly love your suggestion to do meaningful work first thing (rather than surf the net or whatever).
Thanks for sharing these great tips with us! What I discovered about myself and my sewing projects is (and this may sound stupid) that you really sould only make what you love. For example I need to find the right fabrics for it otherwise I will get frustrated while I'm making it and probabaly won't finish it. And if there's something in the pattern I don't love or would make it different I just make it my way. A project I love turns out even better then it first thoguth (most of the time at least).
Myra @ Busy Hands Quilts says
Such good ideas for keeping it all in balance.
Alycia Quiltygirl.com says
Thanks for sharing – I too took FB off my phone – only because I am so easily distracted – and it has helped me stay focused, and then when I am on FB – I really enjoy it 😉
The best way to give up social media is cold turkey and to be sure to actually sign out of your account or it is too tempting to get back in. Or schedule for it with a definite ending time otherwise the next thing you know your entire day and all good intentions have flown out the window. I see so many people who are living for social media, it is so sad. Once I took all of this off my phone and signed out or inactivated my accounts I began getting more done in my actual life. Just my two cents!
Super post! I enjoyed reading the comments too! I find a to do list is my best source of productivity. If it's not on my list, it's not likely to get done. I also feel better seeing what I've accomplished during the day. If I don't write it down, then cross it off, it's easy to wonder where all that time went. Oh, and I'm not on Facebook. Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one who isn't. I don't have anything against it. I just figure I don't have time to be on every kind of social media. Thanks so much for the tips!
Rosemary B❤️ says
These are great tips.
I will try to follow some of this advice.
Martha Cook says
Great list of being disciplined and following a routine and schedule to be ready to enjoy and be productive. I would add one more oldies, rock, or classical anything to put a jig in your moves 🙂
Carol C Thomas says
I see why I have not been productive. I haven't succeeded at any of your suggestions. I do many of these suggestions for my school work but I don't do any of this for myself, for quilting. Thanks for writing this one.
I took a graduate class in creativity.
Ms. Gwyn says
These are tips my daughter can use as she completes her senior year and heads off to college the next. I try to abide by these 'rules'. I don't quilt as much as I would like, but when I do, I feel productive.
Thanks for the suggestions, Sherri. I love the accompanying photos too!
Some great tips there! As a professional quilter I have to be fairly organised each day to get through 'the pile'………..I would love to know how you hang your mini quilts in your sewing room?
Helen L says
great tips, and I'm going to refer back to this to help me along. I've got to figure out how to get rid of so many emails!! I unsubscribe, but they somehow find me again!!
Christine N says
Great post! I have really been interested in productivity tools to help me organize my work and life. You've shown how quilting is a natural fit for this because there are so many projects with many, many steps. I like the Getting Things Done book – maybe you would too! Thanks!
Jackie Norwood says
Great advise…I really have to block time to get anything done…love your sewing room!
Anne / Springleaf Studios says
Thanks for the tips. It was a perfect time for me to be reading this as I've struggled with actually getting to work lately. Too much time on the computer and not enough at the machine. I need to try the sew first, computer later approach.
Susan-Sharon Passmore says
Great tips! I see several things that I can incorporate into my time management goals. Thank you for sharing.
Mary Smart says
I enjoyed this post very much, and especially #10. It reminded me why I loved making feathered star quilts with sawtooth borders so much 15 years or so ago, when I made 3 of them. A lot of the pleasure of seeing those come together was because I made all of the feathers first (quite a project in itself), then cut everything else out, and lined it all up in stacks. There were too many pieces to consider doing it quickly, but there it all was, ready to go every time I had 5 minutes or 5 hours or any amount of time in between. I could sit down and work on piecing, and I did, until the quilt was together. I had forgotten how well that worked.
I always have a Sew Day project underway and in my machine trolley. Maybe instead I should take that always ready-to-go project out where I can see it and put in whatever bits of time come my way.
Thank you for reminding me how well that works!
I had to climb back into your feed to look this up again, as I didn't tell you the first time around how much I loved these tips. I've been working towards this for some time, but here you outlined it most succinctly and carefully. I also find that as soon I get one of these under control, I have to move on to another, and then sometimes double back.
I feel the same about social media–which is why I don't often climb onto Facebook (have to more, now that my son has moved away), and mostly read blogs (w/o commenting). But what you say is wise, and prudent.
Sandy Long says
Sherry, thank you so much for this post!!! Since I've quit working, due to some health issues and side effects of medicines, I've been able to cut a huge amount of stress out of my life and put some important things into perspective. I've also lost all time-management skills. The word "Focus" has become my mantra! I've bought both books you mentioned and read both articles you mentioned, as well. The articles, plus this one you wrote have pointed out some important ideas which will help me to tackle my day-to-day life, and I look forward to exploring this further. So, I wanted to thank you for the inspiration, information, and letting me know I'm not the only one! LOL
I love seeing your posts arrive in my in box, as I know they will be something helpful, interesting and beautiful to look at.
Also, one quick question: what is that beautiful paint color on your studio walls? I've been looking for the "perfect shade of light aqua" and yours looks to be it!
Again, thank you for what you do and keep up the good work!