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.
By organizing your livelihood around organic, non-linear principles, you can finally stop blaming and fighting yourself and start doing what needs doing with ease and enjoyment.
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 July or 2016) – 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, productive.
… 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.
At the School of the Fourth Dimension you will find a fresh perspective on time-management in which your quirks aren’t problems to be eliminated, but assets to be cultivated.
You’ll develop systems customized to your innate rhythms and preferences, your work and your lifestyle 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. Counterbalancing what your work demands of you with physical, mental, emotional and spiritual inhales will be built into everything you do. And that means you can kiss chronic exhaustion goodbye.
There is more than one way to get organized. When you choose the approach that parallels the way you think, it’s much easier to create the conditions that automatically bring out your best.
It took me a long time to discover how to create those conditions.
When I became self-employed, never having seen or experienced an alternative, I unintentionally recreated the very working conditions in my own business I had hoped to leave behind with my cubicle. My plan looked good on paper, but my day-to-day reality was a mess. I was overwhelmed, overworked and downright unhappy. I was hardly living the dream.
And neither were my creative clients and colleagues. We were all making valiant efforts to calm the overwhelm, bring order to the chaos, and create the focus and direction necessary to sustain our livelihoods – but nothing worked in a lasting and comfortable way.
And that’s when it began to dawn on me: it wasn’t us, it was the systems we were modeling.
Whether working with an art gallery or architectural practice, writers, painters or performers, coaches or healers, time and again in my 25+ years in admin I’ve seen how traditional work structures fail to support the creative process and creative business.
The S4D is the result of my ongoing research and experimentation to discover the time-management and organizational principles and techniques that do support a creative business.
Since that initial aha-moment, I’ve helped hundreds of creatives develop a comfortable and confident relationship with time, get out of overwhelm, finish what they’ve been putting off, streamline their systems, make peace with maintenance, and manage a muse that doesn’t always cooperate with one’s plans – all in compassionate, down-to-earth, right-brain-friendly ways.
You can experience the same transformation. And, fortunately, in significantly less time than it took me.
The Core Curriculum
The Foundation Module
Everyone begins their studies by building a Foundation: that is, learning how to manage life at the everyday scale and master maintenance. This module is essentially Right-Brain Time Management 101.
Step 1: Better Understanding Time
Time isn’t a force acting against you. In this first step, you’ll learn just what you’re really managing.
Step 2: Better Understanding You
Radical self-acceptance is the shortest path to a streamlined life and business. In this step, you’ll explore your nature and nurture, mine your moments of rebellion, procrastination and distraction for gold, and start breaking the rules.
Step 3: Better Understanding What Needs Doing
I know how much you need and want to do with your time – from the ordinary to the lofty. In this step, you’ll determine how the different areas of your life and business support each other, so you can choose the synergistic combination that will most fuel and satisfy you.
Step 4: Shaping Your Days
You’ll next create a guiding framework for your days and weeks and begin crafting a system for tracking your to-do’s from all the information you’ve gathered so far.
Step 5: Developing Improv Skills
The future is unpredictable, no plan is perfect, and your systems are only as good as your worst day. In this step, you’ll start developing your skills of improvisation and the systems that tell you what to do when things don’t go according to plan.
Step 6: Learning Fundamental Principles
There’s more to planning than the what of a to-do list and the when of a calendar. In this step, you’ll learn all the basic elements essential to any effective system.
Step 7: Better Understanding Systems
Systems won’t turn you into bureaucrat or a machine. In this step, you’ll explore the true nature of systems and learn the steps to take to craft any kind of system from our fundamental principles.
Put It Into Practice
Once you’ve completed these steps, the program becomes something of a choose-your-own-adventure. After working through a couple exercises to help identify what most needs attention in your life or business, you’re free to focus where you like: honing the rhythms of your day, week or month; refining how you track to-dos; crafting streamlined systems for handling routine admin tasks and domestic chores; or better caring for your energy – among many other options.
Because you have access to all the tools and techniques from the outset, you’re empowered to resolve problems when they need solutions instead of waiting until your biggest challenge comes around in a scheduled program.
When you’re ready to deepen and widen your skills, you can dive into the Completion module which is about planning and preparing for the near future and mastering your creative output. This module is essentially Right-Brain Project Management 101.
The Completion module builds on your Foundation and shows you 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
- translate your vision into next immediate steps and make a graceful transition from planning to doing
- devote time to your creative projects while still keeping the money flowing and the rest of your life healthy
- 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 when it’s time to make a big change, the Evolution module will give you the additional skills and techniques you need to successfully navigate significant transitions in your business (or major life transitions that impact your business) and create the comprehensive infrastructure that will sustain your body of work and turn it into reserves of time, energy and money.
This module is essentially Right-Brain Business Development 101. It’s about befriending your Future Self of next year (and beyond) and mastering your professional growth.
The S4D is designed to grow with you.
You’ll get the help you need to meet the organizational and time management challenges you’re facing right now and the ones beyond your current horizon (without having to invest in another product or program or wait until it comes around on my teaching calendar).
Study the way you like.
The core curriculum is available as a multimedia experience in the online classroom and as PDFs you can download and study offline. Whichever you prefer, you can visit the online classroom any time to ask questions about lessons and exercises, share insights with other participants, and get guidance from me.
Set yourself up for success.
And since it can be tricky to know how to commit time and energy to your coursework before you’ve worked through the lessons that help you create the rhythms and routines of your week, the first lesson will help you create 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 gentle weekly prompts and reminders that will help sustain your momentum and progress through the core curriculum. 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.
Accelerate your progress by learning through doing.
