my big creative year : the one task method

At any given moment I have a lot of things started. I bounce around working on something for a bit and then move to something else. It is rare for me to start something and stay with it without interruption until it is complete.

textile art bird in progressAnd even if something is nearly done there might be some small detail avoided in a moment when something else felt more urgent. More and more things end up in the land of almost done and lots of little details, like stitching fox paws, add up to a day or more of work that I’m not really factoring in. I’m nickel and diming myself to death in the time department.

fox paw stitchingFor the last couple weeks, just to see what would happen, I’ve been picking one thing, one project or task and staying with it until it’s done. I check it off the list, clean up the mess and start the next thing. I started with low hanging fruit to get the ball rolling – little projects or orders that were just about done. The choice always feels uncomfortable, feels counter intuitive when so much needs to move forward and it’s hard to get all the other stuff out of my head and focus – but I settle down after a little while and I found lots of benefits to working this way:

* It busts right through unrealistic expectations and wishful thinking – I get a much better sense of how long things really take.

* Crossing stuff of the list feels good, finishing feels good – it puts energy back in the bank – loose ends are distracting and draining.

* It forces me to do some important things I avoid by burying myself in busyness – prioritizing, making choices and planning realistically.

* There is no ambiguity at the end of the day – progress or lack of it is very clear.

* Individual projects get more forward momentum – I’m less inclined to linger unnecessarily in choices and possibilities and I’m more inclined to work through problems efficiently since I can’t escape into another task, it creates a kind of resolve – it’s your birthday owl – today is the day, not tomorrow, not next week, today.

soft sculpture indigo owl

fiber art owl


  1. I completely understand your point. To stick with one task when there is so much other things to do is a challenge for me as well. In my “real” work it’s working completely fine to constantly change priorities, it is required and I’m good in it. But in the creative world I wish I could be more focused. Reminds me to shut down the computer and get done what I started … 🙂

  2. Ahh yes, this is exactly what I need to be doing too, and I know it definitely, but find it so hard to get it started! 🙂 and as you say, once I get into the project it’s great! and it’s so satisfying to get it done at last. 🙂

  3. Oh this is such a good approach. I should print it out and have it on my wall in a prominent position!

  4. I agree with Kate – I need to print this out and stick it above my sewing table! I have way too many unfinished projects, and they do sap the energy out of you, adding guilt when you start something new. Leads to a kind of paralysis…so many things to do, can’t decide what to do, guess I’ll read a book…! Thanks for the encouragement to finish pieces!

  5. Unrealistic expectations and wishful thinking….not sure who I’d be without those…but pretty sure I’d be more productive too!

  6. I love this post,and not just for the owl. My artists friends used to call me ” the unfinished symphony” which sounds cute but it is not. I bet this is a big problem among creative types. Great insight Ann,I’m finding your post very helpful. Thank you.

  7. Oh my gosh yes, this is what I need to do in all facets of my life. I must say again how much I LOOOOve your owls. The ones above just make me smile and oh, the work. Makes me tired thinking about it.

  8. Ann, you’re a marvel, such an encouragement. Thank you. Last year I dismantled all my half finished projects. The ones I knew I wouldn’t finish in this lifetime. Gave them the boot for taking up too much space in my work room and in my head. This week, three little lavender bags finished…baby steps I know… but things are appearing; and I love the owl.

  9. Ann, It was so nice to see this post! I have gotten much better then I use to be at finishing up before starting the new piece. I hate that nagging feeling. I realized something new when I was reading your post. I always expect the current project to take less time then it actually does. I work full time so my sewing time is limited mostly to the weekends. I think I will get X, Y and Z done and when X is taking up one whole day instead of the couple hours I anticipated, I start to get bummed. The I want to jump into the next thing. Also, half way through the current project I start thinking about the next one because who doesn’t get bored with the repetitive sewing part. Maybe if I have realistic expectations I will be more satisfied when I finish the project! BRAVO TO FINISHES!
    XXOO Cat

  10. Finishing projects has always been a bit of a struggle for me, but I’ve gotten better at it over time. Maybe trying out your approach will help me reach those goals even quicker. The list of advantages sure builds a compelling case.

    Great post

  11. Thank you for generously sharing your insights and time. You have provided me (and many others, I’m sure) with inspiration when I’m overwhelmed or otherwise distracted.

  12. I try to do the same thing with my craft projects and educational reading efforts (currently focused on reading about how to visual organize information):. One project. One book. It’s so hard! I do let myself “cheat”; if there’s a smaller, quicker, or more portable project/book that I can do/read on vacation or for a special reason (present, etc), I’ll let myself do it. But I insist that I finish the interruption-project/book and then go back to my in-progress project/book. That tactic has worked pretty well so far. I’m already 2 projects deep right now, or else I’d be stopping my current craft project to sew up an owl from your pattern. 🙂

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