On the rare occasions when I try to answer the question “Where do you see yourself in five years?” (rare since I would never have predicted being where I am now five years ago, so how can I make even an educated guess about what will rock my socks five years hence?), part of the fantasy usually includes owning some sort of brick-and-mortar co-working space for creatives that also offers classes in right-brain time management and other support services.

In synthesizing all the feedback I gathered in May, I had the liberating thought that maybe I had already created a virtual version of such a space without realizing it.

Because, yes, it’s true that the S4D is a course with an ongoing co-working element. But it would be equally as true to describe it just as I do that brick-and-mortar fantasy: a co-working space for creatives that also happens to offer guidance in right-brain-friendly organization so you can actually do what you came to the space to get done.

The unexpected brilliance of it is that it actually works both ways. You just need to know how it needs to work for you.

And that brings us to our next Really Big Hint: how to answer the question “Why this, now?”

Besides not being realistic about our capacity to add new things to our schedules, not knowing the answer to this question before we click that “buy now” button is the number one reason why we start educational programs we don’t finish.

So here’s how to get clear on whether or not the S4D (or anything else that is tempting you) is the Right Thing at the Right Time.

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Step 1: Name the problem. What needs doing right now? What do you want? And what’s getting in the way of doing or having that? Be specific. Is what’s getting in the way a lack of organizational or time-management skills? Or are those skills necessary stepping stones to be able to address what is challenging you right now? If so, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Get crystal clear about what letting that problem go unsolved is costing you: in everything from lost sleep, to lost opportunities, to lost income.

Step 3: Give yourself a clear picture of success. Once the problem is solved, what will you be able to do that you can’t do now? What will be happening that you aren’t currently experiencing? Again, be specific.

Understanding exactly what not addressing the problem is costing you and what the payoff will be is the fuel that will keep you going through the hard parts. There is a prize worth keeping your eyes on. If you can name it and plug into it when things get tough, you’ll be fine. (Dig deep here. This can’t be what you should want. It has to be what you really want even if it seems weird or selfish. In your heart of hearts, what pain will this make go away or what dream will this make possible that you want badly enough to do the work?)

Step 4: Know how this solution is different from what you’ve tried before. This isn’t your first time-management rodeo. You’ve tried a lot of stuff. The question is: were those investigations and experiments genuinely the wrong tools and techniques (or perhaps the right techniques in the wrong package)? Or are you just hopping from one program to another (or the next best-selling book, popular life-hacking blog, latest productivity app, or trendy planner) hoping for some effortless transformation?

In addition to being overly optimistic about your capacity to take on something new, this is another form of magical thinking: that there are “ten easy steps” to achieving anything. Particularly if you aren’t the sort of person who can follow formulas or use things straight “out of the box.”

There are some things that are genuinely different about the S4D.

As it says in the brochure: this is unconventional time management for people who aren’t machines. I teach flexible, organic, non-linear principles that are right-brain friendly and never assume we are all paragons of self-discipline who never have a bad day. In short: this is a place where you get to be human – a rare opportunity in my experience.

Though the program is built around the experience of self-employment, it’s really about your whole life. The notion of “work/life balance” is misleading and the distinctions between personal and professional often aren’t useful. It’s the personal that sustains and makes possible the professional. And I find it’s the hiccups in the personal realm that are most disruptive to one’s professional work, not the other way around.

I don’t care how much money you want to make. The S4D is not a Go Big or Go Home program. What I do care about very much is that you feel satisfied with how you use your time. That will require some funding, mainly because good time management comes down to good energy management and money is one of several essential forms of energy. But it doesn’t require truckloads of the stuff. (As research has discovered, our day-to-day satisfaction increases up to about $75k/year, but more than that – meh, not so much.) If you want fame and fortune, this program will help make that possible. If you define success differently, this program will help you achieve that too.

This is about satiation and spaciousness, not crowded efficiency. Long-time member Lisa Gillispie said it better than I ever could:

“I want to share a note of appreciation for you Cairene and all you have created. As I dive into some more ‘businessey’ type books (which I think may have helpful info, but I suspect most of it is already right here in a much more pleasant experience), I am once again reminded of how little people respect cycles and rhythm, and how irritating I find this whole stereotypical male productivity conversation that involves making every. single. minute. matter. so you can DO! MORE! It’s a plague on our society as far as I’m concerned and one that I’m still extricating myself from. So thank you so much for bringing such a respectful and mindful, and dare I say honoring of the feminine, approach to doing our work in the world.”

