Tackling UFOs, part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of tackling UFOs. One day one, we made a master list of projects and bought a notebook for organizing them. On day two, we separated out projects that are still in the idea stage, tracking them on in a separate list; we also looked at ways of simplifying or eliminating UFOs we don’t actually want to finish!

Today, we will begin step four, and look at prioritizing what remains on the list, so we can start setting goals and making progress!


You can do this all on paper, but if you happen to have your master list on computer, it can be even easier to sort projects into groups.

(a) Time-sensitive projects

Let’s first consider any projects that have drop-dead deadlines attached. Are you participating in a group project, and you have to get your portion done by next month? Are you trying to get something done to enter in a quilt show? Do you have a wedding gift, teacher gift, birthday or holiday present to finish by a particular date? Obviously, any projects with due date attached should take priority.

On your master list, use a pencil to make a capital T next to any time-sensitive projects.

(b) Easy-to-finish projects

tagged.jpgIt’s embarrassing to admit, but often we have projects that are SO CLOSE to being finished, yet we procrastinate about that last step! Sometimes a quilt just needs a label, a sleeve, or the binding. Sometimes a quilt top just needs a couple more blocks, or a long seam or two, and it can be ready to send off to be quilted. Look through your list for any items that can be finished in an evening or with very little effort, and put a big E next to them. Don’t forget to consider any projects you “downsized” in the last step – it can feel great to get these off your plate!

(c) Determine any bottlenecks

Now, look at your remaining projects, and see if there’s a common theme. Are many of them stuck at the same spot? Is there something causing a bottleneck that is stopping you from taking these projects to the finish line? As Gary Keller suggests in his book The One Thing, ask yourself if there is one thing you could do with respect to your quilting, such that by doing it, everything else becomes easier or unnecessary.

For me, the common factor was the quilting. I could get my tops done, but I dragged my heels about getting them quilted, partly because it is expensive to pay someone to do the quilting. But again, it was my friend Joline who inspired me to tackle the quilting myself, when she encouraged me to take a Craftsy class or two, and learn how to free motion quilt and quilt using my walking foot. Recently, I even got the courage to take an introduction to long-arming class, and rent some time on a long-arm machine!

What is your bottleneck? Do you need support or instruction in a technique? Would it help if you learned to apply binding by machine? Or if you paid someone to quilt for you? Or learned to quilt on your domestic machine? Now might be a good time to take a class to improve your skills, or recruit the help of a friend.

(d) Make a Short List

My next step was to make a list of the first 10 things I planned to finish. Most of the items on my list were Easy-to-Finish projects (look for your E’s). One was time-sensitive. You will have to determine what you want/need to finish first. Obviously, a benefit of tackling the Easy-to-Finish projects first, is that you can easily make big dent in your UFO list, which is very motivating. One month, I finished 7 projects, because they were so easy!

On a cleshortlist.jpgan piece of paper, write your top 10 projects to finish first. I made three columns on my page – Project Name, Goal Date, and Completed Date. For each project I listed under Project Name, I jotted down a goal date to finish it – could I do it today, next Saturday, by the end of the month? Then, as I finished the project, I entered the Completed Date, then crossed off the whole line with a highlighter.

Once a UFO was finished, I also returned to my Master List, and stroked off that UFO using a highlighter, wrote COMPLETE! beside it.

That’s my basic technique scheduling technique. I keep making short lists, usually top 10 lists, of the projects I most want to finish. I work through the list until everything is crossed off – or until I’m tired of what’s on the list. If there’s a project lingering on my Top Ten list that I’m still not getting done, I might need to reassess. I ask myself again, Do I really need to finish this? Can I downsize it? Can I donate it? Can I recruit a friend to help me? Do I need a lesson or support?

Once my existing list is finished or needs refreshing, I go to a new page and make a new short list, and work from that. As I finish projects, I highlight them on the master list and mark them as complete. This method works pretty well for simple and single-step projects.

However, sometimes your UFO is big, sprawling, multi-step. In my next post, I will talk about the value of breaking a large project into smaller steps.



4 thoughts on “Tackling UFOs, part 3

    • Absolutely, yes, it will work for anything. For me, it really helped to list out all the things I wanted to do, needed to do, had half-done… once I could look at it all in one big list, I was able to start tackling it effectively. Before that, I kept juggling lists in my head, and doing bits and pieces here and there, and always feeling like I was forgetting something!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Tackling UFOs, part 4 – Patchwork Tomato

  2. Tackling UFOs, part 2 – Patchwork Tomato

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