Study Time

Frame and PanelOne of the lessons GTD has taught me is that at any given unscheduled, unoccupied moment, I should take on the task I have time and energy for, the task that’s appropriate for the current context. So for example, I have a list of the phone calls I need to make when I have time and access to a phone, and a list of tasks I need to perform in the workshop to move my woodworking projects forward.

But it pays to think carefully about context, and how we really define it.  Lately I’ve begun thinking of my workshop more as a studio: as a place to explore, to express my creativity; as Merriam-Webster defines it, “a place for the study of an art”.  The interesting thing about seeing a woodworking shop as a studio is that it invites one to explore.  So if I don’t have an opportunity to move projects forward in my studio because I’m waiting for a finish to dry or glue to cure, what do I do in the studio?

A few nights ago, I had such a moment: It was too cold to finish or glue, I was too tired to do precision joinery, but mentally I was still engaged.

I began exploring, experimenting with my tools and materials: a scrap of cherry clamped in the vise, a spokeshave with a throat made fine with a thick aftermarket blade. Could I imagine an edge treatment more subtle and more sensitive than I could produce with a router? Could I make it curve gently this way, slope inward that way?

What other tools might complement the process? A few wooden planes, received gratefully from a friendly chap in Britain who keeps his eyes out for such things… They were so crisp and well cared-for that I nearly didn’t sharpen them for use, but this night, I realized they were begging for use. I sharpened them, working the concavity with a slipstone as one would a carving gouge. Sharpened, I put them to use in my experiment, the shavings spilling off to the right.

I didn’t move my projects forward at all that night, and I didn’t cross any task off my list. However, I developed an idea for a future project, and explored the potential methods for achieving the results I might want. Best of all, I did it when I had the energy and enthusiasm for that particular task, not when I was committed to some larger project with other tasks.

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