Here are some solutions to many a knitter’s ever-present quandary: “How can I find more time to knit?”
If I were to ask you, “What is your biggest knitting struggle,” might you have responded with one of the following?
“Allowing myself the time to knit.”
“Finding more time to knit now that the days are getting longer and warmer. Outside projects become more enticing.”
“I don’t have time to make all the things I want.”
“Not having enough time to do all the charity knitting I want to do. The need is so great and the ideas flow faster than I can keep up with them.”
“Making time to knit at home. I miss making knitted items, but time at home is filled with other priorities.”
Whenever I ask Knitting Nuggets Newsletter subscribers, “What is your biggest knititng struggle?” I get variations of the quotes above.
I can practically hear the pleading tone in their words as they decry their lack of time to knit.
Finding More Time to Knit: the Ever-Present Struggle
Some knitters struggle with guilt over the great need for charity knitters and the lack of time they have to devote to charity knitting.
Other knitters bemoan the enormous number of patterns they want to knit “someday” and despair that “someday” might simply never come.
Still others feel the weight of wanting to knit for others as well as for themselves, all too aware that their lack of time make this task seem Sisyphean.
Believe me, I understand. If I had to answer my own survey question, this would come up as my number one struggle as well!
I am not a time management expert. I get distracted way too easily, probably by all the same things you do — email and social media, one of my daughters insisting that I just have to see a cute YouTube video, my family insisting on eating three meals a day, et cetera.
However, although I don’t knit nearly as much as I want to, I’m pretty happy with the amount of knitting I do daily. I rarely feel like I’m going nowhere on a project because I don’t have any time to spend on it.
Today I’m sharing with you what I personally do to help me get more knitting time. I’ll also let you know about time management techniques that may help you find more time each day for knitting without feeling guilty.
So let’s get started!
Three Ways I Manage to Knit Daily
I do three things that help me spend some time knitting almost every day.
1. Early morning knitting
One thing I do every morning is pray. I have a fairly lengthy list of people I pray for every day. As I recite this list, I knit. It usually only takes me about 10 minutes to read through my list. But it’s a way to connect with my yarn and needles for a few minutes. And that helps set the tone for my day.
You might not pray every morning, but I’ll bet you can wake a few minutes earlier every day to knit. Even if you spend just 10 minutes knitting like I do, that’s 10 minutes spent contributing to a knitting project. And I’ll bet that will make you feel great!
2. Taking my knitting bag EVERYWHERE
I always make sure I have a portable project on my needles. I also have a gallon-sized plastic zippered bag that I have all my knitting notions in. This includes things like thread scissors, tapestry needles, stitch markers, spare DPNs that I use as cable needles, and so on.
I also have two small “project bags” that I can throw my project and notions bag into at a moment’s notice before I leave the house. And I take knitting projects with me almost anywhere. Because you just never know when you might find yourself waiting in a long line!
(Want to see what’s in my – and other knitters’ – notions bag? Check out this post!)
What’s more, I frequently carry one of these bags in with me whenever I’m sitting in my house. I can then knit when I’m taking a break from writing or when I’m watching TV with my family.
In addition to the two smaller knitting bags, I have a large knitting bag. This I can use to either a) pile a bunch of knitting projects into when I take a road trip with my family, or b) place a less-portable knitting project that I can work on at home.
3. Taking knitting breaks
Did you notice where I said “taking a break from writing”? I don’t do this often enough, I confess. But I do like to keep my knitting near me during the day when I’m writing. Then, when I just need to rest my brain for a bit, I’ll spend a few minutes knitting.
This, obviously, is easier when you work from home. But you can do this if you work outside the home, too! When you have a break at work, have your knitting handy. Then see how many rows or rounds you can crank out.
Now that I’ve shared with you how I personally get more time for knitting, let me tell you about some time management techniques you can implement in your own life to help you find more time for knitting.
Time Management Techniques
I’ll start with a method that has been a real boon for my own productivity.
Do you ever feel guilty about taking time to knit when you have so much else to do?
It’s completely understandable! But research has found that when we take the time to engage another part of our brains, especially in an inherently relaxing way, we perform nearly if not all our other tasks better.
I used to worry that if I took a knitting break, I’d become so involved in it that before I knew it, I’d spent an hour knitting when I meant to take only a few minutes. Do you ever have that fear?
If so, let me introduce you to a time management technique that productive people around the world swear by: the Pomodoro technique.
This complex-sounding title describes a very simple process: You work for one period of time — it can be anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes. The most traditional version of this method has you working for 25 minutes.
Each of these “work times” are followed by shorter break times. You could take 5, 10, or 15-minute breaks (for knitting, if you’d like!). The traditional Pomodoro method has you take 5-minute breaks.
Then, after 4 “Pomodoros” (aka work sessions), you’ll take a longer break — 15 or even 30 minutes.
What I love about the Pomodoro method is that it’s incredibly simple. All you need is a timer for it to work. I use the timer app on my smart watch, but you could also use the timer on your phone or computer, or a special Pomodoro app. You could even use an old-fashioned egg timer!
You can adjust the Pomodoro method to work for you. My daughter and I used this method daily, back when she was doing virtual school, to complete both school and business work. We would work for 30 minutes and then take 15-minute breaks. For our “longer” break, we would have lunch.
Want an in-depth primer on how to use the Pomodoro technique? Check out this helpful article on Lifehacker.
Getting Things Done, aka GTD
Pomodoro is a super-simple technique that you can start anytime, anywhere. And it’s a wonderful way to make sure you’re sneaking in some knitting time throughout your day.
Getting Things Done, or GTD, on the other hand, is a more comprehensive time-management system that you might want to try if you feel like you’re constantly spending your time on the wrong things.
