How I Find Time to Create: My Best Secret for Productivity

A friend calls it my “pretty little boxes.” I start with a list – or lists. I make a list of pretty little boxes for the week, which accompanies every possible thing I can think of that I might want to tackle for the week. (At the bottom of the page of things for the week I also keep a separate list of future week things I’ll need to remember for later.)

People often ask me how I have time to write books and blogs when I have a busy job with lots of responsibilities and raise four children. It starts with the pretty boxes.

Then, from my week list, which I make first thing every Monday morning, I start every day by looking at the things that I have agreed to do for that day, or that are the most important to accomplish for that day. This article called it GTD – “getting things done.” And defines it as such:

At its core, “practicing GTD” means sorting through all of the various inputs that come at you every day — email inboxes, Twitter feeds, online chats with editors, personal conversations — and isolating every task that you have agreed to complete onto a single list. Then, you organize the list into completable chunks of action items, and you get things done.

The secret to managing your valuable time is to write everything down. Even the simple stuff. I see a lot of people try to do this in their head, and waste valuable energy in the process. Plato once fretted that writing would produce forgetfulness and only a semblance of the truth. He was wrong – when you write it down, you free your mind for actually doing the work instead of managing the tasks at hand. As the article above notes,

There’s also the weird brain-thing that happens when you put all of your open mental loops onto a single list: you literally stop thinking about them until it’s time to go to the grocery store and you open the list to see all of the groceries you need in a single place.

Make lists for everything. Then once your block of time for working comes open, decide which ones are the highest priority. This is how I manage a busy life, and carve out a little time to write, in spite of all of the demands on my time.