my big creative year: productivity – the most effective changes

In terms of getting things done more efficiently simple changes have made the most difference. Part of my mission this year is to manage my time better, to be more efficient and more productive in everything I do, to get through necessary tasks more quickly and efficiently, in part to free up time for experimenting and also because creative work benefits from consistent forward motion and structure. So I’ve been trying things and some have helped. The things that have helped the most:


I work standing up. The idea came from a news blurb about the health benefits – it sounded tedious but I was curious so I gave it a try. My sewing machine has always been at standing height – it landed there accidentally. My father’s tool chest is the most stable surface here and my mother’s very heavy White Rotary machine requires a steady base. Plus they belong together.

sewing machine

So the machine sewing part of my day has always been standing but that’s a pretty small part usually and I have developed some bad habits for all the other work I do. I gravitate to the couch and spread out from there. The photo below is from last May, making a big flamingo order.

flamingo mess

The last two big orders were made standing up ( I still made a big mess- that didn’t change). I was remarkably faster and more focused, I enjoyed it and I had more energy. There a couple things I can’t do standing up – like very small hand sewing – so I try to balance tasks out and I limit the standing hours to between 10 and 5 (I can go over if I feel inclined and often I do). The first few days I got tired after just a few hours but that improved quickly. I haven’t gone crazy with fancy equipment or anything – I’ve got a file box on top of my ironing board – it’s getting the job done. I’m surprised at how much standing agrees with me and I think If this was the only change I made I would still come to the end of this year having accomplished more.


I’m a list maker but over the last few years my to do lists migrated to the computer and got fancy: lots of different lists, spread sheets, multi-tiered affairs etc. Lately I went back to no frills paper and pencil list – a little notebook with a list for the day that I make the night before. There is something to writing things down, physically writing things down and it is somehow infinitely more satisfying to me to check something off with a pencil. I need to harness my obsessive compulsive tendencies for good whenever possible. One other change to the to do list – I got a nice notebook. For sketching and recording thoughts I don’t use anything fancy, I find it intimidating and don’t want to spoil it, but for the to do lists it adds something to the ritual.


I talked about this in last week’s post about how the new things I’m trying are effecting me creatively but it gets a mention here too because the structure created by scheduled blog posts, a weekly (mini) news letter ( you can check that out here) and the daily sketchbook practice have been causing me to schedule myself more thoughtfully and more importantly, more realistically. What must be shall be. My tasks have a more defined container and it’s making a huge difference.


  1. I’ve been following your blog and your work for years but I think this is the first time I comment. Or maybe the second? Well, anyways…I love this series and I find it very helpful and inspiring. I’m in the process of changing my life – once more – and I’m having a hard time in finding a flow in doing my creative work. But a nine to five job, no thanks anyway. I’ll find a way!! :))

  2. I love the idea of a nice notebook to honor the ritual of making lists — I think I might buy one myself, as a way to focus more clearly on things I need to get done and goals for the future.

  3. Phyllis de Vries

    I have been following along here with your creative year and your progress. I find it so interesting that you stand up to do sewing and other projects. I have never done this and am curious. If it gives one more energy, I would love to try this. I think sitting for long periods tends to deaden one’s mind perhaps. It also helps to have a table that is the perfect height for standing and working. This has been so inspiring to follow you. Thank you for sharing!

  4. I feel like I’m becoming a couch potato and I was delighted (my apologies for this) to see that you too start on the sofa and spread out. I am inspired to create a work space that requires standing, thank you for the nudge.

  5. I too work standing up, for cutting, pinning, some hand sewing, assembling, and packing orders (but not machine sewing, perhaps I should try that) either at the ironing board, or on a high table. I get much too comfortable sitting down. I love following along to see what works for you and others in the comments!

  6. Hi! I have enjoyed your viewing your website. I am curious about your last name Wood. It was my Mom’s maiden name. Her Dad was George Mayo Wood born in Gardner, Mass. around 1875 and he had a sister named Ann. She lived in Fitchburg, Mass. and a small town in New Hampshire. I believe she was a year or two younger than George. Their mother was Emma Whipple Wood. I also know that their were cousins (children of George’s sister who continue to live in the Fitchburg area).

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