Nourishing Your Creative Thrive-Times

Time, energy, attention. Really at the bottom of everything. The biggest reason why something gets done, or doesn’t.

Focus. Your magic beam of creativity, or death. Your world is either expanding or contracting. Depending on how you wield your light sabre of focus.

Productivity. For me, being productive is about optimizing processes and systems in my life & biz that help me maximize my TEA + FOCUS.

Let’s have TEA, shall we?

If you haven’t read Charlie Gilkey’s Unconventional Guide to Freelancing, well… you should.

Personally, one of my biggest opportunities for growth and learning has been the entrepreneurial self-scheduling bit. Beyond just organizing my life & business for sane living, Charlie has also helped me honor my own creative thrive-times, or peak periods of my day where I’m aware I’m at my most creative and do my best work.

…so many of us fill that time with stuff that shouldn’t be in there. We’re checking email first thing in the morning when we’re at our peak. We jump on social media when we should be writing or developing a marketing plan or an application. We are picking up kids right during our peak.

What we often don’t pay enough attention to is the fact that we can’t do creative work very well when we’re off-peak, but we can do a lot of the other business and life maintenance work when we’re off-peak.

Perhaps the biggest practical implication of thinking in terms of TEA rather than time is that it can guide you to recalibrate your schedule and determine when you’re booked. [… or when to create!]

Knowing your own thrive-times is key to living happy. Setting things up to nourish you and nurture your creative thrive-times is strengthening for you & your biz. 

It’s for you and about you. Really. All for you. If we could just get that. Instead of turning it into a bunch of should’s & have-to’s…

Leveraging technology to improve your creative thrive times.

Several weeks ago I implemented a system in Gmail for automatically responding to client emails using a Gmail lab called “canned response.”

By creating a “client” filter in Gmail, each time I receive an email from a client, the following message gets automatically sent to them.

Hello Lovely You,

To support my creativity, productivity and the fine art of balancing work & play, I now check/respond to email at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays. You can expect to receive a fuller reply to your email message within 24-48 hours.

Also it’s very unlikely I’ll answer my phone unless our call is scheduled. You may still try me and if I pick up… YAY for you. If I don’t, you’ll know why. If you’d like to set a chat up, you can do that at

You and your email message are very important to me. And, I value time, energy and attention. It’s why anything happens (or doesn’t). Hopefully, you understand how this approach will result in a more focused & creative contribution to our relationship and the service I may be providing you at this time!

Cheers to our rich, rewarding life and work balance in the new entrepreneurial paradigm.

With appreciation & gratitude,

Really, an automated email reply? Yup, more here.
Web Presencing For Women

In an earlier post, I explain how to map all your other email accounts into one, unified email box with Gmail using POP3 or IMAP. However, in order to get canned responses to work, I got to un-do all of the POP3-ing and simply forward emails from Godaddy (the service provider who manages my other email accounts) into my main Gmail account.

That was over a month ago. The question today is, am I really using the system the way I planned? Am I really only checking my Gmail at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m?  And, am I getting back to my most important emails within my 48-hour time frame?

This part has been challenging. In the beginning… like, the day after implementing the canned response lab, my productivity looked pretty much the same as it did the day before.  Still using my Inbox replying to client emails during “non-reply” times (at 6 a.m. or 9 p.m.), pretty much defeating the point of the my automated message; and allowing my personal self-care boundaries for nourishing my creative thrive-times to collapse. Fundamentally, my Inbox was in charge of me.

Until yesterday morning.

Hedge your creative thrive-times with ActiveInbox.

ActiveInbox is a free ‘better Gmail’ plugin (also for Google Apps), that installs into Chrome & Firefox, which helps you manage your email tasks and projects, and do faster email. There is no new system to learn, it just uses Gmail labels. Check out ActiveInbox here.

Using ActiveInbox’s fancier Gmail labels, I created two new labels called Action-10 a.m. & Action 4 p.m. Now, if my Gmail tab is open and I’m babysitting it like I’m wish I wasn’t, I quickly scan my incoming emails with the following practice.

  1. If I can answer it in under 2-minutes, I do it. Using another browser extention called Boomerang, I can schedule the email to get sent to my client later or at a specified time.
  2. If it can’t be answered in under two minutes, I apply one of the new labels (10am or 4pm) and archive the message so it’s outta my inbox. Applying the ActionInbox label essentially marks the email like a “task” which I can review from the new “ActiveInbox” sidebar in my Gmail left-hand navigation. I can manage, edit, assign the email to a project and when I’ve completed the assignment/task related to the email, I mark it ‘finished’ and it’s removed from my “to-do” list in ActiveInbox.

(full screen image)

My current inbox now looks like this. Yes, just one email (with the Preview Pane Lab enabled). If you don’t know what a Gmail lab is, I’ve written a post about the 7 Gmail labs you should be using. And this morning, I added Preview Pane to the list after I did a David Blaine on my Inbox thanks to ActiveInbox.

(full screen image)


I’m already feeling 1000% better.

I’ve layered in another system. On top of some already-working-for-me systems & processes in place in my business. That’s how you do it. One layer or piece or bite, at a time.

Now that I have a system in place to organize my shizzle and one that helps me create and honor my personal creative thrive-times, I can get on to doing what I love… helping women on the mission of sharing their creativity with the world.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s