Easy Entry: How to Start Doing and Stop Getting Ready

It’s so easy to squander time we’ve lovingly set aside for work or play, into getting ready for work or play. Which is not the same thing at all, and I know because when it’s happened to me I felt crappy afterward. Like I’d squandered something precious, because I had.


Perhaps it goes like this: You have an hour to get something done that really means a lot to you. You start gathering your supplies, get yourself a cup of coffee to have at hand, clear some clutter away from your work area, look up some instructions you need on the internet, and maybe spend 15 minutes on Facebook in the process (oops).

Suddenly, you’ve used up 40 of those 60 minutes and feel like you haven’t gotten anything actually done. Perhaps you then leverage those 20 remaining minutes to get started (finally) on your intended task but feel sad that you didn’t get to sink into the full hour of time you’d hoped for. Perhaps you give up and go back to Facebook, start re-organizing one of the closets that tripped you up, or yield up those 20 minutes to the laundry that’s waiting for folding.

That’s a lot of getting ready, and little to no work.

This time-waste dynamic can be a form of avoidance if we are reluctant to engage in the task we claim we’re going to do. However, it can also simply be from fuzzy boundaries between time we spend doing and time we spend getting ready to do. We haven’t thought through what we will need in order to carry out out intentions, so nothing is at hand. Time + energy dissipate as we traipse about gathering and regathering and noticing another thing we need to work.

In my Tiny Pockets of Time workbook, I spend an entire section discussing how to set the stage for easy entry for yourself. One key aspect of easy entry is getting everything you will need for your pocket of time prepared ahead of time. When your work or play time starts, all that you need is at hand. You can start right away.

At its essence, dividing up the getting ready from the doing itself means distinguishing the core thing that you want to accomplish from the preparation tasks that are vital only because they clear the way to that essential task. You can start instead of prepare to start.

This distinction is especially critical if you are a busy parent because uninterrupted large chunks of time are particularly hard to come by. Best to save those large time chunks for the creative, flow-state Doing or whatever you’ve called out as most important for which only your full presence will do. Then, you can work to fit the preparations for that time into smaller or lower-quality time windows that are hopefully more prevalent.

Getting ready is necessary + important. But if you want to be effective, you can’t let it get in the way of the Doing itself, or masquerade as the Doing itself.

When you do sit down at the computer or the journal or the zabuton or the canvas or whatever the tools of your work or play might be… you can jump straight into Doing. No more getting ready to do.

And if jumping straight into truly Doing brings up intense feelings of resistance? Then you can start working to figure out what’s actually getting in your way, instead of using getting ready as a way to hide or self-soothe.

And if, preparations having been lovingly pre-handled by your past self, you find that you really can usually dive straight into Doing? Then you’re giving yourself the gift of using your time + energy with your whole heart and bringing your dreams into the world.

Is there somewhere in your life that needs more Doing and less getting ready?

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Do It First (Before the Housework)

You are allowed to write your book when the sink is full of dishes.

You are allowed to dedicate time to your own budding business and fold that laundry later.

You are allowed to do important research before you process your email inbox.

You are allowed to go for a run or take a bath, and leave the toys scattered on the floor, without an ounce of guilt.


Housework, or whatever busywork tends to grab your time + attention hardest, is not a prerequisite for access to the rest of your life. No one passed a law that you have to be “caught up” before you are allowed to do other (generally more meaningful) work… or to relax, play and enjoy yourself.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I like my own house to be (reasonably) clean. Super-cluttered or dirty spaces stress me out, make the kiddos less self-sufficient and make other tasks take longer. I don’t love cleaning + organizing, and sometimes I outright begrudge the time + energy it takes to do my share. Yet I am so very much happier when the family space we share is well-tended. I totally get that you need to find a way to make chores happen, too.

Housework needs to get done, but not always first and not always to some arbitrary high standard. The problem arises when these activities fill up whatever space is available, leaving you only crumbs of time for other things. The problem arises when you feel like housework is holding you hostage: like it always must be done first, before you give yourself permission to do other stuff that actually matters a hell of a lot more.

