This is 15 amazing tips on how to become a more productive woodworker. You’re guide to finding more time to be in the shop, and making better use of the shop time that you already have. These are easy ways to do more with less, enjoy.
Woodworking and Productivity
As a woodworker, you only have so much time to be in the shop. Most of you have full-time jobs, a family, school, and other obligations in real life. What working is a hobby, and sometimes it’s hard to find time to be in the shop.
There are a couple of different ways to find more shop time. One is to make more time in general, while the other is to make more with the time you already have. Combine both of these together, and you have a recipe for a lot more productive shop time.
It’s not about skipping activities, or reducing the amount of time that you spend with your friends and family. Your other obligations are important, and these tips will help you fit woodworking in between those other tasks.
Here’s a look at the list, and each one of them will be explained in full detail farther down in the post. They are all helpful, and will create either more time or more productive time for you to enjoy woodworking and advance your hobby.
- Schedule shop time
- Keep a clean shop
- Make sure the shop is organized well
- Everything needs to be plugged in
- Make a Supplies list for going to the hardwood store
- Think about each step so you make fewer mistakes
- Have a clear goal for each session
- Avoid distractions and other projects
- Execute confidently and keep the process moving
- Do prep work for the next step while glue is drying
- Find extra shop time in hidden places
- Practice more to build confidence
- Don’t drink while woodworking
- Mill all of your wood at one time
- Double check measurements
- Work in stages doing the same task over and over
See Also: A Beginners Guide to Woodworking
Schedule Shop Time
First, one of the best things that you can do as a woodworker struggling with shop time issues is to schedule your shop time. This can be helpful for a number of reasons, and it can also benefit those around you to know when you want to be in the shop.
If you’re the kind a woodworker that simply says you wish you had more time, but you never actually make it a point to schedule time, it could be your fault that you don’t spend very much time in your own shop.
This scheduling of time can benefit you, because you will already mentally block out a certain section of time to go have fun in the shop. This also helps prevent you from scheduling things over that time slot, reducing your shop time.
Another awesome thing that scheduling does is it shares that information with other people. This means someone is a lot less likely to invite you out to a social gathering if they know that you have pre-existing plans.
People in general like to make others happy. If your friends know that you’re spending Thursday afternoon in the shop, they are less likely to call and ask you to go to a late lunch or an early dinner.
If you don’t write it down, it’s not on the schedule. Get a calendar, a planner, or even just a piece of paper on the fridge that says when you’re going to be in the shop. Set some time blocks, and try to stick to them for at least a week.
As things develop, you can adjust those time blocks. Hopefully they become longer, but sometimes they may become shorter or move entirely. Make the adjustments that you need, but don’t stop creating a schedule.
Keep a Clean Shop
One of the best things you can do for your shop in order to increase productivity is to maintain a shop that is clean. While this won’t actually get you more minutes, it will make those minutes count for a lot more than they already do.
If you are one of those woodworkers that has to spend a few minutes finding a tape measure, and that another minute or two finding your pencil, and then plugging in the saw, and then four other things before you can actually make one cut, cleaning the shop will be helpful.
You should not waste time digging through a mess to find your tools. This is where you lose precious time, and waste a lot of time. Again, it’s not just about increasing the minutes, it’s about making the minutes more important and more productive.
Depending on how big of a mess your shop currently is, you may need to schedule an entire day to clean it out. Do whatever it takes to reset yourself back to zero, and have an immaculately clean shop to work it.
I don’t think this is time lost either. Even though you may sacrifice a day, over time it will return itself tenfold in the amount of productivity you now get from a clean shop. Don’t underestimate this one, it’s the easiest to start and has a very high impact.
Once your shop is clean, now you need to make it a point to keep the shop clean otherwise you’ll just repeat the cycle. Start experimenting with how much time you need to clean before you leave the shop after each session.
Depending on how messy you get, this can be a few minutes, or it can be up to maybe even half an hour. Do whatever it takes in order to clean the mess completely before you leave, and if that means stopping 30 minutes early, then that’s what you need to do.
Make Sure the Shop is Organized Well
Next to cleanliness is organization. A shop that is organized well runs well. A woodworker in an organized shop is also more productive, and that’s an easy way to make smaller woodworking sessions a lot more beneficial.
As a beginner, you may not have comfortable homes for all of your tools. That’s OK. Instead of worrying about it, try grouping your commonly used tools together. Also, place them near a major power tool that is used in conjunction with those tools.
You may also decide to place them on benches or stands that are commonly used with those tools as well. However you do it, getting the commonly used tools together is a very helpful way of organizing your process.
The last thing you want to do is be hunting for tools. You already know what you need, so all the time that you spend on looking for tools is wasted time. Keep your tools organized, and your shop around a lot better while you’re at it.
