Happy New Year! Oh, wait. I’m probably a little late on that sentiment thanks to Flu A and Flu B who mistakenly thought we’d put out the welcome mat for them.
I had thought about starting the year off with my word of the year. I missed that train, too. I will sum up: my word of the year is “Today.” I often live in my head too much. I can get sucked in to thinking about the past or what I want for the future to the point that I forget to live in the moment.
Have you ever done that? Do you ever get so caught up in the planning and the dreams that you fail to act? I do and I’ve learned that I do that more when I tend to be overwhelmed with projects. It’s a lot easier to dream about a beautiful kitchen then to actually dig in and get messy.
That’s kind of the case with our new home. There isn’t really any room in my house that I like enough to decorate and call done for now. Consequently, we have been in our home since late August and all my boxes of decorations are still in the barn or the attic or the basement. Every room has something I want to do to it before I get to the point of actually decorating it.
If you are visual person like I am, you can probably imagine how hard that can be. Yes, I have a house to live in, but it’s a long way from being a home. I realize there is much I can do to decorate the rooms that are further down the To Do list totem pole, but that brings me to my topic of today.
Over the years, I have discovered three key ingredients that are necessary for Every. Single. Project you have on your list. In no particular order, they are: Time, Money and Motivation.
This is a doozy. It’s pretty hard to tackle a kitchen renovation or a furniture restoration project, if you only have a 15 minutes of free time each day. Lives are busy. If you are like me, you may have children and there isn’t a parent yet who hasn’t figured out what a huge time-suck kids are (in the best possible way, of course). One child is usually manageable. Look at all John and Sherry of Young House Love get done during the length of one little nap time. However, add more kids to the mix and discretionary time becomes but a fond memory.
In addition to kids, you may have a full or part-time job to juggle, as well as all the other domestic chores of life. Finding time for projects is a real skill and carving out that time can be a challenge. It is doable, but it will be different for every person and even for every project you want to tackle.
Recognize that if you want to get some projects done, some things may get sacrificed on the project altar. You may have to live with a torn apart kitchen for several months because the bulk of the projects can only be done on the weekends when you aren’t driving your people all over the county every. single. day.
I have found that I get more accomplished when I can break a project down into chunks and work on one part at a time. I often find that I can squeeze in a few minutes to do something on a project that way. The other night, Hubs and I tore down that half wall of paneling when we had a few minutes before dinner. It took about an hour to get it down and cleaned up again. Dinner was a little bit late that night, but we now have one less To Do item on our kitchen makeover.
How to Find Time for Projects:
Keep a Record – What does your typical day look like? How about your week? How long does it take you to do your tasks? Keep track for a week to know how you are spending your time. You can’t change anything until you know what you are doing.
Delegate – Are there things you are doing that you could be done by someone else?
Prioritize – Is it really necessary to do all the things you are doing as often as you are doing them? Can you change the frequency of the activities and still function well?
Make a Plan – Outline as many steps of the project on paper before you start. See what needs to be done and estimate the time needed so you can figure out where to fits those steps into your schedule.
Use the Little Moments – You don’t have to do an entire project from start to finish in one sitting. What step can you complete in 15 minutes? When you are stuck waiting somewhere, can you make a list of things you’ll need to complete the project?
Set a Goal – On the big projects, set a deadline for each step and try to hit that mark. You’d be surprised at how much it helps.
Ahhh…the old money problem. In a perfect world, we would all live in some TV show where we could just tackle whatever home improvement project we wanted to do and the money just magically appeared to do it. [cue soundtrack: “Dream never diiiieesss just the dreamer….” ].
Most of us can probably find a way to afford the small projects we want to do. Even the big projects can usually be done for less money if you are willing to get creative, do the labor yourself and shop for used or discounted goods. It’s a waiting game, though, and if you are an I-Want-It-Done-Yesterday kind of person, you’d better have a bank account to keep you in the manner in which you want to be accustomed. [cue soundtrack, “Moneymoneymoneymoney….MONEY!”].
For big projects, set a budget and then add 20-25% to it for all the I-Wasn’t-Expecting-THAT-To-Happen moments that inevitably come along. Because they will. Come along. At the worst possible moment. Like when you’ve just destroyed the front door and frame that you planned to replace on a cold November day and your husband is 2,000 miles away and you and your teenage son can’t make the new door fit and your realize you will now have to reframe the entire door because you can’t special order one in an hour and now you have to go buy material to reframe the door and, gosh, won’t that be fun to add to your home improvement skill set? Those things happen. Not that I am still bitter about it or anything. Just be prepared and try your best to work through them.
How to Find Money for Projects:
Save – Nothing sexy here. Just determine what you are saving for and how much you can afford to set aside each month. Be sure to put it away where you won’t spend it.
