Map your day for creativity, not urgency

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Have you ever ended your day feeling like you’ve been busy but haven’t actually achieved anything meaningful? You’re not alone.

You know what you need to work on, but by the end of the day you feel flustered, lost and unsatisfied. You feel like you didn’t hit the mark.

Days without maps

Hey, don’t get me wrong. A weekend without a map of your time is a lovely freeing experience. It lets you just be. Embrace the lack of structure.

When you’ve got an intention to work, working without a map of your day leads you in circles. This causes stress and lack of fulfilment. You end up feeling overwhelmed and not really progressing on what was really important. Or worse yet, you didn’t get to tap into your creativity.

Without a structured plan, you might find yourself drifting from one task to another, never fully immersing in the work that truly matters to you

There’s also the opposite approach: to get lost in your creativity but then never finding the structure for practicalities. This is no good, because you’re being owned by your creativity instead of being a channel for it.

On not planning every minute

Cal Newport creates time blocks to give structure to his day, accounting for every minute in a “map” or timeline of the day.

He advocates for doing this flexibly, and adapting your time block plan as your day progresses.

While I can appreciate the value of having your ideal day laid out in front of you and “planning every minute of your work day”, this does also lead to stress.

Since minutes are highly measurable, you end up in a reality that’s always pushing out past the boundaries of your plan.

Yes we have to deal with realities of agreed meetings and appointments. Yes we should create space for our most creative projects.

Yet, creative work and time are strange bedfellows.

On not structuring your day on urgency

The Eisenhower matrix gives us an effective four-quadrant framework to classify work:

  1. Urgent and Important
  2. Not Urgent but Important
  3. Urgent but not Important
  4. Not urgent and not Important

There are methodologies for prioritising your quadrants. We’re advised to spend as much time as possible on what’s ”not urgent but important” (quadrant 2), because it’s what can slip otherwise. In itself this is true: what’s important often doesn’t get done since it’s not urgent.

We’re advised to delegate what’s ”urgent but not important” (quadrant 3), yet I find it a stretch that stuff that’s urgent can typically be delegated.

There is a tension here between urgent and important. It’s a negotiation. And unfortunately urgency has the trump card in this matrix. Your work is prioritised ultimately by urgency.

If your underlying framework is based on urgency, you’ll be stuck on urgent things, fighting fires.

A map that prioritises creativity, not urgency

Imagine having a clear, concise map for your day that keeps you focused on your creative goals while still handling necessary tasks efficiently.

To break the cycle of urgency, let’s go with Dan Koe’s Build / Publish / Maintain framework. This approach ensures that your day is structured around building what’s important, rather than always being short-changed by urgency.

Here’s the map:

  1. Build
  2. Publish
  3. Maintain

That’s it.

By following this simple map, you’ll prioritize your most important creative work, feel like you’ve accomplished more, and reduced the stress of constantly reacting to urgent tasks.

Imagine ending your day with a sense of fulfilment, knowing you’ve dedicated time to what truly matters, whilst also maintaining the projects that need to be taken care of.

Make a map as small as possible

Literally, make the map as small as possible.

I’ve tried mapping every moment of my day, mapping twenty activities.

That boils down into not doing the really creative work.

Don’t fill a full page, if you can keep your map or table the size of a half page.

Build and Create

Let’s make “build” synonymous with “create”. There’s subtlety to address another day between private creativity and building a business. In this case let’s allow for creativity in the process of building something.

Build / Publish / Maintain is a map for your day. It’s a framework.

It’s not based on tracking each minute, although Koe does have timeframes in mind for each block such as an hour or 1.5 hours.

Draw it out on paper, every single morning. Divide your page into three parts down the page.

Put your longterm project in “Build”. This is where your long-term creative efforts will be best spent.

Put your publishing activities in “Publish”. Because whilst we need private creative time, we need to share our journey.

Put your “must do urgent things” in “Maintain”. Yes, it’s at the end of your day. We’re putting urgency in its place.

Here’s your challenge: Start your day with a simple three-part map. Every morning, take a few minutes to outline your Build, Publish, and Maintain tasks. Watch as your productivity and creativity soar. Do this every single day you intend on creating.


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