See Also: 9 Great Tips for Storing Wood Clamps
Everything Needs to be Plugged In
This is one that a lot of woodworkers skip on. You need to plug-in every one of your tools, at least the ones that you use all the time. Smaller tools that go into cases can stay under the bench, but the major tools need to be plugged in.
It’s extremely frustrating and a waste of time to have to move a power cord from tool to tool in a crowded shop. Not only do you lose precious minutes every single time you need to switch a tool, you also end up squandering all of your precious time.
It’s easy to lose a quarter to half of your time just jockeying extension cords and plugging in different tools. All it would take is probably an hour and maybe 50 bucks worth of cords and power strips in order to power your entire shop.
For a low-cost barrier, and a low investment in time, you can have a shop that runs a lot more efficiently. You will also have a lot more fun in that shop, because there’s less frustration with the cords, and that will have psychological benefits as well.
Make a Supplies List Before Going to the Hardwood Store
Something else to consider in order to save time and be more productive when you’re in the shop is to make a list before you go to the Wood store. While you are in your shop, you have the biggest advantage to know exactly what you need.
While you are at the store, it can be difficult to remember everything. This leads to time spent staring at a pile of lumber and trying to remember how many pieces you really need for your cut list. It’s not a good spot to be in.
Instead, make a thorough list before you leave the shop. This will allow you to get into the store and get out with what you need, and it also prevents accidentally buying things that you don’t. If you like browsing, that’s OK, but this will keep you on the right track.
Make a final cut list, and materials list. Also list the disposables, finishes, and hardware that you might need. Make it a point to purchase all of that in one shot, and you won’t have to waste shop time going back to the store to buy more supplies.
On top of that, you will have everything you need in your shop at the beginning of the project. This is awesome, because you don’t ever have to slow down because you don’t have the materials that you need.
If you wind up with some free time, you can get out into the shop a little earlier than expected, you can keep on advancing the project. You can’t do that if you don’t have all the supplies, so making a list is really helpful.
See Also: A Woodworking Notebook
Think About Each Step so You Make Fewer Mistakes
Athletes do this all the time, and you can benefit from practicing the same process for your woodworking projects. Visualization, and going through the motions mentally is a way to prepare yourself for making fewer mistakes.
Think about the step, and think about what you will use to complete the steps. Then, go through the motions in your mind, and try to address any problems that come up before they actually do in real life.
See yourself successfully completing the step. Also see yourself going through the process from start to finish. As you do this, you will identify problems, come up with solutions, and make fewer mistakes than without.
Plus, this slows you down just enough that if a mistake is on the horizon, you have a better opportunity of catching it. Don’t confuse slow down with lack of productivity. If you catch a mistake and avoid it, you may actually save several hours with 30 seconds of thought.
That kind a trade-off is extremely rare, so it’s worth it every time. Try this the next time you’re in your shop, and you’ll see how easy it is just think about the step coming up, and the things you’ll have to do to successfully complete it.
Have a Clear Goal for Each Session
Along with scheduling time for the shop, you should set goals for each session. A lot of times it’s easy to walk into the shop and just putter around for the first several minutes or more. If it’s been a while since you’ve been in the shop, shiny things can distract you.
Another thing that the plan prevents is you just wasting time being overwhelmed about all the different things you have to do. Sometimes a priorities list can cut through the noise, and prevent you from feeling like a failure because you can’t do 50 things at once.
Whatever you have going on, you can always come up with a top three. You may be extremely busy, and feel like three isn’t enough, but it’s better than zero. That’s the alternative when you let a huge list frustrate you to the point of inaction.
Instead of being overwhelmed, sit down for five minutes and write a list. Then, isolate the top three items that are the most important. These are the things where if you only got these few done today, you would be satisfied with your shop session.
You can use a white board in the shop that you hang on the wall. It will remind you of your list, and you can cross things off as you go.
Work on these first, and don’t deviate. This means don’t stop to do other things just for a minute, or sweep up the shop just for a second, or any other excuse that stops you from accomplishing your main goal.
Working like this, you can actually accomplish quite a bit. Especially if you are the type of person that gets easily overwhelmed, or likes to explore the shop for a little while before you actually get down to business.
Avoid Distractions and Other Projects
Another thing that robs your productivity in the shop is when you allow distractions and other projects to take priority over your main assignment. This is easy to do when you don’t have a clear goal, but it’s also easy to stop.
Sometimes it’s fun to just do what you want to in your shop. After all, it’s a hobby and doing what you want is what makes you happy. In general this is true, but if you want to be more productive then your real goal is actually something quite different.
