focus on finishing

At the first hints of spring, I struggle to focus on my knitting and crochet projects. It’s not that I want to abandon my needles and hooks, no — I want to work on everything! The desire is to begin new projects and finish everything that I’ve been working on over the long winter nights.

I know I can’t do everything at once. There are several existing projects I’d like to finish sooner rather than later. To do that, I need a plan.

There are two ways I could approach this; on Monday I could pile up all the projects and figure out what is needed, or I could pick a project a day and evaluate it while I work on it.

In the past I’ve used the first method. It allows me to block out time and evaluate everything in one session. However, it can be overwhelming and lead to decision paralysis. I tend to start a new project because I can’t decide what to work on first.

This week I chose instead to work on one project a day and evaluate it as I worked. This allowed me to see not only how far along I am on the project, but also remember why I may have set it aside. Do I need to figure out some math? Do I have to look for more yarn? Is the project one that requires focus or is one that isn’t cat snuggle friendly because it’s large or delicate?

While I worked, I scribbled about each project in my notebook. Today during my weekly review session, I began organizing my notes. My goal is to develop a plan to complete these projects.

Here are my notes for the week at my desk earlier today:

messy desk with several notebooks: attention is on the open dot grid notebook that shows open projects and the planning grid.

I know my scribbles are difficult to read. This post looks weird if I only show cropped photos, so I began by showing the spread at my desk. Here’s a closeup of the notebook page with my messy handwriting:

open page of dot grid notebook, the beginning of the text is given in the post content.

The notebook begins with a header, “Open Projects week of 2021-02-22”.
I list 10 projects that I’m working on (there are more). The first four have a day of week initialed next to them because I scheduled them this week.
After this list, my notes begin. I’m including those along with some minor editing to improve readability:

  • DEG Socks – on first sock. 1 inch past cuff. (started 2021-02-03)
    Work on during L+O episodes (Mondays)
    Reward for finish = more sock yarn.
  • TTD cowl – on stripes (started 2020-05-19)
    Finished stripes! Need to review decrease section. Size ok for Shadow.
  • Swirl blanket – denim repeat (started 2020-04-24)
    mental guilt – child is a year already!
    Too big for Shadow
    on last round with denim — find peony
  • M kerchief pay attention to cable! (started 2021-02-13)
    need to do math for end

On Mondays we’ve been watching vintage Law and Order episodes on BBC America. I can watch about two before I need a mental break, so we often continue to watch them from the DVR throughout the week. It’s now going to be easy to work on this project, E loves the show, and this is a good way to trigger my working on his socks.

Overall, my notes aren’t organized beyond grouping everything by project. I want to create a schedule so I can make steady progress on them. To tidy up my notes, I fill out a project planning grid. I created a more legible example of it below. I’ve been printing on random paper, the gold is nice to look at but very difficult to photograph.

example of project planning grid

This very simple grid is based on one I created several years ago at PSG Studio, with adjustments based on customer feedback. There’s now a specific area for the title of the chart and a date. I also increased the size of the label area and shrunk each box. If I need to write more, I create a digital spreadsheet.

Each column is for a specific project, the rows are for what I want to know at a glance: schedule, focus, percentage complete, todo (to finish), and find (materials). I keep it brief with abbreviations and doodles.

The first project for example, is the swirl blanket. It’s scheduled for Wednesdays because making progress on it midweek will help me end the day on a positive note. I’m closer to finishing a long-slog project! I like to know what doesn’t need much focus — it’s possible to crochet this project while watching TV as the repeats are long at this stage, however it’s large and I have to negotiate with my cat who likes to spend the evening on my lap. The blanket is about 90% complete as of this week. I don’t have anything specific I need to do to finish this project other than to find the final ball of yarn, the color is named peony.

Next week I’ll continue taking notes on the other projects and then figure out a schedule. I may work on some projects every week, others may rotate depending on the amount of focus they require. It’s also possible I’ll begin something new and add it to the rotation.

I hope this post, the planning grid, and a notebook can help you organize and complete your projects.

Black cat sitting on person's lap on a grey fleece blanket. On the cat's back is a crochet project in progress.
Shadow sitting on my lap while I work on a Through the Darkness Cowl
by Rachy Newin Designs. The colors & yarn (Oink Pigments) are more vibrant in real life!

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