I admit it. I’m a huge list maker. I like organizing. And once I’ve written something down, I can banish it from stalking through my mind, putting up traffic cones as creative thoughts try to flower and mate and turn into something whimsical or weird or beautiful.
But I sometimes find myself stressed out and overwhelmed by my lists. I tend to be a bit unrealistic about how much I can get done in a day. And I often forget to leave escape hatches for my muse when I write straightforward To Do lists.
So I like to experiment with different ways to manage my time. I generally hit on alternatives to To Do lists that work well for me for a while. But I’ve realized I won’t find one method that works for the rest of my life. Because as I evolve, I need to let my time management methods evolve as well.
Lately I’ve been using what I’ll call the cloud method, and it’s working well for me these days. So I thought I’d share it here.
The cloud page above illustrates a typical week. I create one of these every Sunday night or Monday morning, capturing my most important things for the upcoming week. I make a point of leaving off anything that doesn’t have to be done this week and keeping my descriptions simple. I leave blank space to fill in extra items that come up.
The two clouds at the top cover things I’ve committed to doing every day. The green Daily cloud reminds me of self-nurturing things I must do, while the purple Creativity cloud contains anything creative that’s striking my fancy this week. I probably won’t do all of these creative items, and I may add others as the week goes on.
The orange square in the middle covers my most urgent work for the week—things that must be done. This includes my freelance writing work as well as chores (paying bills, cleaning, etc.).
I pencil in e-mails, phone calls and social networking connections I need to make in the heart at the left, erasing them when I’m done to make room for new things that come up. My other clouds remind me of errands and dates, and there are always a few items that don’t fit neatly into a cloud that I list at the bottom.
This cloud page continues to evolve throughout the week, and by Sunday, I’ve added extra items in most of the clouds and in some of the surrounding areas.
What I love about this method for now is that it reminds me of my most important goals—those contained in the top two clouds, while keeping my urgent work and other commitments clearly in focus. I look at it each morning and tweak it to fit the week as it’s shaping up.
And, because I can’t quite get rid of all the longer-term To Do items that pile up in my mind, I do keep a long list that I look at each week when I create my cloud page. I enter any priority items into a cloud, then forget about the rest of the list until the next week.
I hope sharing my cloud page helps anyone struggling with unwieldy To Do lists or other organizational methods that may be hampering your creativity. I’d love to hear how you organize your days and weeks, and how you keep your creative goals in the mix when other items sometimes yell much louder…
Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com