Monday Musings: UFO Sightings Part 2--Make a List and Check it Twice

Last week you came up with your definition of what constitutes a UFO. This week is the reality check. 

How many UFOs do you actually have, given your definition? 


If you haven't gone through your piles of UFOs and made a list of what's in there, might I recommend that you do it now? It's a necessary step towards next week's blog post. :-)

Step 1: Find every single project that fits your personal definition of UFO, and write it down on a piece of paper or a digital note file, or however you keep lists.

Maybe you've already got a list. Take a few minutes to rummage through your sewing room and double-check that list: Did you really capture every UFO or are there a couple hiding underneath piles of fabric or in that bin in your closet that you haven't opened in a year?

(By the way, no fair defining "UFO" as Utterly Finished Object and making a list of all the quilts you've ever finished in your life. That's just cheating. )

Step two: For each UFO, make a list of exactly what steps are required to finish it. To whit: "decide quilting design, mark quilt, make backing, buy batting, sandwich and baste quilt, do quilting, cut binding strips, make label, attach label, attach binding, wash." Or whatever steps you need, and the order (roughly) you would do them in. 

Sometimes a UFO is a UFO because we don't have the knowledge of how to do the next step. Well, learning how to do something is a task--so write it down! Rather than adding a task that says, "Learn how to do a mitered border," write down specifically what you'd need to do in order to learn that technique: i.e., "Search for YouTube videos on mitered borders," or "review notes from class on mitered borders." Every task should be phrased as an achievable, easy-to-understand, simple step to take. (In Getting Things Done terminology, every task should be a "next action." What's the next action you need to take?)

This means you will want to have one piece of paper, or one digital list, for each UFO. Remember this photo (at left) from a previous post that shows one of my LifeTopix checklists for a UFO? I'm actually going to be going in to this particular check list and break it down even further, so instead of one list item that's "backing and batting," I'll have "piece backing." (If I'm sending it out for longarming, I won't need the batting--I just purchase it directly from the longarmer as then they can use their preferred brands.) 

If making a list of all the steps needed on every project is too much for you, just focus on the very next step. What is the very next thing that needs to be done to move that UFO along in the process? What is that one next action? Write that one next action down for every single UFO. 

Why are we doing this? The purpose to this exercise is not to overwhelm yourself, but actually to make it feel less overwhelming. Now, instead of looking at a pile of unfinished projects that are all screaming out in an unfocused way for your attention, you've broken it down instead into a list of discrete tasks. It's ever so much less stressful for me, for example, to focus on deciding on a quilting design for a quilt, than to focus on the fact I still have to finish the whole darn thing.

Additionally, once you get an idea of the individual tasks involved, you may feel more inclined to say, "Hey, I can knock out a couple of tasks on UFOs this weekend," whereas before you may have been less inclined to say, "Hey, I think I'll finish all my UFOs this weekend." If you know what tasks need to be done, you can even more easily juggle tasks on a couple of UFOs at once. Cutting strips for one binding? Why not cut strips for another while you're at it? Looking through books for quilt design ideas? Have two quilts in your mind's eye at the same time while you're doing it. Get the picture? 

Finally, sitting down and spending time with each and every UFO will set you up for next week's blog focus: making some ultimate decisions. But 'nuff said about that for the moment. Right now, just make your lists. Really. It'll feel overwhelming at first, but in the long run, it'll set you up for greater success and peace of mind.