And I’m not talking about quality time with your kids. You already know that matters, and I know you already prioritize that over housework, often. But do you also prioritize the other things that matter to you most, outside of your role as a parent?

This isn’t only about housework, either. Any other kind of never-ending busywork can pull your focus into an eternal fight to stay caught up to an arbitrary standard– to the detriment of other things you value.

If you allow a sense of beholdenness to busywork to dictate your access to your deeper work + play, your house (or whatever) might be cleaner but your heart + mind might become emptier. And the world will miss you. The work or play that makes your heart sing? The world needs it.

What is it, outside of family time, that matters most to you? I dare you to do it first next time. Before you work on more routine + basic chores. Maybe right now.

Free yourself. Make stuff happen. Create. Play. Launch. Screw the laundry. The dishes can wait. Because, yeah, they’ll still be there. And someone, maybe you, will still need to do them… eventually. In the meantime, what project or pursuit is truly calling out to your heart?

I dare you to do it first.

What will you do first?

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When It’s Time to Change the Game

Sometimes, small changes aren’t enough.

As someone fascinated by productivity and self-improvement, I have access to a ridiculous number of productivity systems and hacks in my brain– even more if I look them up online or dig into the productivity bookshelf in my office. So sometimes my initial instinct when I sense a nagging issue is to start tweaking.


Make it more streamlined, more efficient. Be more disciplined. Come up with a better system. There’s always a better system, a smarter routine, right? Tweak, tweak, tweak.

For some problems, a tweak or a better system is just what’s needed. Sometimes starting small or changing tactics can produce enormous change or clarity. I’m actually a huge fan of this approach and often it’s perfect… when you point it at the right problem. But it’s vital to practice discernment and notice when being more efficient is not enough to create the change you seek.

The best tactics won’t help you if you lack sufficient resources or the big-picture strategy is flawed. Avoidance efficiently masquerades as action sometimes. You feel like you’re doing something because you’re working so hard, but it’s not effective. It’s fidgeting in place, lots of movement but no momentum.

Do you have a problem that’s calling to you for bigger change? Here’s where to start when small is not enough, and it’s time to go bigger.

1. Ask yourself: What is the BIGGER decision I’m avoiding with small fixes? Make a clear choice. Act on it.

2. Invest a much BIGGER influx of resources into the challenge—usually time, energy or money. Often, this means you need to drop or drastically change other commitments or patterns. Or, it could mean asking others for help. (Even if the asking is hard.)

3. What is the BIGGEST change you can imagine making to address your challenge? Consider that change… seriously. You certainly don’t have to actually make the change– it might not be the right thing at all– but allow yourself to truly think as big as possible about what could change. Then think about some choices that might fall in between your tweaking approaches and the biggest possible changes. Perhaps your path lies somewhere in that middle ground.

4. Or, paradoxically, take a BIG step back from changing anything and completely let go all of those tweaks and hacks. What happens when you stop trying to make things happen? What happens if you merely let yourself see where you are with clear eyes and make the most of that, instead? Going with the flow for a time frees up resources that you were spending trying to change. This fallow interlude can help you decide whether you actually, truly, want to do what it takes to create change. Perhaps you realize from this experiment that you don’t want any change right now, and that’s okay. Or perhaps you become clearer that you truly are ready to take bigger action.

5. Get quiet and still. Ask the part of you that’s wisest, deepest, truest, most loving and completely beyond fear – is this a time for big or small or in between or even nothing at all? What does the truest part of you already know about this challenge? How can you apply that insight to make a big difference?

Do you have a challenge that is calling you to think bigger and step outside your standard problem-solving modes? What will change your game?

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Sneaky Self-Sabotage: 8 Ways We Don’t Get Things Done

The baby is finally snoozing, her little open mouth fallen away from the boob, her arms limp. I bring her floppy little self up to my face to inhale the smell of her hair for a precious moment before laying her gently into her crib. The big kid is at preschool, my husband is at work, and I have an unknown amount of that precious commodity: Time. Will I make the most of it?