The idea behind GTD is to get your schedule and to-do lists out of your head and into a notebook, either real or electronic. At its heart it’s an organizational system, and if you feel like you could use a bit more organization in your life, it could be a life-saver.
Three principles, or “pillars,” comprise GTD:
- Capturing everything — every idea, every task you need to complete, every project you want to finish. You need some place to put all of these that isn’t your head. GTD only works if you make sure that you write down (or “capture”) every thought related to something you need or want to do.
- Clarifying what you need to do. This involves breaking down every project or task into steps you can take to lead to completion.
- Organizing these steps into categories and priorities. You want to make sure you take the steps leading to your most important tasks or projects first.
- Reflecting on your to-do lists. This means that before you move on to the next item, you decide if that’s what you need to do next. Or, if you see something on your list that’s too vague that you’re not sure how to act upon it, break it down into further steps.
- Engaging and getting down to business. This is where you choose your next action and begin.
This is a very basic overview of GTD. For more information, I highly suggest reading this Lifehacker blog post that offers a primer on GTD. This will help you decide if GTD might be a good idea for you to try.
Funny thing is that I kind of do this naturally, without actually trying to follow the GTD system! As long as I’m tracking everything I want or need to do, and breaking them down systematically, I manage to accomplish everything I want.
One nice quality about GTD is that it works really well with Pomodoro, so you can work those little breaks (that is, knitting breaks!) into your system.
You can also, of course, use the to-do lists of GTD to plan knitting projects! This can be a godsend if you have a tendency to forget to start projects with a deadline until you’re suddenly trying to finish a month-long project in a week.
Looking for help in planning your charity knitting? The “My Charity Knitting Plan” workbook will help you create a plan for your charity knitting and put it into action!
Make the Most of Your To-Do Lists
So here you are with a simple time-tracking method, and a more comprehensive time-management system. Perhaps you need something in between? It may be time for you to reconsider your to-do list system.
About 5 years ago, I realized that I needed to be a lot more diligent in creating and following to-do lists for myself. Because my old method (which basically involved making lists in my brain) was not cutting it.
Did I know what needs to be done each day? Mostly. Usually. Sometimes.
I would know what needed to be done every day if I actually took a few minutes to write to-do lists. But more often than not, I didn’t bother, because that would take time and effort. Instead, I often kept vague to-do lists in my head and built my day off those.
This probably worked decently enough when I was in high school or in college. But I’m now in my 40s and have a family. That just doesn’t cut it anymore.
It’s little wonder that I so often forgot things I should do!
Here are two methods that many folks swear by: Time Blocking and the Ivy Lee Method.
Creating To-Do Lists with Time Blocking
Time blocking can work really well with both GTD and Pomodoro.
So what is time blocking? It’s exactly what it sounds like: you’ll assign specific blocks of time to the tasks on your to-do list. This is one way that you can ensure what you need or want to do can actually get done.
The benefit of time blocking is obvious. By assigning tasks actual blocks of time, you can avoid the temptation to procrastinate or waste time on TV or social media or e-mail. You can even schedule breaks (there’s the opportunity to knit again!).
Time blocking is helpful when you make it as broad or as narrow as you want it to be. In the past, I tried time blocking and it didn’t work for me, but that’s because I tried to make it too narrow. I was trying to schedule every minute of every day.
When I switched from scheduling specific tasks to scheduling “fields” of tasks, it worked much better. I also give myself permission to switch tasks around if I get a certain period of time free and one of my tasks fits perfectly within it.
If you think this is a technique you might find useful, or if you just want to learn more about it, I highly suggest this MakeUseOf blog post. This post has one of the most comprehensive explanations of time blocking that I’ve seen.
The Ivy Lee Method of Creating To-Do Lists
This method can actually be used with everything else I’ve mentioned thus far: Pomodoro, GTD, and even time blocking. It can be as simple as you want it to be, or just one cog in a bigger time management system.
I learned about this method from a friend of mine, Lesley Clavijo, and I was blown away at how simple it was.
It’s named for a productivity expert named Ivy Lee, whom a wealthy businessman named Charles M. Schwab once hired to help his team’s efficiency. Schwab was so impressed with how Ivy Lee’s method improved his team’s productivity that he paid him $25,000 for his help.
(This was in 1918 — today that check would be worth over $400,000!)
Here’s all you have to do: every day, make a list of your 5 most important tasks. (It’s best to do this the evening before, but I admit I sometimes do it in the morning instead.)
The three most important parts of this method:
1) Make sure you limit your list to 5 or 6 at the very most. The number you use depends upon how many hours you have to work each day. I usually limit myself to 5, but occasionally I sneak in a 6th.
2) List them in order of importance. So whatever you absolutely must finish today, list that first. By the time you get to 4 and 5, you should be getting to tasks that it’ll be acceptable to move them to the next day if the first 3 tasks take longer than you expect.
3) Do not move on to the next task on the list until the one before it is complete. This helps eliminate the multi-tasking that so frequently trips us up.
Once you’ve finished your work day, move any incomplete tasks to the next day. You’ll repeat the process exactly the same way for the next day.
Lesley created a beautiful printable checklist that she put together especially for this method. She offers it in several different colors, and you can download it from her page describing the method.
You can see how you could Pomodoro with this method, by breaking each item on your to-do lists into 25 or 30-minute work sessions and taking breaks throughout. You can also see how you could use it in conjunction with time-blocking — placing your tasks into specific blocks of time.
And, of course, you can use this technique within the larger GTD process.
I hope that you’re now ready to find ways to get more knitting time into every day, as well as learn some time management techniques that can help in every part of your life–not just the part that knits!