Learning how to be efficient and effective in what you do in ways that leave you feeling confident in your abilities and create spaciousness in your life is far more important to me than your productive output. Again, you’re a human being, not a factory. The only question is this: are you satisfied by how you’re using your time?

But none of that makes the work we do here magically, effortlessly transformative.

From a learning point of view: there are new perspectives to be gained and knowledge transformed into skills through sustained practice. From a mindset point of view: there are still choices to be made and realities to make peace with. In other words, there’s work to do on multiple levels. And while the program brings ease to that process, it doesn’t make it easy.

Which brings us back to knowing how this is different from what you’ve tried before.

If you’re confident that solving your problem requires a different perspective along with different information, tools and techniques – come on down.

If it’s not so much about the tools and techniques, but wanting to put it all together in a community that shares your values (you know, so you don’t drift back into that hyper-productivity-earn-six-figures-by-next-month mindset) – come on down.

If meeting your challenges is more about needing some structure, support and accountability to follow through with what you know you need to practice and make peace with, yet resist – come on down.

But if you’re secretly hoping that this time – this! this will be the magic wand that will make the necessity of making choices and devoting time and energy to planning and preparation go away! – then this is not different from what you’ve tried before. And it will be a waste of your time, energy and money.

How do I know? Because I have a much-too-long history of making the same mistake with marketing programs.

I feel about marketing probably much the way you feel about time management. As a Quick Study, I would have much preferred it to be one of the things I picked up quickly, but no such luck. I have to study, practice and experiment. A lot. Mainly because I’m not the sort of person who can follow formulas or use things straight “out of the box.” Also, because it is inherently difficult. And I wish opportunities to study and practice weren’t such a wild-west of options where it’s hard to know what you’re getting and even harder to find mentors who share your values. And I wish the things that I have figured out didn’t take so much time to carry out. I wish, I wish, I wish…

Needless to say, all that wishing clouds my judgment. In moments when I’m feeling most challenged by my learning curve and discouraged by my results, I’m very susceptible to clicking that “buy button” in the desperate hope that the next guru will grant my wishes. I want someone to tell me that what is true isn’t. I want the secret. I want it to be easy.

But then I peruse that guru’s first lesson and quickly realize that it’s just their take on the canon of standard techniques. There are essential basics you have to know and do to market yourself effectively that pretty much everyone agrees on. They are challenging. They take time and practice. The truth is still the truth. And so I eventually drop it like I’ve dropped most every marketing program I’ve started before.

(If you don’t relate to marketing, substitute fitness. I could also say all the same things about that too.)

There was a time when all the information and techniques were new to me and I needed more than one perspective to understand them properly. Maybe you’re in a similar place.

But now I’ve realized I have more than enough information. I have a hard drive full of information. What I need is sustained engagement in supportive environments that mirror my values. That could be a classroom setting, a forum or private coaching. I can get what I need, so long as I know what I’m after. I know what problem I need to solve. And that problem is as much about recalibrating my expectations of what is required to support a sustainable business and putting down my ego so I can engage in proper practice, as it is about developing specific skills. Maybe you’re in that place alongside me.

A lot of the Go Big voices out there put a lot of effort into helping people imagine bigger dreams for themselves. But in my tribe, I find it’s not so much limiting beliefs about what’s possible that hold us back, but our distorted beliefs about what’s necessary to realize those dreams that get in our way.

Yes, you’ll find information, tools and techniques in the S4D. A lot of them, in fact. I’m very thorough. But the real juice of the program is the opportunity to consistently engage with the challenges of using your time well: not just becoming skilled in technique, but also making peace with what is necessary in a palatable way.

Again, whether you need a classroom that has a co-working space or a co-working space that has a classroom – you’re covered. There’s a lot here for you. Just no magic wands.

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I’m curious: what do you wish wasn’t true about organization and time management?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below or send me at note at hello [at] thirdhandworks [dot] com. I’d love to hear from you.

peace and love,
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