In addition to the core curriculum lessons and discussions, the program includes an active virtual co-working space where you can get feedback and support in completing your lesson homework, and begin to apply what you’re learning to your everyday responsibilities as well. Since opening the S4D, this space has proven to be the most powerful and effective element of the program. We learn best and most from the doing and the simple, straightforward approach of this space makes the most of that. The opportunity to consistently practice applying what you’re learning to your daily life will accelerate your progress and more quickly turn the knowledge you gain from the core curriculum into the skills and experiences you want from this program.
Further fuel your work through real-time camaraderie.
The co-working space is supplemented with twice-monthly group calls to review and celebrate accomplishments, plan next steps, and maintain your focus and momentum in and out of the program.
Get personal mentoring when you need it.
In addition to these group calls, new student tuition includes one hour-long 1:1 session to help us get to know each other better and clarify your goals for the program. After that you can purchase additional mentoring sessions as needed to clarify concepts, adapt the material to the unique particulars of your life and business, and maintain progress and momentum. You’ll also have the opportunity to earn 1:1 hands-on homework, systems-crafting and project planning sessions through participation in discussions in the online classroom.
And additional resources are ready when you need them.
Lastly, you will also have access to a Resource Library which includes all my self-study programs (How To Get Out of the Quicksand of Overwhelm, To Hold in the Hand, Easier Email, and more) and information on favorite services, tools, books and other resources.
As much as I need it, I’m not sure I have time for a time management program!
Everyone at the S4D is encouraged to work at their own pace and in their own style. That said, to complete the Foundation module within 8-10 weeks, you should plan to invest an average of 2 hours of study each week. After you’ve completed the Foundation module, how much time and energy you give to developing and practicing your systems is up to you. Though keep in mind that when participating in the program, you’re also engaging in your real-world responsibilities. From this point forward, there is rarely any “homework.” The program simply augments and supports the work you would be doing anyway.
Why do you ask for a three month commitment to start?
This isn’t a quick fix. It takes time to heal your relationship with Time. There are old rules to unlearn and new skills to develop. And that takes more than information, it takes sustained practice. At least three months of it. While you will find relief and begin seeing payoffs from the start, generally speaking, people don’t find a comfortable groove until they’ve applied the principles and techniques of this program for about six months.
How many people are in the program?
The S4D is a relatively intimate space. It opened in May 2015 to a dozen participants and is slowly expanding from there until we find that lively and vibrant sweet spot this side of noisy and overwhelming.
I learn best with live group interaction, but I can’t join the calls because of a schedule conflict. Should I join the course anyway?
If you’re willing and able to create your own opportunities for connection by joining with a friend or partnering with other participants the same situation, you’ll do fine. Otherwise, people who can’t get the interaction they need tend to feel increasingly isolated in a way that slows their progress. If you don’t want to coordinate an alternative, I’d recommend that you not join the program until your schedule allows you to participate in the way that is best for you.
I’m not sure I’m a “creative.” Will I fit in?
I define “creative” by mindset rather than profession. If you’ve been nodding your head as you read this page, you’re in the right place – and you’ll be in friendly and familiar company even if your livelihood isn’t in a field like art or design.
I’m not self-employed (yet). Will this program help me be more organized at work?
If you are employed in a position with a high degree of autonomy and flexibility or balancing a part-time “day job” with something entrepreneurial, yes. However, it won’t do much to help you cope with the bureaucracies of corporate culture (or tell you how to transition into self-employment).
I’m going through a big change in my life and I want to make the most of this fresh start by getting organized from the beginning. Can this program help me do that?
If you are in the initial upheaval of a major life event like a career change, moving to a new home, birth, death, marriage or divorce, this probably isn’t the right time for an organizational makeover. You likely don’t have the bandwidth to learn new habits, let alone sufficient information to know what those new behaviors should be. Give yourself a little time to understand and adjust to your new normal before diving into how you want to organize this new phase of your life. That said, if you want to use this program to prepare for a transition that’s more than a couple months away, come on down!
I’m really struggling to get anything done and feeling more and more stressed and discouraged. Can you help me?
Sometimes it’s not a lack of organizational skills that are keeping you from doing what you need and want to do, but depression and anxiety. If you’ve been in a pervasive, non-productive funk for more than a few weeks, please talk with a doctor or therapist about what you are feeling and experiencing before making a decision about this program. Health before self-improvement, please!
What if I change my mind or need to withdraw from the program?
Because you will have instant access to my entire body of work, your tuition is NOT refundable. Please read this page carefully (and complete the application honestly – see below) to make sure the S4D is a good fit. If you are accepted, please confirm you have the capacity to make this commitment – financially and within your calendar – before purchasing this program. And it if turns out you do need to withdraw, you can still benefit tremendously from everything you can download and take with you.
I have questions not answered here.
I want you to have all the details you need to make a confident decision about whether S4D is the Right Thing at the Right Time for you. Please share your questions and concerns in the space provided at the end of the course application (see below).
A one-time payment of $300 for your first 3 months,
then $40/month for as long as you wish to continue your studies.
Over a year, that averages out to about $55/month – less than what you’re paying for your smart phone – for a $3500 program that gives you back something far more essential and valuable: your time. If you gain even just one or two incoming-earning hours per month from applying the techniques taught in the S4D (and if you do the work, you will), it will soon start paying for itself.
If you ever need or want to take a break after your first three months, you can resume your monthly tuition as long as you return to the S4D within 12 months of leaving.
Ready to stop feeling broken, boxed in, exhausted and overwhelmed?
New students are welcomed into the program several times a year. Hop on the mailing list to be notified when enrollment is open – and in the meantime get practical, actionable ideas that will help you take your first steps toward feeling more confident, relaxed, energized and satisfied with how you use your time.