Streamlining a creative livelihood can be a real challenge.
If you follow conventional wisdom and do what everyone says you should do to become organized and get things done, you have to twist yourself into a pretzel to make it work – something so uncomfortable and exhausting you can’t keep it up for more than a week or two. Pretty soon you’re behind on email and laundry, losing hours to internet rabbit-holes, and scrambling at the last minute again. And feeling discouraged and disappointed in yourself again.
Yet it’s obvious that if you do nothing to better manage your time and systematize your work, you’ll never be able to realize your ambitions, let alone sustain them once you do.
I want to show you a way out from between that rock and that hard place.
If you’re a round-peg trying to fit into the square-hole of conventional time-management and…
… You’ve read those best-selling books and popular life-hacking blogs, bought the calendars and planners, tried the project management software and productivity apps, stocked up on folders, binders and baskets – and nothing stuck (and maybe even made things worse).
… You feel boxed in the moment you create a schedule, plan or system for yourself – and immediately rebel against it by not using it.
… Both your mind and materials are all over the place and you often can’t find what you need when you need it: Did I save that on my hard drive or in Google Docs? – and you overlook essential tasks and miss opportunities. Hello wasted time, too many apologies and a dwindling bank account.
… You feel rushed and busy – and often say: How can it be Friday already? (or April or 2017) – yet feel you have little to show for your efforts and sense you are wasting much of the time that is whizzing by.
… You can’t get to your more ambitious projects because you’re always putting out fires and trying to catch up on email or some other backlog of routine work. It’s like a hamster wheel to nowhere.
… Your to-do list feels endless and you often find yourself over-committed to activities you wish you had never said yes to in the first place, and wondering: What was I thinking? How did I not see this coming?
… You can’t get beyond thinking and working only a week or two into the future. You just can’t wrap your head around more than that – or even how to do it – even though you sense planning farther ahead would solve a lot of your problems.
… When there is a conflict between what you had planned, what’s come up that needs your attention, and your mood, you often end up going in circles – and next thing you know you’ve spent a couple hours watching cat videos on Facebook instead of doing something, anything, useful and meaningful.
… Never mind odious tasks like taxes, you aren’t even doing what you want to be doing – the work that is your livelihood and calling – and your procrastination is both frustrating and just doesn’t make any sense.
… You used to feel organized, but somehow, somewhere that ability has gotten lost along the way and you’d love to get it back.
… or: You’re just plain pooped.
You’re in the right place.
The S4D doesn’t make the usual assumptions about time management. It offers a palatable and effective form of organization that divergent thinkers doing unconventional work can understand and embrace – because it works. This is a whole-brain, whole-life solution to the real, everyday challenges faced by people in the business of inventing and making things.
You’ll bring your hardwired nature, your desired lifestyle, and the work that lights you up into alignment and craft bespoke systems that are…
Built to last. No more starting over and hoping the next tip, trick, tool or technique is The One.
Easy and compelling. Your systems will shift from something you forget to use to something you want to use.
Efficient and productive. By streamlining your systems for handling routine activities you will free a truckload of energy you can devote to the creative work that really lights you up.
Harmonious and synergistic. The continual sense that when you are doing one thing you should be doing something else will become a thing of the past. You will be able to give that blog post the attention it deserves without the nagging thought that you really should be answering email or doing the dishes instead.
Relaxed and satiating. There will be enough time to do what needs doing and you can knock off for the day or the week knowing you’ve done enough. No more late-night or weekend overtime (unless you’re high on an idea or opportunity and want to put in the extra hours).
Flexible and resilient. Good systems aren’t rigid or bureaucratic. Even on days when things don’t go according to plan – whether that’s the common cold or the proverbial call from Oprah – you’ll have the improvisational skills to adapt to changing circumstances and maintain your momentum without dropping any essential balls.
Kind to your Future Self. You’ll be able to reap the rewards of planning and preparation without worry that you’re cutting yourself off from opportunities or locking yourself into commitments you’ll later be unhappy with and unable to follow through on.
Fueled by desire, not willpower. I can’t promise you’ll never procrastinate or be distracted again, but you will know how to refocus your attention where it belongs without bullying yourself into action.
And just plain fueled. Good time management comes down to good energy management. Maintaining a healthy body, mind and perspective will be built into everything you do. And that means you can kiss chronic exhaustion goodbye.
If you are a creative whose efforts to get organized aren’t working, here’s what I most want you to know: it’s not you, it’s your systems. It’s time to stop blaming yourself and fighting with convention, and start using your innate curiosity and imagination to design a personalized rhythm for your life that allows you to do what needs doing with confidence, ease and enjoyment.
• • • • •
Step #1: Escape the Quicksand of Overwhelm
Responding to overwhelm by trying to “get organized” is like trying to prevent a fire after it has ignited. This handbook is the missing set of instructions – the stop, drop and roll – for getting yourself out of overwhelm and back on solid ground.
