Tilly’s Sewing Productivity Project

Look! A Table!

Look! A Pie Chart!

I know, I know. My technological capabilities know no bounds. Ummm… Or, more likely, I twisted the arm of my IT boyfriend, flounced with frustration in the background as he drew these up (I hate not being in control) and screamed with laughter when he made a miniscule adjustment to one of my pieces of data. (I’d rounded 3.88 to 4. ‘If you’re going to have a scientific table, you need to be scientific,’ he told me, shortly before I killed him.)

So, I completed Tilly’s Sewing Productivity Project, just like she asked. My data (ooh, data!) covers the fortnight 9-22 April. This period includes a Bank Holiday Friday, so my sewing productivity is slightly higher than it normally would be because of the holiday. I didn’t include activities such as work, cooking, picking my nose or taking a shower because otherwise we’d be here for ever. I think it’s worth pointing out that I don’t have any children or dependants, so other than a full-time job, my time is pretty much my own.

My approach wasn’t quite as scientific as the above tables suggest. During the course of those 14 days all I did was keep my notepad close to hand, trying to watch the clock and scribble times down:

At first glance, the conclusions seemed screamingly obvious, my twin obsessions rising to the surface: sewing, writing, sewing, writing…

But then patterns began to emerge:

  • My writing happens in big chunks of dedicated time, whereas my sewing time is often snatched in half an hour here, 45 minutes there.
  • My sewing benefits massively from the fact that I work from home two days a week. That’s two days a week when I don’t have a commute and I can spend my early mornings, lunchtime and early evening, erm, sewing.
  • My sewing benefits massively from those evenings when my boyfriend goes to the pub! I don’t really bother cooking a meal for one, preferring to sew instead. (I mean, I’ll eat, obviously, but I won’t be laying the table or cooking anything special.)
  • I really need to stop feeling guilty about so much blogging! I’m a fast writer, and I now have the proof that it doesn’t take up a large chunk of my time.
  • I’m not doing very much knitting at present.

The most fascinating aspect of this for me (and it may just be for me, so I apologise now) is that it forced me to analyse what part writing takes in my life. For anyone who doesn’t already know: in my spare time, I write children’s and YA fiction. Some of this is contracted, some of it speculative. By ‘speculative’ I mean that I spend a lot of time writing and honing fiction manuscripts that I hope one day a publisher will want to buy and publish and make me very happy indeed.

So. Hobby or profession? If profession, I wasn’t sure writing could be included in the productivity project. But, the other half of my brain argued, writing takes place in my spare time. Still, a small devil in my ear contested: some of it earns me money.

Garghhhh! I spent an entire bike ride home one evening thinking over this quandary. Here are my conclusions:

  • I’d say about a third of my writing time is on commissioned projects ie work I’m going to be paid for.
  • I write during my weekends when I could be doing other things.
  • Writing fiction is deeply satisfying to me in a creative way. I do it because I love it.
  • My earnings from writing are enough to pay for the odd bit of home improvement, the occasional handbag and to settle the credit card after Christmas. Ie, not that much.

Conclusions? Hell, yeah, writing was going into the Sewing Productivity Project! After all, this was time I could be spending sewing. But I am immensely grateful to Tilly for forcing me to think:

What does the most important activity of my life, other than work and sewing, mean to me?

I have no idea what any of this data means to you. How does it compare to your life? Any similarities or stark contrasts? I can’t wait to see what conclusions Tilly comes to when she combines all our feedback. This was a really interesting activity. And, as said above, it made me analysis my life, direction, the important bits, the less important bits and where I am in April 2011.

And guess what? I spend more time sewing than anything else. Just.

Thank you so much, Tilly! This was…

Part of a new installation at the South Bank, London.

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14 Responses to Tilly’s Sewing Productivity Project

  1. Alessa says:

    Hi Karen! Thanks for this interesting analysis. It’s cool to see how much time other people spend on various activities. (Possibly only to me, because I’m a nosy little person who reads blogs partly because getting a sneak peek into people’s lives is so much fun… 😉
    I didn’t take part in the productivity analysis because I’m a bit of a “project” person… Some days I spend lots of time on sewing, for several days in a row, then I don’t sew at all for an extended time, depending on my mood, the weather, Venus’s alignment to Mercury and whether or not I’m dreading my next task (like hand-stitching linings or tracing patterns)… Just a quick last question: does watching TV or reading not figure into your list because it’s not… well, “productive”… or do you just not spend a lot of time on it?

