How to get the most out of limited time.


Woodworking comfort zone #1- Time. How to get the most out of limited time.

Everyone of us can fall into a woodworking comfort zone. Once we do, it will hinder our progress to advance as a woodworker. If we fail to advance, we tend to lose interest in this craft. And if we lose interest we may even stop woodworking all together. So what are the signs of falling into a woodworking comfort zone and how do we get out of them?

I have broke them down into 4 different categories. This is the first of a series of the different types of comfort zones we fall into and how to get out of them.

To be clear, a woodworking comfort zone is just a skill level or technique where one feels safe and can perform it without any stress. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or a pro, it can happen to any of us. Here is the number one reason people fall into a woodworking comfort zone:


Reason one- Time

It’s probably fair to say that most of you don’t do woodworking as a profession. You probably have a full time job that takes at least 8 hours of your day. Then throw into the mix, a wife, kids, house chores etc.  You get the idea. The day quickly runs out of time. But when there is a little bit of time, I’m sure you enjoy working in your shop. Most people want to be able to complete a project in a reasonable amount of time. Therefore it’s a simple formula, a little bit of time equals a simple made project. It’s a pattern that tends to repeat itself. People normally don’t want to waste time experimenting on something and then it fails. We tend to do what we know works. Hence, the comfort zone develops.

The lack of time to work in our shop can be discouraging. We get all excited in the morning thinking of what we will do that evening in our woodworking haven. But as the day progresses it gets full of daily things that wind up taking longer than we expected. And what gets cut? Our time in the shop. But it doesn’t mean that just because we aren’t in the shop we can’t be advancing our woodworking skill.

Woodworking is a skill just like anything else. It needs to be practiced or we will lose what we have developed. An athlete can’t perform to his fullest ability if he is watching tv, eating chips and not disciplined. We are no different. So here are a few suggestions to keep advancing even though we are short on time.


Make a list of 5-15 minute things you can do in the shop.

Even though it’s not much time to start and finish a project, making a list of short tasks that can slowly chip away at a project to complete it. Maybe it’s setting up a router, marking the boards for each piece, or simply laying out the tools needed for the next step. Doing multiple short tasks on a regular basis can help you compete a large project.


Practice Technique

The old saying, “practice makes perfect”, is true. But practice doesn’t have to be 8 hours working out in your shop. You can develop some good woodworking techniques using just a few minutes each day. Practice cutting one dovetail or try sawing a straight line with a hand saw. These are great ways to hone your skills with your limited time.  You will build confidence in your woodworking ability because you will see your progress as you increase in your accuracy.

A few minutes each day and you will become a master!


Tool Maintenance

No one really enjoys doing maintenance, but it is an important part to being an efficient woodworker. It’s amazing how much time can be spent in just doing maintenance. Take a few minutes to clean out your table saw, or  sharpen your chisels and hand planes. Taking care of your tools will truly pay off. Not only will they not only will they last much longer, but when you are ready to use them, they will be in tip top shape. Remember, it’s a poor woodworker who blames his tools.



Perhaps you don’t even have 15 minutes to go to the shop. There is still ways to increase your woodworking skills. Having a woodworking book or magazine around is a great way to learn and mentally prepare yourself for your time when you are in the shop. If you are waiting on the wife or kids to come out to the car, or just settling into bed to go to sleep, have something to read near by you at all times. It will stimulate your mind and add knowledge. We all know, knowledge is power.


Get Organized

Another way to maximize your time is to develop a clear plan of work flow. Make a step by step list of what needs to be done to complete your project. In that list you might see that maintenance needs to be done. Maybe you need to check you have all the materials and mark out the boards? Maybe you have to move things to get to a machine or lumber? Knowing exactly what you are going to do with the time in your shop will not only help you complete steps of building on your project, but will also keep your mind focused because you are not hunting for a tool or cleaning up for the next step.

In the end, I can not tell you how much time you need to spend in the shop. Everyone of us has priorities in life. But by making the most of the little time we have is the key to advancing our knowledge, skill level and getting out of this comfort zone. Stay tuned for the next blog; Woodworking comfort zone #2- Tools, the pitfalls and solutions for getting out.

-Chad Stanton