In person! Fun!
Since Inspired Home Office classes are offered by phone, I don’t do a lot of teaching in person… but I love it. Last night, I got to speak to a full house of local artists about creating an inspiring studio space at The Art Department (a really sweet local business in Salem). What a blast!
There were moments of seriousness and laughter as we talked about the challenges of letting go of treasures. We dreamed about the environments that would make our hearts and creativity sing. I hope those who attended had as much fun as I did!
The distinction between a task and a project was a revelation for me years ago. When I added a project to my to-do list, I felt really frustrated that even though I had worked on if for a good while, but couldn’t get a “check mark” because it wasn’t done. Taxes are a good example. Write “do your taxes” on your to-do list and just wait — it’ll be on there forever.
Last night I shared that a task takes about 15-20 minutes to complete. If it takes any longer than that, it’s really a project. Projects are a collection of tasks.
The reason why it’s so hard to have a project on your to-do list is that it’s too big. What it really needs is to be broken up into smaller tasks before you begin. Even if you just write down the next 3-5 tasks (under 20 minutes), you now have action steps you can follow. Your brain can wrap itself around the idea of a few tasks, but it boggles at whole projects.
Removing the mask — practical ideas for your projects
One of the women who attended my talk last night followed up with a question by email:
I usually think something is just a task and will only take a short time and lo and behold it is really a project! Like cleaning my quilting space…I thought oh I can get this done in a day and 8 days later it was done! What is your method for figuring this out…any ideas are appreciated.
I’m a big fan of writing things down — it’s visual, it’s kinesthetic, and (if you talk to yourself) it’s also auditory. Your brain revels in having all of these sources of input seeing, touching, and hearing your ideas.
So I suggest grabbing a p0en you like and blank sheet of paper. Write the name of the project (or suspected project) at the top and underline it. Then, underneath, do a 3-minute brainstorm listing all of the steps you’d take to accomplish the project. This is the exact same process that we use in the Office Spa Day class.
Cleaning My Quilting Space
Find the scissors and tape measure
Go through the box of fat quarters
Put cutting mat back
Put quilting frame away
Research containers for projects in process
Pick up dropped pins
With this hypothetical brainstorm list, you’d review it looking for things that would take more or less than 20 minutes.
To aid yourself visually, you could put a T next to tasks (less than 20 minutes) and a P next to projects (more than 20 minutes). “Researching containers” would likely take longer than 20 minutes. “Going through the box of fat quarters” might also (what fun!). When you notice which of these items are actually projects, you can either ignore them for now and just work on the tasks for the main project (clearing the quilting space) or make a new sheet of paper and list the tasks for the projects you discover on your list.
How to make it inspiring
Doing this process helps you prevent being surprised by lurking projects. My favorite part is that as I work through the list of tasks, I get credit for all the small things, not just the finished product. This encourages me along the way. I also delight in adding unexpected small steps to the list as I do them, which just gives more evidence of my progress!
The more you do this process (or any variation on it), the better you get at recognizing projects. You get better at guessing how long a task will take to complete. Within a couple of months, you become the Master/Mistress of Projects and they no longer surprise you. It’s pretty awesome to feel some control over the things you take on!
Have you encountered a recent task that turned out to be a project in disguise? I’m curious! Please feel free to share about it below.