Getting Control of Your UFOs

Spreadsheets have a reputation for being cold and factual. Less often are they seen as a form of inspiration and a repository of dreams.
I Love Spreadsheets
Let me explain. Some time ago, I was going down for what felt like the third time under a morass of unfinished things and dreams deferred. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, as the writer of Proverbs sagely observes, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. (You know you have too many UFOs when even the creator and sustainer of the universe tells you to get your act together and start finishing things.)

But where was I going to start? There were too many of them, and some had to be done before others, and they all had different conditions attached, and….

Enter the spreadsheet. The first thing to do is to list all the projects you have underway, followed by all the projects still at planning stage (Column A). To my shock, my list came to nearly 20 items.

Fotothek df roe-neg 0006317 003 Zirkusdarbietung einer Jongleurin mit ReifenThe next step is to assign them deadlines (Column B). These socks need to be finished by the intended recipient’s birthday; those curtains need to be lined before summer; this project needs to be completed before that one can be started, and so on. Some things don’t have a deadline; that’s fine. Just put down NA.

Then reorder them accordingly. Column B gives you your deadlines (where applicable) but it’s Columns C and D which really tell you what to work on next.

Column C tells you whether each project is portable or not. Can you take it out and about (to the theatre, on the bus, to a friend’s place), or is it a strictly stay-at-home kind of project? Obviously, if you only do one or the other sort of project, skip Column C.
Albert Guillaume 15 minutes d'entr'acte
Column D rates the concentration necessary for each project. A rating of 1 means you can do it while focussing on something else – TV, someone reading aloud, a conversation… Plain knitting, sewing hems or seams, and projects you’ve done a zillion times all fall into this category. A rating of 3 means that the project requires your full attention: complicated projects, cataloguing materials, or trying something you’ve never done before.

A column for notes can also be handy – take photos throughout for this one; break this one down into smaller tasks; check you have all the materials before starting. Do not attempt when tired. Here be dragons. Whatever.

The results? While I still have plenty of UFOs, there are fewer of them. Fourteen at last count, of which only six are actually UFOs – the others are still in the planning stages. When I add something new to the spreadsheet – for a gift, for example – it moves toward completion more quickly.
Albert Anker Sitzendes Mädchen mit einer Katze 1903And then it disappears. You may wish to keep a record of your Finished Objects, so you know where all your time went, but don’t clutter up your UFO spreadsheet with them – you want to see at a glance what you still have on your plate, and what you have, so to speak, eaten. (Let us leave this metaphor before it becomes any more ooky.)

After so long spinning my wheels, I finally have traction, and I am enjoying it. Enjoying making progress, enjoying knowing the UFOs are under control, enjoying seeing my dreams come closer, and enjoying the productivity of my hands. Because good time management isn’t about being harried by a to-do list, it’s about enriching your life. As Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”

I Have a Cunning Plan

Congratulate me, my friends! I have at last learned to be prudent when it comes to making cunning plans.

VillaincI think.

Long have I brooded over the difficulty of finding the kind of clothes I want to wear in shops (either new or second-hand). The obvious solution seems to be Way #5 to an Ethical Wardrobe. Yes, I have decided to learn to sew my own clothes.

In baby steps. “How else?” I hear you cry. “Where’s the prudence in that?”

Long-term readers of this blog may recall the epic quilt of craziness that dominated my Year of Finishing Things. Yes, I finished it. But it was far from being the only Thing in my possession that required Finishing. In fact, it wasn’t even the oldest Thing that Requires Finishing, or UFO as handworkers call them. (This stands for Un-Finished Object or Unfinished Fabric Object; not, as Cuthbert Soup pointed out, Uncommonly Fat Orangutans).

ORANGUTAN (8551550474)
Who are you calling uncommonly fat?

As I mentioned in this post, there were still two quilts (yes, there were two quilts beside the crazy quilt – clearly, the quilt was not the only crazy around here), a pair of gloves, a cardigan and a pile of mending to be done. Mending comes and goes, the cardigan and gloves are in regular wear, but the quilts are still with us in their UFOid state.

Behold, the prudence: instead of launching straight into the process of learning to sew my own clothes (and I have some delectable ideas, let me tell you), I am going to begin by Clearing the Decks. “Do not plan for ventures before finishing what’s at hand,” as Euripides said.

I have set aside the rest of 2017 (ok, my home handworking time for the rest of 2017 – I do have a book to publish) to get some projects completed and out of the deep dark Wardrobe of Unfinished Things.

Two women open a cupboard in which a skeleton stands. Engrav Wellcome V0042203
Deborah finally opens the Wardrobe of Unfinished Things

My targets are the mending of a pair of worn sheets, the lining of a pair of curtains, and the final completion of the rose quilt – less than fifteen years after I started it! Possibly no more than twelve! And if I somehow manage to complete all that before the end of the year (most unlikely), I shall do the block quilt assembly as well, for Extra Credit.

Anyone keen to join me? Not in clearing out my own UFOs, that is; I’m not that desperate – yet. But are you too trapped under a mountain of Unfinished Fabric Objects, or general Un-Finished Objects? (If trapped under a mountain of Unusually Fat Orangutans, please seek professional assistance.) Or is it some other task: cleaning out the garage, painting the kitchen, or extreme weeding in the back yard, that darkly looms like the great unfinished gargoyle that it is?

Church of the Holy Cross Great Ponton Lincolnshire England - tower gargoyle 2
Haul that lurker out of the shadows and pin it down in the comment section. What gargoyles do you have in your sights? When are you wanting to have finished them off by? Stake your claim! I’ll be posting weekly updates about my progress or lack thereof, and I would love to have you chipping in as you chip away at your own gargoyles.

Prudence shall be our battlecry – Prudence and Gargoyle Chips!