While it might be fun to jump around from project to project and just play and have fun, what this is most of the time is a convenient way to get out of doing the one thing that you know you really need to do. It’s a nice way of fooling yourself.
You still feel like you’re being productive because you’re doing work, but the work that you’re doing is meaningless compared to the big goal. In a case like that, no matter how well you do the work, it’s still not important.
Instead of allowing these distractions to eat up valuable minutes, make it a point that when you go in the shop you are only going to pursue your main goal. When you do, you will get a lot more done, and you will get that positive feeling you’re looking for.
The funny thing is going through all those little projects gives you a good feeling. It’s a feeling you may not get struggling through the main project. However, if you focus on the main project and make progress, you will feel good about it.
Execute Confidently and Keep the Process Moving
When you’re in the middle of a project, it’s important stay focused. That focus is what keeps the project moving. It’s easy to maintain focus, all you need to do is keep the process moving to build momentum.
It’s fun to focus on things that are good for you. For example, if you are making a lot of money, or having a lot of fun, it’s easy to focus on those things. What you can do with your woodworking is continually make progress.
As you make progress, and you see your goals getting close to being fulfilled, you will be able to focus even more on the task. The momentum builds excitement, and then excitement builds focus, which builds more momentum.
Execute each step fully, and carefully. As you do that, you will put more and more steps behind you instead of in front of you. This will build up your momentum quickly, and in turn build up your excitement as you progress through your big goals.
See Also: 50 Awesome Reasons to be a Woodworker
Do Prep Work for the Next Step While Glue is Drying
One of the secrets to being productive in your shop is to use the time that the glue is drying to do other things. Most of the time, you can end up just taking a break when the glue dries because it seems that there’s nothing else you can do. There actually is.
Instead of calling it a night when the glue is drying, take a look at your next steps or other parts of the project. Odds are that there is some prep work you can do to get yourself a head start when that step finally comes up.
There might even be some things that you have to buy, or a jig that you have to make. Do these things now while the glue is drying on the previous step or process, and when the next step comes you will be in even better shape to move forward.
In most projects, there are several parts that need to be made. A secret is to make the parts separately in order to be able to go back-and-forth between them. As the glue dries on one part, you get to work on the other. This is a lot more productive in the same amount of time.
Find Extra Shop Time in Hidden Places
One of my favorite things to do for new woodworkers is to help you find hidden time to go into the shop. We all have busy lives, but there are little pieces of down time that we either don’t notice or we just take for granted.
Most of the time when we encounter dead space like this, we fill it with distractions like television or cell phone use. While these activities have their virtues, and they are entertaining, they are not the best use of your time when it comes to productivity.
If you habitually watch a couple hours of television every single day, think about how much you could get done if you went into the shop instead. Even an extra hour a day is seven hours a week, and that’s a large amount of time to spend on woodworking.
Another thing to look at as perhaps getting up a little earlier. If you have a house full of people this can be a bit of a challenge especially if you need to use loud power tools. However, you can always substitute hand tools or plan for quieter operations at those hours.
For example, sanding is pretty quiet if you are standing by hand. Sanding is also time consuming, so adding a little extra time and it being a quiet activity are two really good things. You can do this in the wee morning hours, and not wake anybody up.
Look at your schedule. Look for the times you really don’t do very much, or when you lounge around on the couch and play on your phone. It’s in these times that you can harvest free woodworking sessions, and turn the dead time into productive time.
Practice More to Build Confidence
A confident woodworker is a successful woodworker. The more you know, the better you are able to execute on your steps and move forward without making mistakes. The way you get better is to practice, and all you need to do is make the time.
It’s actually very productive to practice. A lot of folks associate practice with wasting time, or not actually moving forward. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. When you practice, the time that you spend is returned several times over in the future.
It’s returned in a different form, and you may not notice it right away, but it does happen when you practice. What ends up happening is you make a lot less mistakes, and you end up not having to redo the same processes over and over again.
Every time you don’t make a mistake, you save that time. Again, you may not really notice because it’s hard to notice something you don’t do. However, in general you will start to feel like you make less mistakes and you do a better job on the first try.
When this happens, that’s how you’ll know that the practice is working. Apply this to as many different layers of your woodworking talents as you can, and it will help you be more productive and more efficient in the shop.
See Also: Printable Woodworking Tips Cards
Don’t Drink While Woodworking
This one comes up a lot unfortunately, and even though it’s fun to have a few drinks, it will destroy your productivity in the shop. Separate the safety issue, which everybody understands is a bad idea, and just look at the productivity for now.
When you drink, it lowers your ability to make good decisions, and it keeps you focused on other things besides the task at hand. Alcohol is distracting, and it’s easy to go off and little mental tangents without realizing how many minutes you’ve wasted.
