The Free Motion Quilting Project: Maintaining a (sane) Summer Schedule

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Maintaining a (sane) Summer Schedule

My post on Friday about putting myself in pretend "jail" to get back into the flow of quilting seemed to have sparked some interesting questions. And since it is that time of the year when kids are home, the house feels full to bursting, and every day is blazing by faster than the last, I figured it's a good time to share how I stay (mostly) sane through the summer.

The first thing I've vowed to do is not disrupt my normal routine.

I normally get up at 5 a.m. No, I am not a morning person. Sometimes it's quite difficult to drag myself out of bed at this time, but I've been doing it for almost a year now and if I don't get up at 5, I'm definitely up by 6.

Why? Mostly it's the importance of having a routine. Getting up this early means I'm up before my family, most particularly my chatty little boy. I have time to grab breakfast, my journal and schedule notebook, and beat a path downstairs.

Once down in the den, I sit and write two pages of pure stream of consciousness. Everything from "I'm tired and my neck hurts" to "I wish that design was faster to stitch." comes out on the page. A lot of anger comes out sometimes. A lot of limited thinking. A lot of absolute crap in my head comes out and onto the page, which is where it can't hurt me or anyone else.

This is a lesson I learned from The Artists Way, which instructs that these "morning pages" allow you to get anything in your way out of your head and onto the page. I changed this task up just a bit and instead of writing 3 pages all in the morning, I write 2 pages in the morning and 1 page at night before bed.

That way I empty my head of anything weighing on my mind. In the past I've struggled with insomnia mostly due to so many buzzing thoughts in my head. Writing everything down means I fall asleep with nothing on my mind except sleep.

Back downstairs in the morning I've started a new routine after journaling: I work out.

Again, is this something I love to do? Absolutely not! I've never wanted to exercise, but with my 30th birthday looming in October I know I need to develop a healthy habit of exercise every single day. Working out in the morning to a DVD means I don't have to constantly remind myself to work out later. If I save it for later, it usually doesn't end up getting done, especially in the summer!

After all this, it's usually around 7 am and finally time to get on my machine and start quilting. I know from experience if I do anything else - check email, go grocery shopping, head upstairs to get a snack - any distraction will mean I don't quilt that day.

The reason is the same as with exercise - I can't "make time" for quilting. I have to do it first thing in the morning or it won't get done.

A lot of this routine and my understanding of when to do both exercise and quilting came from the book The Power of Habit. By creating my morning this way, even when waking up this early and exercise in general are not my natural desire, I'm able to do these things without complaining, and over time even come to enjoy them for the balance and sanity they bring to my day.

Habits form channels in our brains. I always imagine the furrows when a field is plowed. Once a habit is in your brain, it's there forever. I once had the insomniacs habit of sketchy sleep patterns and very occasionally at times of high stress those habits try to come out again.

The point of a habit is you don't have to think about the action. You don't have to go through the whole process of arguing with yourself whether or not to get out of bed or sleep in. Now that I've rolled out of bed at 5 am for a year, it's a natural part of my day. I don't have to think about setting my alarm and whether to put it at 5 or 6. I set it for 5 always.

Another plus to planning my day this way: after reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, I realize just how much quiet I really need. I need several hours every day because that is just the way my brain is wired. I like to be quiet, to be still, to work steadily and patiently.

It's taken awhile to realize that walking out of a room and closing a door is not a selfish act. It's not selfish when the alternative is getting overstimulated, irritable, and yelling at everyone, which will very quickly blow the whole day.

On Friday I mentioned dealing with destructive feelings of guilt. I used to quilt for several hours happily, but leave my sewing room geared up for a fight. I was feeling so guilty for my quilting time that I was instantly defensive and irritable the second my door opened.

One way I sorted this out was to remind myself that I have nothing to feel guilty for. Everyone in my family has a place and space to be themselves. No one is neglected. We are all doing our own thing in the morning and there's plenty of space and time for everyone.

Another way I'm keeping myself in check is literally checking off every day on my happiness checklist that I haven't allowed guilt to overwhelm my day. I also get a check for exercising and quilting. It's just a little positive reinforcement for doing the behaviors I know will make me happier every single day.

Of course, even with my determination to maintain a steady routine, it's still the summer and we still need to do extra fun stuff like camping, fishing, and swimming. I know just how much these activities can throw me off, but I also know how important they are to my life and long term happiness.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

The most important thing is balance. It's important to have a routine and positive habits, but it's also important to have fun and do things spontaneously. Here's to the summer and finding the perfect balance for you, your quilting passion, and your family!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. There are so many points in this post that resonate with me, it would take several paragraphs to comment. So I'll just say this. Thank you. I needed this. I'm trying to be embarassed that you are 30 years younger than I am, but I just don't care. You are not only a quilting teacher; you are a spiritual teacher. I've read Eckhart Tolle, Caroline Myss, Don Miquel Ruiz, Abraham Hicks, Wayne Dyer, etc., but you cut to the heart of my issues (especially guilt) in ways that are profoundly meaningful in my present way of life, which is centered on quilting. Cool, enlightened, and very timely (for me) post. :)

  2. Hi Leah! I love this post. I don't have any small children to take care of. In fact, it's the opposite. I have my ninety year old Dad to care for. I work full time outside of the house and have not found a way to get to my NEW sewing machine to do any of the FMQ practicing I want to do. This post has given me an insight to a way to get this done. And I will be happier too! Thank you so much!

  3. Great post Leah. I love my mornings, and agree that if something is going to get done, it is best done first thing in the morning.

  4. Fantastic post, Leah! You touched on a few things that have been dogging me lately and gave me some ideas about what to do about them. Thank you!

  5. Thank you so much for your insights and recommendations. Through your blog I have explored the Happiness Project and am deeply enjoying that book and blog. I am loving my new world of free motion quilting and your effective methods of teaching. I am almost 70 and feel that I have a whole new life.

  6. Your posts have really helped me think about why I enjoy quilting, what holds me back on certain projects, and how to get over mental roadblocks in the quilting process. This post was very inspiring and I am going to go look up a bunch of the books you mentioned!

  7. Hi Leah
    I love the way you share your insights. Your routine is similar to my own although I now can relate to the guilt part so much more and the need to have quiet time so much more thanks to your post. Seems like you really understand yourself, now thanks to you I understand my own behaviour a little better.
    Thank you for sharing X

  8. fab post - thanks for your thoughts and the book links - I've just started reading the power of habit ! as linda said you are a spiritual teacher as well :)

  9. Wonderful post. I used to have a schedule like this. Then my son graduated and husband is semi retired. The schedule flew out the window. I am going to work out a new schedule for myself so I can get back to being more creative. Time for prayer, time for exercise, time for quilting and time for family. Instead of going through the day wondering from thing to thing and nothing getting done.


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