[ revised edition coming Summer 2017 ]
Once you’re back on solid ground – or if you’re already there – the next step is establishing the solid, stable Foundation that makes innovative work possible. That is, learning how to manage life at the everyday scale and master maintenance.
• • • • •
Step #2: Shaping Your Days
Time is not a force to be managed, but a dimension to be shaped. Sculpting Time is all about composition – the skillful arrangement of elements – something as a maker you already understand better than you realize. Organizing your time is just a matter of mastering this particular medium.
In this course, you’ll come to…
- Better Understand Time. You cannot effectively organize something you can’t define. In this step, you’ll learn what it is you’re really working with.
- Better Understand Yourself. It’s more efficient and effective to change what you do than to change who you are. In this step, you’ll name the innate traits and values your systems need to accommodate and the societal conventions you can ignore – and start ignoring them.
- Better Understand What Needs Doing. Your life is an ecosystem in which everything you do is connected and supports everything else, has value and helps you to feel whole. In this step, you’ll begin to synthesize the synergistic combination of projects and routines that will fuel and satisfy you within your capacity.
With that information-gathering phase complete, you’ll next create a doable, flexible and enjoyable weekly rhythm and craft a corresponding to-do list system. As you put that rhythm and system into practice, you’ll also learn how to review the week past and use that feedback to plan the next. Because a regular practice of listening to the feedback automagically makes us more efficient and effective.
And since the future is unpredictable, your muse can arrive when you least expect it, no plan is perfect, and your systems are only as good as your worst days, you’ll also learn how to balance planning skills with improv and triage skills so you can remain healthy, calm, focused and productive even when things don’t go according to plan.
Lastly, once you’ve established a stable weekly rhythm and crafted the routine systems that support your life at the everyday scale, the final lesson walks you through expanding on what you’ve learned to plan and work at the monthly, quarterly and annual scale.
I don’t want this to become yet another course you buy, but don’t follow through on. I’ve been there too many times myself and it is the schpoopy. So, the course opens with creating a simple, doable plan for engaging with the program without needing to know any time management techniques first. You can also opt into a series of weekly prompts and reminders that will help sustain your momentum and progress.
“By putting the lessons into action, I went from 3,000 words written in eight weeks to 16,000 words written in three weeks. (Plus I attended seven more taekwondo classes than usual, wrote two reports, began editing a novel, and completed a ton of other work.) The changes in my perception of time are astounding. I’m getting more done than ever, yet my time feels expansive, like I have more time than ever. I’m not even finished with the course and it has already more than paid for itself. It is transformative. I highly recommend it.” – CH, writer
“Thank you so much for this course. It has been so much more than I anticipated. I was looking for a way to manage my time that WORKED and a way to get over the procrastination, it-never-seems-to-get-doneness. Got that. But what I didn’t expect was the absolute subtle shift in how I regard time itself. It is now a container rather than a driver. And shaping a day around how I work/what I need is so obvious and basic, and yet changes the very fabric of my life. Thank you. I have enthusiastically recommended this course to friends and colleagues. I so look forward to continuing to learn from you.” – LS, seo consultant | more raves
Ready to begin mastering this medium?
You can shape Time to your liking. Time can become a space you can navigate with confidence. A space where doing what needs doing is more joy than struggle. A space that feels as comfortable as your favorite clothes and as satisfying as an exquisitely prepared meal. A space where there is some space. A space where you can be yourself and still be successful.
DIY & 1:1 study options coming Summer 2017.
Want to help me bring this course alive? Join the current experiment!
• • • • •
Step #3: Fuel
We tend to think of our creative work as the main event. But it’s the ordinary work of everyday life that maintains the healthy body, mind and perspective, the healthy environment and relationships, that make that work possible in a sustainable way. It’s the real priority.
Of the synergistic combination of activities that make up the rhythm of your week, many will be routine forms of maintenance. Having a reliable, streamlined and effective approach to everything from sleep, nutrition, hygiene and movement to housekeeping, money management, family activities and leisure will greatly stabilize your life and improve your well-being on multiple levels. And it’s only on this stable Foundation that you are able to build a body of high-quality creative work.
At heart, Fuel is Systems Crafting 101. In this course, you’ll come to…
- Better Understand Systems. Systems won’t turn you into bureaucrat or a machine, but only if you follow the principles of the organic systems found in the natural world. Your first step is a shift in perspective.
- Make Peace with Maintenance. If you have an adversarial relationship with the ordinary work of everyday life, this step will pave the way for a more harmonious one.
- Expand Your Design Skills. There’s more to organization than the when of a calendar and the what of a to-do list you learned in Shaping Your Days. This lesson is a comprehensive exploration of the basic design elements essential to designing effective systems you want to use.
- Get Crafting! With that fresh perspective and clear understanding, there’s nothing left to do but get busy organizing and streamlining your essential sustaining routines – both personal and professional. And if a system doesn’t work as expected or stops working? There is a guide for trouble-shooting and updating your systems. Because, of course, they will need to grow and evolve as you grow and evolve.