  2. I spend a lot of time both reading and watching the telly, Alessa! Reading is definitely a worthwhile activity and I see no shame in sprawling on the sofa watching hours of telly, either! Ooh, I just didn’t think to add them. Possibly because I’m not sure how much other people would learn from my time spent on these activities…? I dunno. And telly ‘watching’ – I do a lot of that whilst sewing, only it’s telly ‘listening’.

  3. That’s fascinating to me too, but maybe I’m just voyeuristic too… And top marks for getting help with the graph and chart!
    I was interested to read your thoughts about whether or not to include writing in your data, it’s good to sit down and really think about these things.
    I didn’t join in with this, mainly because I don’t really sew, I merely join bits of fabric together badly and pretend they’re good enough to be part of a quilt topper. But reading sewists blogs such as yours are inspiring and maybe one day I’ll have the confidence to break out of just knitting 🙂
    So thanks for a great blog, and a thought-provoking post.

  4. Ashley says:

    I’m nosy too, so I found this really interesting. I love the graph and pie chart, makes it easier to see where your time is spent. Your thoughts are interesting too 🙂
    Oh, and I really like your hand-writing!
    Ashley x

  5. Tilly says:

    Karen, I love you! This is amazing! It’s really interesting to see what you spend your free time on – I’m really inspired not only by your sewing productivity but by how much exercise you do too! Do you count cycling to work? Cos that really is a lot of exercise. I should do more. 40 minutes a week is a lot for me. Anyway, I digress. Back to sewing. So you sew for 1 h 10 minutes average per day – that’s pretty good. Do you have any productivity tips that would be useful for slackers like me?

    • Yes, exercising includes my commutes to the office on my bike, which is a two-hour round trip. I run and cycle. I’m training to get back up to half marathon fitness, so I’m probably doing more exercise than usual. But Tilly – if I was as naturally slender as you, I’d never move from the sofa! I might do a separate post on productivity!

  6. lizajane says:

    Fascinating! I’m so impressed with your charts and graphs. I agree, it’s interesting to peek in and see what others are up to. I don’t really watch tv anymore since I’ve been sewing. I do the same thing, “tv listening”

  7. Roobeedoo says:

    I think you have more than 24 hours in your days…
    Maybe I need to try this, because I looked at all that productive time and wondered what I was doing with myself.

  8. Adrienne says:

    Indeed I am so surprised at how little time you are actually spending blogging for all the posts you fire out! But, after all, you ARE a professional writer. It takes me FOREVER to write a tiny post! (The fact that English is not my first language probably doesn’t help!)
    You have a very distinct “voice” as a writer – a voice that feels very much like your own. Finding my voice is what I’ve been trying to do in my academic writing for the past two years. It’s actually one of the reasons I took up blogging! Even if what I blog about has nothing to do with academia, my writing is improving.

  9. Dibs says:

    talk about productivity. Gosh you garden? Thats another thing to envy you for (lol) I’m really rubbish at it. I think if I ever ventured into our little garden with a set of tools, my husband would call the ambulance, thinking I was having some crisis of some sort.

    I don’t know what my graph would have looked like if I had done this project. I spend alot of time at work, come home, sew some days, laze about some days, moan about loads of stuff on tv for the most part, and spend the rest of the time reading other people’s blogs and wishing I could sew like them.

    I should probably start exercising, taking into consideration the impossibly large amounts of chocolate cake I eat every day. I joined the gym last year before my wedding, went for 3 weeks religiously, and now i don’t know where my gym card is.

    I think to create more sewing time for myself, I will have to fit crocheting into my commute to and from work, that would hopefully make me more productive.

  10. Jane says:

    Fantastic project Karen. I’m going to do it too, but it’s pointless me starting until the kids are back at school. If I’d started it two weeks ago, my sewing column would stand at zero and my playing in the park column would be sky high. x

  11. Pingback: A Would Be Idler’s Productivity Tips | Did You Make That?

  12. Elizabeth says:

    Wow! Thanks for sharing your thought process about your productivity. I’m glad you spoke to your writing as well. Very interesting!

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