Do you mean with your spinning/knitting/weaving/nalbinding/craft/art/hobby, or with your life in general? I'm going to assume the former, though if this post helps with the latter, run with it!
Back when we were all trying to find time (okay, I still am) a mention of Fly Lady helped me really clean up my act (or my house, anyway).
I tried listing UFOs, making promises to myself ("finish two, start one"), picking up old projects and either undoing or finishing them. Somehow more seemed to creep in, my focus just wasn't there.
In 2008 I stumbled across Zen-to-Done on Zen Habits and am now much happier with the UFOs in general. Sure, I know some will never get re-visited. But I'm willing to live with that. Because the important ones are accessible and progressing.
Zen Habits helped me do a clean-out of several, putting partial spindle-fulls of handspun singles of forgot-what-wool in my baggy-of-singles-for-teaching-about-stale-singles, ripping out a started-but-permanently-stalled knit vest and repurposing my yarn to class materials, even went through the yarn stash drawer and re-purposed about a third of its contents to the class materials tub! I've labeled my fiber stash cubbies and visit them for inspiration. I don't mind having them -- and having them in view of my computer stops me from adding (too much) to them with impulse purchases.
The whole cleaning/organizing thing, so you know what you want to be doing, is fairly simple to say (harder to do!):
* figure out what's important
* eliminate the rest
I took that last one fairly loosely -- sure, some stuff got sold or given away; but others got put in bins for cold storage so I could see how I felt about them in a year, or were re-directed to other uses. After all, you never know if that old yarn blocker might come in handy (grin).
If I have a goal for 2009, it's to be happy using the stash, making things for other people and passing on the joy of the fiber to them, be it as fiber still (teaching new spinners), yarn (my kids are having great fun on rigid heddle looms with the yarn stash), or FO's ... my son asked for fingerless gloves, the not-what-I-want woven scarf will be perfect for my MIL, and if the handknit sweater doesn't fit me, I've several smaller girlfriends who might just like it themselves.
Beyond that, there's becoming efficient at your task: speed knitting ; weaving like the pros; spindling efficiently. Do your own time and motion study a-la Frank and Lillian Gilbreth (the dad and mom in Cheaper by the Dozen, in their own right efficiency experts, very "in" with the factory production lines in their day). Frank found he could button his shirts faster, starting at the bottom versus starting at the top! Can you curb any of your motions, reduce them to essentials to be more efficient? Heck, do you want to -- or do you want to use them as enjoyment of the activity, that's an alternative way to look at it -- hobbies need not be done at top speed, after all.
For me, consistent practice helped a lot -- spinning every evening for 2-3 hours for four months increased my top spinning speed and even increased my spindling efficiency (I was doing the 3-4 hours on a wheel). Now I'm back down to 1-2 hours an evening, and not always spinning (weaving or knitting need to happen too), I'm "off" my best pace, but still faster than I was two years ago.
I have found looking at the videos linked to above instructional. I hadn't thought to be as quick at throwing the shuttle as the lady at the Julia loom -- but, it does work, on my Mountain loom, just fine.
I used to worry about not making enough handspun/getting enough time to knit a sweater/(or just about anything!) but now I know that there should be time enough (knock on wood) and that the sweater needn't be done tomorrow. Next winter is soon enough. And as the years of spinning & etc. go by, the pile of handspun is getting larger, and getting used in projects. So I'm planning more challenging projects, and looking forward to working through them. That sheep-to-scarf project may yet happen, even if I am still de-VM-ing the Shetland neck wool (that's him in the opening photo, he was shorn in 2002, natch). I've been learning to weave, too, so the skills needed for the scarf should be ready by the time the wool's spun.
Really, though, my top advice for someone asking about productivity is, enjoy the activity. If you're concerned about producing faster, study the time & motion. If it's a hobby, enjoy it for what it is. Let yourself enjoy the activity, rather than feeling trapped in it. The more you enjoy it, the more you'll find time to do it, and the more efficient you may find yourself over time. Get some perspective after a few months (beginners) or years (intermediates and up) and you're likely to find you're really getting somewhere with it.
posted 5 January 2009 at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/