Once in a great while it’s nice to have a beer or two while doing something safer like sanding by hand, or brainstorming ideas. I do this from time to time myself. However, when I’m trying to be productive I know that it’s not a good idea.
Mill All of Your Wood at One Time
One of the most productive things you can do in all of woodworking, and the reason that major factories all do it, is milling all of your wood at the same time. Making all your materials at the same time increases productivity by decreasing setup time.
Whenever you have to make a cut, it requires a certain amount of time to set up. This can be several seconds or even several minutes depending on the jigs involved in the tools. Once you are set up however, the actual cut may only take a second or two.
It’s easy to see that the vast majority of time that you use in the shop is consumed by setting up and getting ready versus actually doing the thing you want to do. You can use this to your advantage by making all of your cuts at the same time.
For example, if you need several boards that are 6 inches wide, it makes sense to set the table saw up one time and cut all of the boards to width. The same goes for other operations where you have to set up a measurement, or a stop in order to make the cut.
Even if those boards also have to be cut a second time, it makes the most sense to cut them all one way first and then cut them all the other way. Switching between cuts means you’ll have to rearrange your set up, and that just adds unnecessary time.
The next time you are milling a large amount of lumber, or even a small amount, look at ways that you can do it more efficiently. Try to make as many of the same cut as possible without changing the setting.
The more you can work like that, the more set up time you recover. Again, the majority of the time you spend in the shop is spent setting things up. The actions themselves are much faster, so if you can lump your actions together and remove your set up time, you will be faster too.
See Also: 12 Awesome Uses for 80 Grit Sandpaper
Double Check Measurements
Minimizing mistakes is important to productivity. Though a lot of people associate productivity with speed, you know better than that, and they are two very different things. Double checking your measurements is one way to avoid mistakes, and be more productive.
Double checking is not time wasted, it’s an investment in making fewer mistakes. This investment will yield fruit very quickly, especially if you are a new woodworker who is not super confident at using a tape measure.
Don’t rush because you’re worried about making a poor cut. That worry should actually cause you to slow down significantly, and double check your measurements so you know you do it right the first time.
A lot of rushing actually comes from insecurity. You are concerned that the step is not going to come out right, so in your mind the faster you get there, the faster you can figure out if you need to do it again or if you are successful.
This sounds crazy but it happens all the time. Instead of rushing through the steps to see if you are going to fail or not, take the extra time to make sure the step will be successful. Have confidence, and know that you can do it. That will make the biggest difference.
See Also: Woodworking Tips Cards – Measure Twice
Work in Stages Doing the Same Task Over and Over
Just like milling all of your wood at the same time to save the set up time from being wasted, working in stages on a project or multiple projects can do the same thing. You get all of the benefit of the set up, and only have to spend the time once.
If you were making multiple projects, or you have a project that has many parts that require similar work, set it up in stages. These stages can include milling the lumber, drilling holes, preparing joints, and gluing boards together.
For example, once you pull out everything you need to glue a couple pieces of wood together, the glue, the clamps, the nail gun, etc, that’s the set up time investment. Now, starting on the second glue joint, all of that set up time is free.
You spent the time getting set up for the very first one, and every one after that benefits from literally zero set up time. If it took you a few minutes to gather everything, you effectively subtracted a few minutes from every subsequent glue joint.
Simply working in stages where are you combine similar processes will make you a far more productive woodworker. This is how large factories do it, and they are obviously some of the most productive woodworking groups in the world.
See Also: 14 Easy Tips for Using Wiping Varnish
Your Action Assignment
Now that you are fully equipped to be a lot more productive in the shop, and have a lot more shop time, it’s time to actually do something about it. Don’t just wish you had more time, make it a priority that you have that time.
Start scheduling your shop time, and looking for hidden time that you can get out into the shop more than you already do. Stop watching TV, and playing with your phone. The TV is a life sucking waste of time that gives you nothing but mild entertainment.
You can literally waste years of your life just sitting in front of a television set. At the end of your life, it’s not going to be important who was voted off the island. What’s going to be important is the things that you create, and the memories you make.
Schedule that time to be in the shop instead, and then start incorporating different ways to be more productive while you’re in there. This is a two pronged approach that gives you more time, and makes the time even better.
Not only do you get an increase in the actual minutes, but you also get an increase in what the minutes are capable of producing. If you haven’t been the best about spending time in the shop, this sudden increase can be quite dramatic.
That increase in productivity will result in an increase in momentum. You can ride that momentum like a tidal wave all the way to the end of your project. It will make you feel amazing, and you will love your new found productivity as a woodworker.
If you have any questions about these 15 tips on how to become a more productive woodworker, please post a question in the Q & A forum and I’ll be glad to answer it. Happy building.
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