Most parents heave a sigh of relief when they sense the beginning of having some time in which we might, just possibly, take time for ourselves or accomplish something that’s not kid-related. Because we love our kids so much, and we also have so very many non-kid things we need + want to do.

Yet sometimes, we don’t do them. And it’s not always because the children interrupt. Where does the time go? Often, it’s because we find sneaky ways to sabotage ourselves instead of working or playing at our best. Here are some of the top ways busy parents tell me they sabotage themselves:

1. Treating housework like the top priority.
2. Skimping on basic self-care such as sleep
3. Skimping on FUN
4. Fuzziness about goals, projects + action items
5. Avoiding tasks that make us anxious
6. Getting sucked into time-wasters
7. Over-acclimating to interruption
8. Taking on tasks we resent

I can’t claim to be perfect at always making the most of all my time (ha!), but between my own experiences raising two kids and hearing about those of my playful productivity coaching clients, I have learned a few things about how to get things done at home while caring for small children, whether you are a stay-at-home parent,working from home or working elsewhere and trying to get things accomplished on the weekend.

Up next in the self-sabotage series, unless my muse or my baby has other plans– and in my sleep-deprived state I warn you my muse is rather capricious of late, and my baby is a baby. Anyways, hopefully up next is Held Hostage by Housework.

Do you feel good about how you use those precious windows of open time? Are you ready to overcome your own sneaky self-sabotage and do more of what truly matters? What sneaky self-sabotage methods would you like me to write about?

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7 Reasons Why I Love Short To-Do Lists

Do you ever find yourself making to-do lists, only to forget or even avoid looking at them?

On the surface, avoiding our to-do lists can feel like we are avoiding our tasks. Sometimes we even might be avoiding our tasks! But sometimes, we are just avoiding the unpleasant experience of feeling like we should be doing all of our tasks simultaneously at any given moment. In other words, we’re not avoiding our work or even the idea of organizing our work; we’re avoiding mental overwhelm + decision fatigue. Is it possible to have the best of both worlds– the useful tracking + organizing of your to-do list, without the overwhelm?

Today I’m here to share one of the most important tools in my own personal productivity toolbox– keeping daily to-do lists crazy short + easy. Because the whole point is getting (the right) work done, not making + staring at lists or improvising to the extent that we forget critical things.

How Does a Short Daily To-Do List Work?

Your overall or master to-do list should be as long as it needs to be– though I do think it’s worthwhile to keep the master list meaningful as well by decluttering it periodically.

However, many people find working directly from a true master to-do list throughout the day overwhelming. Scheduling all your tasks out by calendar can feel rigid and can pose the dilemma of how to adjust when the unexpected occurs. Writing an ambitious daily to-do list everyday can feel like a let-down because you rarely have time to get to everything on the list– so you still end up spending a lot of time prioritizing throughout the day, and can even end each day focused more on what you haven’t done than what you have done. That’s not very motivating.

Instead, I suggest you make a daily to-do list that draws from your master list which holds all your projects + tasks. That daily to-do list should be super-easy to accomplish; ideally you feel like you could easily finish the list in 25-50% or less of the time you have available. That’s the list you refer to throughout the day, the list you return to when a distraction or interruption has pulled you away from what you want to get done. Just a few strategic priorities that you know you can accomplish today. Anything else you get done is a bonus.

If you finish the list, you can go back to your master list and make another short one, focus the rest of your time on one major meaningful project, or (depending on context) just decide that you’ve gotten enough done for one day and enjoy some nice playtime or rest.

Seven Advantages of Using Short Daily Lists

1. It prevents you from endlessly scanning your big long to-do list and getting distracted and stressed out about it… every time you need to select your next task.

2. If you don’t HAVE a master to-do list, starting one, and then making your daily list short, helps you get out of the habit of making to-do lists that are temporary brain-dumps but never get finished or stay up-to-date.

3. It helps you focus on your most meaningful projects, as well as zip through the small things we all need to get done.

4. It prevents you from doing lots of prioritizing and re-prioritizing, or rigid nitpicky time-blocking, before you need to do it.

