Thursday, August 23, 2012

Living with working

Generally speaking, this is a technical blog.  I keep my personal baggage out of it.  Today I'm going to break that guideline a little bit.

I have a big project on the table with a "due date" of October 26th.  There are six to eight garments to be made, three of which are pretty complicated.  To get through it, I need to have a plan of attack.  It also needs to be a plan that is reasonable; I definitely think work is doable, but I've had issues with managing my time and getting things done.

At the end of last year, I was pretty bogged down; I decided to make a plan.  It was, for all intensive purposes, a self-curriculum to refresh and build my tailoring, patternmaking and design skills back to at minimum what they were when I left design school.  That plan was perhaps TOO structured.  I didn't follow through on it.  In fact, I didn't do much of anything for several months into the new year, including sewing.

I started seeing a therapist.  Five months later, I left treatment with her with a few really valuable takeaways. 

(More behind the cut!)

First and most important was that I can't forget to plan time to do the everyday stuff, and that it's okay to cut myself some slack - after all, making stuff comes *after* working a full time desk job.  I was hoping to get an outfit prepared for GEARcon and didn't get it done - I could have, but I would have had to either start weeks earlier or give up eating and sleeping.  It was one thing when I was an undergrad,  but sewing isn't my career and I'm no longer willing to do that just for my hobby.  It's unhealthy and leads to not so great work quality.

Also, time management isn't something that comes naturally to me, so I do need to work at it constantly and use whatever tools I can to help me manage, and if one tool doesn't work, try another.  Part of that is also learning to make more reasonable estimates of how long stuff will take.  I wasn't making the kind of progress I expected to make, but the error was in my calculation of what was appropriate progress rather than my ability.

The GEARcon project is a good example.  I'm making the California Pants for part of a costume that I was hoping to have the whole thing finished by last weekend.  I badly underestimated the pattern, and overestimated both how quickly I could move on it (I am not as fast a sewist as I would like to be) and how much time I could give to it on a day to day basis.  It was ridiculous of me to think I could get those slacks done in a couple of evenings after work, both because the pattern is very intricate and because I'm finding I can only put in at most 3 hours every other evening and still get meals on the table and enough hours of sleep.

Once I realized that I wasn't even going to get the pants completed - they're still not done, although they are close - I took a look at the workload I'd set up for myself.  It was crazy.  Even though I'd offloaded several other standing obligations to make more time to work on my own projects, to get what I want done will still take conscientious effort from now until the end of October.  I can do that so long as I take care of myself, and use tools to help manage my project.

I am using Google Calendar and Tasks for part of manging my projects, both in the workroom and in my household.  I'll be returning to using the old tomato timer, too - Pomodoro Technique includes tools for learning how to manage and plan time use.  Plus timeblocking is just plain useful.

I've assessed my project and broken it down, scheduling time for each part on the calendar.  I've also blocked out time to work.   These are soft targets, though, and I will update the planned times to meet the *actual* times I've worked  and completed things.  I need to learn how much time I'm really able to give myself on a daily and weekly basis for sewing projects, and there's nothing else for it but a bit of record-keeping until I can really assess that.  But mostly I have to learn to accommodate my day job and managing my home alongside working in the workroom.

All that said, the pants are really coming together nicely.  I should wrap them up this weekend - I'm down to finishing the waistband lining and curtain, hems, and buttons.  I will do a full writeup when I've got them completed, but in the meantime 'll leave you with this preview :
Center back, with welt pockets, straps, and waistband shell applied.

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