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How to get through obligation projects

Last year, I posted on Instagram and asked what others did to motivate themselves when working on a project that you wanted to finish but which you didn't feel motivated to work on at the moment. I got some great answers (bribery seem to be the most common response), and I've been thinking about other ways to provide motivation, so I'm including a few suggestions here.

So if you have a project that you need to finish (say...for a holiday gift...), here are some ways to motivate yourself:


Some people might suggest that you limit yourself: something like you can't work on another project or buy more yarn until you finish this project (or a certain amount of the project). But I find that these limitations just make me resent the dreaded project even more, making me less likely to work on it and more likely to dream about what else I could be knitting (and usually getting nothing done as a consequence).

But if you turn that around and frame it as bribery -- as something you'll get if you finish the project -- that can be some powerful motivation.

So what motivates you? Chocolate? Wine? New yarn? Another project? Choose your treat and then make an agreement with yourself: "If I knit 6 rows of this project, I get to eat one bite-sized chocolate bar." or "If I knit on this project for an hour, I get to work on the other project for 30 minutes." Keep your eye on the prize: both the thing you're bribing yourself with as well as the finished project.


Sometimes if you just sit and work on the project and do nothing else, your mind starts to wander and it wanders toward how much you wish you didn't have to work on this project. So give yourself a distraction. Watch a favorite movie or TV show (combine this with bribery and make your agreement with yourself: if you work on this project, you get to also watch the new season of Stranger Things at the same time). Listen to an audiobook or podcast. Gather with family or friends. Something that still allows you to focus on the project enough to follow the pattern but at the same time distracts you from concentrating on how much you are resenting this project.


Tell someone else about the project and give them a goal each week that you want to meet. This person doesn't have to be a crafter, but someone who also does some type of craft will probably understand a bit more. This could be a group, in person or online (such as my Facebook group). Make sure it's someone or some group that will ask you about your progress or that you feel that you'll share your progress with on a regular basis. (Just so you know, this is what I've been doing with that green shawl by mentioning it so frequently!)

I don't recommend having any type of punishment go along with the accountability as I think any type of motivation works better when it's positive (besides, knitting shouldn't be something paired with punishment anyway). Perhaps tie accountability together with bribery: get together with another crafter and if you both finish your weekly goal, you get to meet for lunch and celebrate. Which brings me to the next suggestion:


Did you finish two rows of 400+ stitches? Get up and do a happy dance. Seriously. Not only is it good to get up and stretch every so often, but just the simple act of doing a happy dance, even for just a minute, brings renewed energy and perhaps some laughter, which always makes us feel better.

This is the time of year when we often pile on knitting projects that we want to make as gifts, which adds stress to an activity that should bring us relaxation and joy. So if you find yourself feeling buried under a project or projects that you feel obligated to finish but don't really want to work on, I hope you'll consider some of these suggestions to help you get through the project.

But ultimately, be good to yourself. Yes, I know you really want to finish that hat for your father-in-law or the slippers for your aunt. But be realistic. If you're not going to be able to finish the projects because you just don't have enough time or if working on this project makes you hate all things yarn related, it's okay if you don't finish it. Get your father-in-law a book he might enjoy instead or *gasp* buy your aunt a pair of slippers. And vow to start your gift knitting earlier next year. Hey, it might work.

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