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08 January 2013

BEVERLEY'S BULLETIN : 3 Achieving Deadlines

As with the start of any new year, everywhere is full of reviews and ways forward.  I've been reading textile blogs with the same themes.
One caught my attention, specific detailed evaluation, and a structured plan for the year.  It included how many pieces are to be made, time allocated to art, in fact so detailed there was a spreadsheet, which was to be appraised and evaluated on a regular basis.  At which point, frankly I thought, give up now, lay down in a dark room and recover!

So I thought I’d use this topic for another Bulletin, because self awareness, ie the speed at which you can work, or how much time you  have in a given week can be vital to help when working to a deadline.  It is another skill learned from my City and Guilds studies.  Often what we think, is not actually what is…

The little record book I have kept for the past 7 years also helps me with knowing myself.  I don’t list hours spent, just things like “painted papers” – “handstitched on blue piece”.  Its surprising when the gaps appear in the making, times of the year when things slow or stop, but aren’t necessarily when I’d suspect, like holidays or around events, but these natural breaks seem to occur around the same time each year.
So perhaps its worthwhile to actually time a few tasks, not as in race against the clock, but as being real about timings.  Some tasks I find, say stitching up the first side of something can take 40 minutes, but by the time I’ve got to the last, its 20, because I’m in the rhythm of the process, know the angle to hold things, etc.   If I had another the same to do straight off each side would likely be 20 minutes or less… but seldom are there production line projects.  And I find the next time, its back to the long slow start.  So I might have estimated 90 minutes to do, but in reality its much longer, yet faster if done in one session, even a break for lunch can throw me backwards in terms of the rhythm of the process.
Or it can be worth noting what times of day you find it easier to work, how much, time, perhaps it’s a little every day, perhaps its only a couple of days a week you have available.  I have the time, but I don’t ever stitch in the evenings, IF I do need creative things in the evening, then that’s when I choose to read my magazines, so its creative input, but of another kind.

I see two options when making work for a deadline.

1) design the piece, stick to the design and work at it, until made.  Even if time gets tight and it means early mornings or late nights to get it done.
2) design the piece, but look at how long it will take you to make and then decide, either commit, be willing to sacrifice other things to achieve, (which might mean cancelling lunch with a friend) or else go back to the design and modify it, or the techniques to be used.

I favour 2), purely because I cannot work all hours, I have done on occasions, but actually working late in the night, I’m more prone to mistakes, more likely to have to redo things, more likely to cut into something vital, likely to tip paint all over the project, and frankly feel a danger to be let loose on the sewing machine when tired.  So for me, the longer I work, the less I achieve.

I am quite good at working my way backwards from a known end date.  Packaging by this time, framing, photography, so it needs finishing by.... lessons given during City and Guilds studies.  We would have to state what would be achieved by when in order to meet the assessment deadline.  A plan would be drawn up, backwards, starting with the end date, listing each week what was to be done, how etc. If we didn't do the stated task... there was a full on interrogation, answers were expected. There was no getting away with “I didn’t get around to it”.  Scary and harsh at the time, but lessons learned. But over time you learn, I can do this task quickly but that one always takes me a long time.  I can do that task in an hour, but then it takes me two hours to clean up the equipment and work area.
And for the record…. I don’t see machine stitching as faster than handstitching, they are different skills, worked and used in different ways, giving different looks.  So its not a speed issue, to use one over another, its simply the design effect you wish to achieve.

In the previous posting I noted the general plans I have for my year's work, and that at the moment is the extent of it.  I write a monthly plan in my sketchbook... but it's so detailed, not!  It's a list.... work on blue piece, complete forms, take photos.  Once completed, then it has to have a red ink tick and a large DONE beside it, nothing quite so satisfiying as a big tick!!!  If its not finished, it gets rewritten in the next months list.  I print off a monthly calendar and pin it up to see, but it doesn’t list tasks, just reminders of a deadline/event.   It will have a MUST DO reminder a couple of days before the large DEADLINE.  I can always see this calendar, its in a prominent place, not to be missed and never covered up. I firmly believe though in the phrase "that which is recorded, gets done" - which is likely the same premise as the person with the spreadsheet plan.  My statement of intent, if you like, is a mix of the puter generated calendar  reminders, the list in the sketchbook, blog postings, and personal emails/contact with friends discussing our projects..  Between them all I have gentle reminders to get on with the task in hand.
So when planning work, for a deadline, things to remember/consider, which I find work:
~ a deadline, even if just a personal one, helps to focus the thoughts.
~ allow enough time for the extras, framing, labels, packaging, form filling – always takes longer than you think.
~ photography, even if that is purely to take a record of the piece for yourself, dull days it can be a struggle to get a nice image.
~ be aware of your self.  When do you work, how much time do you have, are some tasks quicker than others for you.
~ are you a do everything last minute, or a steadily paced worker.  Either way its still about managing yourself and your time.
~ is your design and method of creating larger than your available time.
~ can you find/commit to extra time, or should a design/method of construction be modified.
~ remember to look at your plan or just think about it, make it work for you.
~ don’t spend so long in drafting up the when, what and why, so there’s no time left to actually DO.

1 comment:

Diane Kelsey said...

I use the calendar on my iPad to organise my life and to organise my textile commitments. The problem is you can cut and paste if tasks aren't completed, which defeats the object. It never occurred to me to print a monthly calendar. Once written in black and white it has to be DONE! Thanks for the tip. Hope you are ok.