Time and Motion

It’s 5AM and traffic is building on Bush Point Road. The cars come in waves every half hour, most of them heading for the Clinton ferry and long commutes into the city for work.

My commute is a two minute walk to the barn where I have my office and sewing shop. It’s also where I have my art supplies and so I call it the Studio. As I have said before, the naming of things matters.

I have chosen two very different occupations in order to balance my activities and my income. Custom boat covers keep me physically active, while bookkeeping keeps my mind fit. And art keeps me motivated.

Or at least the thought of art.

Because lately, I’ve been spending more and more hours working my jobs with only snippets of time leftover for making books, bags and boxes.

It’s a matter of efficiency.

In the early 1900’s, Frank B and Lillian Gilbreth conducted motion studies. They showed the importance of the total working environment by reducing unnecessary motions. Their work, together with the time studies of Frederick W. Taylor, created the business efficiency techniques known as methods engineering.

I’ve always been interested in motion patterns and so I have arranged the studio with stations for each kind of activity.  At my desk, I can reach everything I need by simply turning my chair. In my sewing area, I have a glass surface for hot knifing raw edges to the left of my industrial machine and a surface for punching holes for hardware behind me. They are all accessible from my tall stool. And when I make books, I have a linear layout for cutting, gluing and hand stitching…somewhat like a production line.

Where my efficiency breaks down is time management. I have difficulty focusing.

On a typical day, I turn on the computer first and check emails. Then I click on my Pandora station and fill out my to-do list. After that, I move to the sewing machine and am productive until an interesting yet unfamiliar song plays. Ooooh. What’s that? I get up to have a look…maybe bookmark the song. While I’m there, I sneak a peak at my blog stats…then I check to see how my Etsy shop is doing. Soon little alarm bells in my head send me back to the sewing machine where the  purr of the motor pulls me back to work. Until the next good song…

Or maybe I remember a report that has a looming deadline. Besides the unnecessary motion back and forth to my desk, there is the inefficiency of broken time. Momentum is constantly halted. I’m like the hare in the race against the tortoise.

I need to batch my work into longer modules… to schedule a work week that has “stations” similar to my studio…I need to stay put with either boat covers or bookkeeping until the job is done.

This challenges my rebellious and creative nature.

But if I want time for art, and money for art supplies, I have to make some changes, set some boundaries and sustain attention until completion. It’s the long commute part of my job. From now on, it’s canvas work in the morning and mid-day with bookkeeping for the last two hours. That’s the plan. And for the hare in me, I’ll dangle a delicious carrot: a day of art at the end of the week.

Time and motions studies inspired the plan. Making the plan work will require intention and commitment. It’s a blending of efficiency and focus and play…a balancing act where the soul’s needs have as much weight as the to-do list.

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8 Responses to Time and Motion

  1. I know this pattern of focus-distraction-focus-distraction (often by the internet and all of its enticing lovelies). But I also like to think of it as meandering. Sometimes I find precious nuggets when I get off task, get sidetracked, wander down this path that seems to lead absolutely nowhere and then I end up in a wonderland. This isn’t to excuse my own forays into Facebook land, but just to say that maybe, just maybe, there’s some value in life’s little side journeys. 🙂 Lovely blog posting. And I read “Cheaper by the Dozen” multiple times growing up. Idealized, I’m sure – but highly entertaining.

    • Thanks, Robin. I totally agree with you about meandering… and what a great word to give the image of adding curves to the straight and narrow path. I wrestle with all or nothingness and sometimes settle into tight little ruts in order to avoid getting lost. I like your reminder to at least savor the side trips.

  2. Charlene says:

    What can I say? Well said…and I can totally relate..another post that hits the mark and has me thinking.

  3. elysiangazetteer says:

    Its nice to know that I’m not the only one who has to check out that new song, or indentify that colorful bird. Thanks for another great blog post, Jeanne!

  4. You are definitely not alone! the real question is this: how long does it take to get back to course? And, of course, part of the fun is the getting lost…

  5. Pingback: Magnificent Obsessions « Stella Sunday Afternoons

  6. Pingback: More about Efficiency « Stella Sunday Afternoons

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