Can stitching make you more productive at work? Does the idea sound too good to be true? Amazingly I’ve found that this has absolutely worked for me. Let me tell you how…
First, a little context. I’m the kind of person who’s always wanted to impress and do well at work. Probably to an unhealthy level. I’d usually prioritise whatever needed doing at work over self care. I’d tell myself I’d do something nice for myself “later”, when things were more sorted.
But of course there’s always going to be something else that needs to be done. So for a long time, I kept pushing back “later”.
Looking back now, I’d have to admit that I probably let myself get majorly burnt out at least once. As well as letting myself suffer the effects of stress for far too long.
But I didn’t know any better. It had become my normal. And looking around me, I didn’t see much alternative.
Then the hands of fate put me in a position where I got to learn a lot about stress.
I discovered that stress in itself is rarely the problem.
Stress can actually be a good thing as it helps us to grow and improve. But we also need to be able to manage it so that it doesn’t overwhelm us.
This was easiest for me to understand in the context of sport and physical performance. If I want to go from being a couch potato to being able to run 5km, I need to start doing more activity than my body is used to. i.e. I need to put it under stress.
I might get all gung ho and decide build up super quickly. Such as running 1k Monday, 2k on Tuesday, 3k on Wednesday, 4k on Thursday then 5k on Friday. Bingo!
However that approach would almost certainly cause myself an injury! Because I wouldn’t be giving my body any time to rest, recover and adjust to the stress I’m putting it under.
What if I instead follow a programme that includes rest days and that gradually increases how far I’m running each week? By giving my body time to adjust, I’d be much more likely to get to my 5k target. Not only that, but I’d when I got to it, I’d be strong enough to sustain it and even build on it.
So I needed to start managing all of my stress as I would the physical stress of improving my fitness.
Deep down, I’d probably known this on some level for years. But it wasn’t enough for me to significantly change my ways.
I was under the impression that getting more balance meant working less. And hence getting less done.
A big lightening bolt moment for me was learning that good stress management means you can spend less time working AND get more done.
Because when we are managing stress effectively we can think clearer and thus be far more productive.
So to manage my stress better, I needed to find other ways to clear and calm my mind.
I’ve often turned to stitching at times of stress. But I’ve also often not allowed myself some stitching time as I thought I was too busy.
Then something strange happened when I began the Royal School of Needlework certificate course. I started doing things I’d been putting off for ages.
A great example is the day of my very first class. It was a really full on day. I left home early, took 3 different buses to get there and was feeling pretty nervous about the whole thing. There was a lot to take in during the day, then I had to make the convoluted journey home. Unsurprisingly, I was feeling tired from the long day so was looking forward to a guilt free evening on the sofa.
However after a little rest a strange inclination came over me. I decided to sort out my fabric stash. I’d never created any kind of system for storing my fabric so it had been slowly getting more out of hand for years. But I simply got to it and it felt great!
It still feels quite magical that after such a full on day, I had the energy to do something that I’d been putting off for so long.
And this wasn’t a one off. I’ve had plenty of other post class evenings that have been super productive when I’d expected to just want to veg.
I believe the classes were having some kind of restorative effect on me. Perhaps because I was allowing myself to get immersed in creativity simply for the enjoyment of it.
Starting to experiment
So I started wondering if I could make more consistent use of this effect.
Around this time, things at work were quite challenging. The company I was working for had lost its office so we were working from home the whole time.
At the beginning of the day, I’d feel the weight of everything that was going on and all the things that I had to do. So my instinct was to crack on early to get a head start.
But then I decided to try something different.
Instead of opening up my laptop as soon as I’d finished breakfast, I took out some stitching.
In just 15 minutes, I could feel my chest releasing and my head getting clearer. I felt so much more ready to take on my working day.
Starting work with a clearer head and lighter body allowed me to make much better decisions. I was better able to see the big picture and what really needed doing. I was being proactive rather than reactive in my work. Which became a huge productivity boost.
My work situation continued to be a very challenging one for a few months. Despite that, I stayed in a good mental space. I truly believe that starting my days with 15 minutes of stitching was a huge part of that.
So I’d encourage you to think about how you can start the day with something just for you. You might be surprised at the difference it makes!
Tips to be more productive
I’m not suggesting that you should start work late and I doubt you want to start setting your alarm earlier. So quick but effective is the key.
For stitching or other crafting, this means that you need to be able to get started and finish up quickly.
Luckily embroidery is pretty self contained and doesn’t create lots of mess to clean up. For a quick start, I keep the supplies for my current project together in a bag or box, so that I have everything to hand straight away.
In order to maximise my stitching time, I’ll usually focus on smaller and straight forward projects. Such as a kit or some sampling.
I find it can also be helpful to write myself a quick note at the end of my session about my next step. This makes it super easy to pick up where I left off the next day.
My biggest tip would be to choose something that you enjoy and that feels like a treat that you are doing just for you. With no pressure! It doesn’t have to be stitching, that’s just what worked for me.
My polar bear and walrus designs would be great projects to try this with. Shop patterns and kits here.
You may also like How to use embroidery to ease anxiety
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