Once upon a time, I worked as a virtual assistant supporting clients in a variety of creative professions (way back when saying “VA” made people think I worked with veterans instead). What made my job difficult wasn’t the distance between us, but my clients’ both understandable and irrational resistance to systems. Yet systems were essential not just to our working relationship but to their professional goals. I thought: if the only thing standing between starving artist and thriving artist is some organization, that’s a problem I can solve.

And so I set about figuring out how to explain what we call “time management and productivity” (worst names ever) in ways divergent thinkers doing unconventional work would understand and embrace. Crucially, it had to work. It couldn’t make the assumptions the field usually makes. It had to be a whole-brain, whole-life solution to the real, everyday challenges faced by people in the business of inventing and making things.

That first kernel of an idea eventually evolved into the School of the Fourth Dimension. Since 2009, I’ve helped hundreds of creatives – designers, writers, artists, body workers, teachers, coaches and more – to:

  • create flexible, robust, resilient rhythms for their days, weeks and beyond (we don’t use the word “schedule” much around here)
  • craft streamlined systems for the routine activities that are essential to well-being and sustaining creative enterprise
  • plan and complete projects, supporting them through the ups and downs of their personal roller coaster of shipping.

Having a palatable and effective way of learning these organizational skills has allowed people to bring their hardwired natures, their desired lifestyles, and the work that lights them up into alignment. They are happier, healthier and sharing their creations with the world in sustainable ways.

And that pleases me immensely. Because the world can always use more happy, healthy innovators.


On a more personal note, here are ten things about me you might find interesting…

  1. I grew up in Alaska, an only-child+latchkey-kid to white collar parents who migrated there from Indiana and Colorado, in part to be closer to family, but also for the sheer adventure of it. Work and self-sufficiency were the priorities in our home, so I’m still practicing the “have fun” and “ask for help” stuff. There was also a lot of building, crafting and collecting of hand-made things – which was awesome.
  1. My favorite thing in my childhood room was an antique secretary desk in which my art supplies were perfectly organized. (Um, yeah, keeping my room clean wasn’t an issue.) My second favorite thing was my 8-track player. I spent a lot of time rocking out and imagining what is was like to be Marie Osmond. My third favorite thing was the family tv. When I wasn’t crushing on Jim Henson, I was crushing on Carl Sagan (all praise to PBS).
  1. I spent my k-12 years finding my way into alternative learning programs to get away from the typical school experience. I am ridiculously grateful those options were available. For me, the alternative learning space that is the S4D is my way of returning the favor.
  1. I went to a granola Quaker college in the midwest that was all about questioning authority, thinking globally/acting locally, consensus decision making, and starting everything with a moment of silence.
  1. I majored in art and continued my studies at Oregon College of Art & Craft; ceramics was my first love. (In my head, the S4D looks and works a lot like OCAC.)
  1. After graduation, I moved to Portland, Oregon sight-unseen at the suggestion of a friend, and it has been my cherished home every since. (Though I have lived in the midwest and NYC, I am a West Coast Girl through and through.)
  1. I married late to a boy I met in high school. He’s a wildlife biologist turned IT whiz (because majoring in that is a lot like majoring in art), avid birder and cyclist. No kids. One dog who is now in dog heaven.
  1. We live in an old house in and old neighborhood very near the gorgeous bridge under which Hollywood loves to make television shows and Greenpeace likes to protest.
  1. I’ve slung coffee and served pastries, worked in retail and banking, delivered newspapers and cleaned houses. The best and longest jobs were at a prestigious craft gallery (an amazing education for an art student) and my years in architecture and urban planning (I loved learning how buildings and cities actually get designed and built). But my current job is my favorite. Ever since meeting Mrs. Blue in second grade, I’ve wanted to be a teacher.
  1. When I’m not working, I say I’m into art, cooking and gardening – and I do love those things! – but what I really dig when it’s time to unwind is a good game (I love games like Lumino City that transcend the medium and I’m a longtime fan of PvZ2). I dig documentaries on theoretical physics (like Jim Al-Khalili’s The Secret Life of Chaos). And right now I’m geeking out on how educators like Adam Savage, Alton Brown, Bill Nye, Adam Conover and Derek Waters – make learning fun and how communities like Joseph Gordon Levitt’s HitRECord make collaboration engaging. Such geekery is usually my best source of ideas about organization and productivity (to be honest, I haven’t read a time management text like Getting Things Done in donkey’s years).

Enough about me, let’s talk about you. At least, let’s talk about your perspective.


Here at the S4D we learn and practice the skills of organization and creativity so we can better be the change we want to see in the world. Our gaze is more outward than inward. Sustaining that outward gaze requires a healthy perspective, meaning…

You’d rather be encouraged to believe in your ideas and make them real than to believe in yourself and follow your dreams. You don’t see yourself as the project. You understand the need to put your proverbial oxygen mask on first, but that’s about fueling the work, not an exercise in self-esteem.

You can’t do your work according to other people’s values. I’m not talking about following your dream either. I never liked the inspirational value of that phrase. Besides being sentimental, it’s beside the point. Dreaming is a way of trivializing the process, the obsession, that carries you through the failure as well as the successes, which could be harder to get through. If you’re dreaming, you’re sleeping. And it’s important and imperative to always be awake to your feelings, your possibilities, your ambitions. — Martin Scorsese

You have a Blues Brothers Mission From God. Beyond not seeing yourself as the project, you are committed to something larger than yourself, and that mission is likely the source of your livelihood.

You’re over the fantasy of the rich-happy-hot, location-independent, four-hour work week (if you ever bought into it in the first place). You find enjoyment and satisfaction in your professional work and don’t see it at as something to be minimized and leveraged so you can get to the good stuff you really want to do. It would be awesome if it could be more streamlined and flexible, but you know life-hacking ain’t gonna get you there.

You’re learning to value, cultivate and hone the unique point of view that fuels your most original and useful work, without getting hung up on an identity of persona non grata. While the creative mind and the creative process are sometimes undeniably weird, you don’t define yourself by your sense of otherness.

You bring a growth mindset to resolving creative tension – that sometimes uncomfortable space between what we’ve envisioned but not yet completed – without taking project setbacks personally. When you reach Step #4 of the creative cycle – 1. This is awesome. 2. This is tricky. 3. This is crap. 4. I am crap. 5. This might be okay. 6. This is awesome. – you at least recognize it as temporary and illusory, even if you can’t always skip it altogether.

All audiences see is what you do, they don’t really know what you feel. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re lost. If it’s all based on what you are feeling, you’re in huge trouble. — Jason Alexander

It’s usually more effective to change what you do to change how you feel, rather than the other way around. Your emotions inform your decisions, but you aren’t at the mercy of your moods and sensitivities. And while you’d agree with Merlin Mann that self-awareness is the hack, you’re not a fan of the sort navel-gazing that leads to downward spirals of self-doubt and inertia.

The internet is a tool you use to better connect with what you love in the real world, rather than a virtual sanctuary or anesthetic you use to escape from it. You suspect social media is becoming less and less helpful with this, as it becomes more and more dominated by noise, consumerism, narcissism and false fronts. You like the ideas driving the Slow Web movement. You still believe in the power of the internet, but you’d like to come away from the time you spend online with more tangible and meaningful experiences.

If this sounds like you (on most days – a healthy perspective is always a work in progress), I’d love to get to know you better and help make your ideas reality  – whether we’re systems-crafting 1:1 or playing around with ideas in one of my experimental collaborations.