Shop Around – If you are saving up for a big purchase, makes sure you are shopping around and finding the best deal while you are squirreling away the money. Knowing all the options can help you make better decisions and may help you find something less expensive that you hadn’t previously considered. Vary your sources for where you are shopping and check often. Prices often change and you may find a better deal that wasn’t there a month ago.
Sell Your Stuff – Look around your house. Is there something you are willing to part with that you can sell on eBay or Craigslist? I’m not a fan of garage sales because I’ve never really gotten the money for things that I wanted, but I’ve heard rumors that some people make good money this way. I prefer to sell things on Craigslist and eBay to get top dollar.
Sell Your Talents – If you have a skill or service you are willing to use, can you find someone who will pay you for it? Be careful to not value your time and efforts too cheaply. I made a baby blessing gown for a friend and charged her $50. That seemed like a lot of money for a little dress until I realized how much time I’d spent on it. She got a great deal.
Get Creative – Look at thrift stores, Craigslist, discount stores. Talk to friends and family members and tell them what they are doing. Often, they may have what you need/want and would give you a good price for it. Think outside the box and see if there are cheaper options for what you want to do.
This one used to not be such an issue for me. With a Project To Do list a mile long, I never lack for something I want to do. I love the planning and the design part of a project. I love the newness and taking an idea in my head and bringing it to life. Or taking something completely ugly/worn/destroyed and making it beautiful and functional again. However, lately, my give-a-dang seems to be busted. Our life has been high-octane stress since mid-July with one thing or another. It’s hard to care about projects when other things are screaming for attention.
My motivation is closely tied to my energy levels. On days when I haven’t slept well or I’m not eating right or when depression seems to be having its wicked way with me, it is harder to get excited enough to tackle a new project or even work on an old one.
It all smells like work at that point. I don’t mind working, I just want it to be fun and when my personal resources are low, projects become drudgery. Which is the opposite of fun.
That said, this particular ingredient is kind of a catch-22. Usually for me, when I am feeling low and I don’t want to do a project, that is exactly when I need to do something creative to restore my sanity and get my motivation kicking again. Once I get a taste of the finished project, my energy and motivation are typically restored and I’m ready to push through and complete the project.
How to Improve Your Motivation for Projects:
Start Small – Don’t run before you can walk. If you are just trying to get your groove back, start small but be consistent.
Phone a friend – Do you have a friend who shares your interests? Having a friend along for the ride can renew your motivation to get ‘er done.
Take a Class – Learning something new can increase your mojo. Communities usually have some resource for adult education and classes are usually pretty reasonable. Even better than a formal class is to reach out to someone in your church or community who would be willing to teach you what you want to know. I have asked many of the older ladies at church how to do something I didn’t know how to do (like figure out the weeds from the flowers) and made a new friend in the process.
Be Nike – Just Do It! Even if you don’t feel like it, just get started and you will more often than not find the motivation will grow as you get involved in the project.
Be Willing to Walk Away – When a project gets frustrating and you are at a point where you don’t know how to proceed, stop what you are doing and walk away. I have discovered that when I push through at that point is usually when I make a costly or irreversible mistake. Being willing to walk away makes it easier to come back and tackle the problem after a break when your frustration levels are not blocking possible solutions.
Obviously, projects will be easier to do when all three ingredients are in place, but just like Meatloaf says, “Two out of three ain’t bad.” In fact, it is a rare event for me to have all three ingredients come together in a project trifecta of awesomeness. Usually, when I have the time, I don’t have the money and vice versa.
That’s okay. You can still get things done. When I had Time and Motivation, I was able to make my Chair Bench. I find that I have a definite uptick in the creativity department when I can’t just go out and buy stuff. I had old chairs that were just taking up space. I wanted an outdoor bench. Voila!
When I had Money + Motivation, I was able to Makeover my Master Bedroom. I didn’t have a ton of time to work on this project. That’s why it took about 6 months for me to do it. But little by little I got it done.
When I had both Time and Money….hmmmmm. Well, truthfully, such an occurrence has not existed until now. I am starting a kitchen remodel project. I only wanted to do a couple of things. Honestly. But the project has grown and now I find myself living with loose countertops that no longer fit the base cabinets, missing cupboard doors, unfinished floors and chipped plaster walls in need of some serious TLC.
I’ll let you know if I can take my own advice and work to get my motivation back to complete this project. I am anxious to have a pretty kitchen and at least I do have a clear plan of what I want to do. The time for dreaming is over and the time for acting is now. Today. See? That’s why it’s my word of the year.
I will outline my kitchen plans for you in a couple of days. Hopefully, it won’t take all month for me to blog about it. I actually wrote this post a couple of weeks ago and am now finishing it up so I can have one measly post for January. My motivation has definitely been on a walk-about, but I’m hoping it finds it way back to me soon. I have a LOT of projects I need to get done and I need all the help I can get!