This week's podcast episode talks about "finding joy in the process." My guest is Astrid, a quilter who decided to make 20 different quilts this year. I found Astrid while falling down the Instagram rabbit hole. (You know the how it goes. I'm just thankful that at the bottom of this hole were gorgeous quilts instead of 16 year old cheerleaders.) I was instantly inspired by Astrid's photos and after our talk last week I was an even bigger fan.
Today I wanted to share a few concrete things that I do to help me get through the middle of a project. It's no secret that I love starting something new. (And my highlighters know just how much I love to cross something off my list.) But, of course, the real bulk of the work happens in between the start and the finish lines.
Make tweaks to your process. Blogging is my number one daily hobby and it's ultimately just words and photos. I love words and photos. But I HATE writing first drafts and I HATE resizing photos. Both steps I used to dread and I found that I had to really work myself up for them. This past year, I have instituted two things that have really helped. First, I have started to dictate some of my longer posts to my phone. Then I email the text to myself and copy and paste it into my post. It generally takes a decent amount of editing time but I find it so much easier to fine-tune a first draft than to fill a blank space. Second, I found the cheat to re-sizing multiple photos at the same time. It's saving me time and energy and making this whole process that much more enjoyable. Sometimes enjoying the process is about finding ways to work around the process.
Break down the middle into small beginnings and endings. Astrid talked about this and she completely nailed it. I find myself breaking up huge projects into smaller pieces all the time. Cleaning the kitchen, for example, can become 15 smaller and less daunting tasks (take out the trash, clear the sink, empty the dishwasher, wipe down the counters, clear out the fridge, dust the top shelf, mop the floor, etc.) You don't have to actually write down all the tasks but thinking about them as separate things somehow makes them less overwhelming. With MAKE29, I don't focus on the big picture - launch 12 different projects each month - I think of them as a single month at a time, with a million different little projects going into completing each month (those I write down).
Set a deadline. A time frame is a huge motivator. I love what Astrid mentioned - that a year seems like just enough time. You have some flexibility with a year. You can start. You can stop. You can think things through. You can try something new. You can switch gears. You can regroup. A year is a really long time but it's also definitive. It gives you boundaries and I think boundaries are oddly motivating.
Document your progress. This is probably my single greatest tool in staying inspired during the middle. I love to document what I'm doing through photos or check boxes or cross outs or those big thermometers that measure progress towards a goal. Having a visual representation of where I've come from and where I'm headed is incredibly motivating to me.
Don't be afraid to quit. Half of doing anything is NOT doing something else. I often find myself in the middle of a project and realize I don't want (or need) to be doing it. Sometimes, you have to let go to move on. That's okay. (Read more about this here.)
When you think about it, we spend most of our time in the middle. We expend most of our energy not coming up with an idea or taking a bow on stage, but doing the work in between. The middle is where it all happens. Figuring out how to enjoy the process in our own way is incredibly important.