With experimentation and practice, over time, these individual systems will collectively become the comprehensive infrastructure that sustains your body of work and turns it into reserves of time, energy and money.
“I am in such a better place business-wise than I was just a couple months ago and I absolutely credit Cairene. I’ve shifted from seeing and experiencing both Time and Systems as things to struggle against to resources meant to support me. And that’s a pretty huge shift! I devoted the summer to getting my business systems built and stabilized, and now I have these underpinning supports that I know will serve me as I continue to grow. My systems feel so organic and are clearly ongoing processes I’ll continue to dance with. I adore Cairene and her willingness to explore, to experiment, to keep delving. She is an inspiration and a brilliant teacher. I feel like I have such great foundations and systems in place thanks to her and I highly recommend her programs.” – DW, spiritual advisor
“Making peace with maintenance has been deeply healing for me, especially understanding it as essential to the rest of my goals and part of achieving those goals. I have been feeling so much more loved by simply taking the time to care for myself through cooking, putting laundry away, changing the sheets & bath linens, and balancing my checkbook. This course is making a huge difference in my life.” — PP | more raves
Good time management comes down to good energy management.
Time is of no use to you if you don’t have the energy to do anything with it – a truth you already understand from the experience of the common cold. Get and stay fueled by crafting the routine systems and habits that stabilize and sustain you and your work.
DIY & 1:1 study options coming Summer 2017.
Want to help me bring this course alive? Join the current experiment!
• • • • •
Step #4: Project Front Burner
Once you’ve established the stable weekly rhythm and crafted the routine systems, you’re ready build on that Foundation, deepen and widen your skills, and learn how to plan and prepare for more distant future and master your creative output.
At heart, Project Front Burner is Project Management 101. This course shows you how to…
- Choose a focus. You likely have more potential projects on your back burner than time and energy to complete them. This first step shows you how to narrow and prioritize your options without feeling like you’re orphaning your best ideas.
- Establish reserves. Projects are best prioritized by the ways they build on each other and create momentum, buffers and freedom – and strengthen your Foundation so you can take your work to even greater heights.
- Create a project plan. Once you’ve chosen your front burner project, the course walks you through the ten steps of crafting a doable and resilient project plan. You’ll learn how to translate your vision into next immediate steps and make a graceful transition from planning to doing.
- Practice the Art of the Debrief. Once your project is complete, before pausing for some well-deserved celebration and recovery (huzzah!), the final lesson describes how to review your experience. This review helps you master technique, avoid reinventing the wheel and repeating mistakes, and adds to your understanding of how you work best so you can apply what you’ve learned to better preparing for future projects.
You will learn how to…
- Orchestrate a project with a lot of moving parts, even if some of them are totally new to you, without getting overwhelmed by your learning curve, mired in details, or sucking all the fun out of your idea.
- Proactively prepare for the inevitable twists and turns and ups and downs of any project so you can stay in action and avoid the pitfalls of procrastinating on the hard parts, cramming at the last minute, fussing over details, refusing to delegate, or getting distracted by busy work, interruptions or the seduction of other shiny ideas.
- And devote time to your creative projects while still keeping the money flowing and the rest of your life healthy.
“I want to give a huge shout out to the project planning process. Man, did it work like a charm! By working through the planning worksheets, it was easy to see what did and didn’t fit the scope of the project, break the project down into phases and steps, and set boundaries on how much time to devote to it. Those worksheets came in handy later when I needed to add tasks that I hadn’t thought of in the planning process or discovered where my initial assumptions were wrong (and not always in a bad way). And even though I didn’t look at any of the worksheets besides the phases/task list after I created them, the foundation was there and having it thought out and documented was incredibly helpful. I ended up with a very complete list of what I actually did (as opposed to what I thought I would have to do). And now I have a super-detailed roadmap of what needs to happen and when if I undertake this particular project again – which it is entirely likely I will, since it turned out to be a pretty excellent project!” – EM, coach for moms
“I used to think I would have to deal with the fear and then I could begin the project, but by just starting and continuing to show up, it has been replaced by engagement and positivity. My muscle memory is getting the hang of this and I feel a real breakthrough coming on. Thanks so much for your class. It’s been so fantastic!” – LF, architect
“After finishing my book proposal, I still use the Back Burner stuff all the time. I’ve tweaked here and there for ongoing projects and it works great. Thank you.” – SA, writer, editor & researcher | more raves
If you are ready to plan for a more distant horizon and bring your ideas to completion, join me Fall 2017 and take your project from back burner to done.
tentative date: September 18 – December 7 | tentative tuition: $450-$750ish
hop on the mailing list to receive announcements of details
NOTE: Step #2/Shaping Your Days and Step #3/Fuel are prerequisites for this course.
(Alums who have completed Foundations or earlier versions of the S4D program are warmly invited to join.)