5. It helps you get back on track if you get distracted, interrupt, find yourself procrastinating or have to deal with the unexpected. Just look back at your short + simple daily list.

6. It makes you more likely to make progress– and feel good about that progress– by setting the bar super attainably.

7. You can adjust your ambitions for the reality of your upcoming day by choosing more or fewer tasks that take a long time… while still accomplishing a lot regardless of how much time you have to work.

In short, by focusing on fewer priorities and spending less time throughout the day choosing your tasks, you’ll be more productive. And less stressed.

How Do You Work With Your Daily To-Do List?

I’d love to hear about how this practice works for you if you try it out. I invite you to share your experiences on my Facebook page.

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Holding Space for What Truly Matters… Using The Calendar

It’s easy to let your schedule run your life and live going from task to appointment to chore in a way that can feel scattered, rushed + reactive. Some of the time it’s okay to swim in the river that way, letting it carry you along as you do what needs to be done in the moment.

However, that kind of go-with-the-flow approach, when not done mindfully, can lead to certain kinds of important things getting little to none of your time and attention. Things you really care about more than anything else can end up accidentally, perpetually on the bottom of your list.

What’s On the Bottom?

Some things that I’ve noticed sink down into the murk at the bottom, for myself and my clients:

  • Creativity, hobbies
  • Long-term professional development/continued education/business activities
  • Organizing tasks that take far longer if they get too behind
  • Alone time, for those who value it
  • Nurturing of marriage/partnership
  • Friendship + social support
  • Space for spontaneity
  • Making home feel beautiful
  • Eating well, exercising and other body care that can be time-consuming
  • Things that feel good and nourish the self, but seem “unproductive”
  • Important but not urgent life stuff: wellness check-ups, home maintenance, proactive financial planning and so on

There will always be more dishes in the sink, more laundry to fold, more emails to answer. Trust me, I know. Sometimes, it’s okay to let these things wait. To trust that they will still be there when you are ready for them instead of promising yourself that you’ll get to the other things as soon as you’re “caught up” on the everyday, ever-expanding effluvia of the ordinary.

You will never be caught up. What if that’s okay? What could you be doing differently if you were to decide that you are already caught up enough?

Crafting Sacred Containers

I find letting go of the little stuff easier when I create sacred containers to hold time + energy for my deeper priorities. Creating sacred containers sounds pretty spiritual, and it can be if you want to look at it that way. But I’m really talking about something that looks way more mundane: setting aside, and honoring, chunks of time on your calendar.

Making appointments for yourself. Time for the things you care about. Time when it’s unlikely that you’ll be interrupted… meaning, your kids are reliably asleep or someone else is the primary on-point person for them. Time when you have decent odds of having enough energy to make use of the time you’ve set aside. Time for you, for your non-kid priorities. For things as mundane as catching up on your filing or planning a home project, to things as magical as spending some time on your favorite hobby or catching up with a friend without side-conversations.

These appointments with yourself sanctify + make real the things that matter to you. Because when you are a busy parent, you find that time +energy for these things will only rarely arise by coincidence.

Root yourself in your own needs. Clear + hold space, and take responsibility for making true + mindful use of it when the space arrives. It’s worth it.

How Will You Create Space?

You don’t need, and indeed you should not, schedule every minute. Start small. Plan and set some time aside. Step into the space. Make the things that matter happen.

My challenge to you: Identify the project or passion that’s calling most deeply for more time, energy + love from you.

Can you add to this week’s calendar a commitment to engage in this single activity or move this one project just a bit forward? It can be an hour or two. It can be fifteen minutes. Whatever feel like the right amount of gentle stretch to you.

Make the space, and see it through. It’s an amazing gift to yourself… and to the world.

Want to learn more about Making Time? Join my e-letter to get all the latest + greatest updates on my upcoming (but not quite titled) e-course this fall about how to make time. Because I want to live in a world where we all hold space for ourselves + our deepest magic.

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