How a "Sniggly Day" Can Help You Get Things Done - Christine Kane

Time management is tricky.

And I don’t think it’s because we lack self-discipline or because we’re unfocused.

I think it’s because of the many types of mindsets it takes to do the varied things in our days.

It’s one mindset, for instance, to write a blog. It’s another to create piece of art – a painting, a song, a poem, or a recipe. It’s still another to make a cold call, approach a gallery, submit our poems, or review our finances. Many of us are constantly walking the line between our creative selves and our business selves. And by the time we get through the high-priority items, it’s hard to determine which of our random leftover to-do’s will take precedence.

It’s true that there are some great time management techniques out there. Lots of them work well. When you discipline yourself – even a little bit – you’ll see results. Like the benefits of organization and de-cluttering, there are many rewards that come from managing your time well.

However, I’ve learned that balance is crucial. It’s possible to go overboard when it comes to Getting Things Done. After all, I’m not a CEO. I’m an artist. I do myself a disservice by ignoring my natural inclinations and creative approaches to Getting Things Done. If I push myself to “stay on task” for too long, I can become bored and uninspired.

So, as an experiment, I created “Sniggly Days.”

What’s a Sniggly Day?

A Sniggly Day is to Getting Things Done what the Junk Drawer is to Personal Organization. It’s a designated catch-all day for batching all the random stuff you have to do – and then doing that stuff in a way that feels fun and good to you. The stuff itself doesn’t matter. It’s how you let yourself do it that matters. (Details on that below.)

What’s a Sniggly?

Just as the contents of your junk drawer probably differ from the contents of my junk drawer, your Snigglies will be different from mine.

A Sniggly is anything random that sits on your virtual to-do list and keeps tapping you on the shoulder to remind you that it needs to get done. Sometimes, it’s an odd thing – like checking the air pressure on your tires – and there’s nothing else to batch with it. In the same way the junk in your junk drawer doesn’t have a “home,” Snigglies are often the activities that we don’t like to do, or we don’t know how to match them with any other activities on our lists, so we put them off.

How to Have a Sniggly Day in 5 (or 6) Easy Steps

#1 – Designate a Sniggly Day in advance.

This is important. You don’t have to schedule it far in advance. But you do have to declare it. Otherwise, it’s tempting to just drift in and out of the day not really committed to anything you’re doing. This is worse than getting nothing done, and wrecks the spirit of the day. Claim your Sniggly Day!

#2(a) – Write a brain-drain list.

Make a list of your Snigglies. Bathing the dog. Doing your nails. Buying bird seed. Getting your new jeans hemmed. Ordering that book from amazon. Looking into the yoga class. Cleaning off your computer desktop. No item is too insignificant for this list. That’s the whole point of a Sniggly Day. In fact, I never allow myself to write songs or blogs on a Sniggly Day. It’s strictly reserved for Snigglies.

#2(b) – DON’T write a Brain-Drain list.

If you really want to have a Sniggly Day in the most decadent way possible, then don’t make a list at all. (This is like adding glitter and old postcards to your junk drawer.) Start wherever you feel like it. Fold the clothes, then write a thank you, and then wash the dog, etc.

#3 – Go at your own pace and revel in your randomness until you’re on a roll.

This is the main thing about Sniggly Day. This is why I love it.

It’s not so much what you do, but how you do it. It’s a full day of unscheduled getting-things-done bliss.

So you begin with cleaning out the refrigerator. In the middle of that, you realize that you need soy milk. You go to the store to get soy milk. While you’re out, you pick up your mail. This reminds you to pay a few bills when you get home. You pay the bills. Then while you’re at the computer, you feel like cleaning up your computer desk top. This makes you hungry for lunch, which reminds you to go back to the refrigerator and finish cleaning it out.

Let your intuition guide you from one thing you feel like doing to the next thing you feel like doing. It’s like having a conversation with your best friend – the kind that drifts all over the place, but eventually returns to the point.

#4 – Make your day a Ridicule-Free Zone.

Those of us who can Get Things Done in this way rarely allow ourselves to do it with abandon. We’re so accustomed to conforming to everyone else’s schedules and figuring out the most efficient way of doing things, that we don’t delight in the wisdom and natural order in our creative approach. Certainly, if you read most of the uber Zen time management blogs out there, you’ll find this random way of doing things is abhorred by many. Don’t play this game. Not on a Sniggly Day!

#5 – Get a sense of accomplishment.

Cross things off your list as you do them. OR, if you didn’t make a To-Do list, create a “Ta-Dah!” List. A “Ta-Dah!” List (a la Julia Cameron) is a list you create after you’ve gotten things done.

#6 – [optional] Save one tough thing for later in the day.

Sometimes I do a Sniggly Day just so I can create the momentum to complete something big I’m resisting. This is purely an optional step, and I don’t recommend that you try it on your first Sniggly Day.

I know this step is counter to all the typical time-management advice that tells you to get the biggest scariest thing done first. However, on a Sniggly Day, there’s a reason for saving the big thing for last. When you’ve set aside a day to do things in the way you intuitively and naturally do them, you’ll generate happiness, rather than fatigue. At some point, you can ask yourself, “Are you ready to head upstairs and pay the bills and reconcile your accounts?” It might take a little discipline, but if you’re anything like me, the self-acceptance will foster a lighter heart, and the challenging activity will most likely become less challenging.

Why Sniggly Days Work

The idea of a Sniggly Day might sound a little stupid. If it does, I certainly understand. Lots of what I write about here is the stuff I’ve invented to teach myself to love the things I used to hate: Business, Marketing, Discipline, Thinking Clearly, etc. Sometimes I think it’s all about tricking the ego into taking action it would ordinarily resist.

However, Sniggly Days work for me for three reasons:

1. A Sniggly Day is a vacation day.

It’s a vacation from your own brain. By defining the day in advance, you give your perfectionist brain a day off. You can then enjoy getting things done in an easy and relaxed manner. You’re delighting in your process, not just in a list of to-do’s. You’re also giving yourself a day just to get things done – not to get things done AND work on your novel, write a song, be a great mother or throw a pot. It’s all about the Snigglies.

2. A Sniggly Day is a permission slip.

Now that we’re adults, it’s up to us to give ourselves permission slips to have a day off or give ourselves a break. In this case, it’s a permission slip for your Taskmaster Productive Self to chill out and let things get done slowly. And it’s a permission slip for your Creative Self to recognize that Getting Things Done doesn’t have to be an awful boring terrible day.

3. A Sniggly Day is about delight.

It’s about loving yourself and how you do things. It also gives you a sense of accomplishment.

Can’t Everyday be a Sniggly Day?

So, why not live like this every day? After all, if you’re naturally like this, wouldn’t it be better to just let your life flow in this way?

Fair question.

In my experience, this is not a fulfilling way to live or work. My creative self does better in the long run with a schedule. Otherwise, I can convince myself that I don’t “feel” like doing anything. And over time, I get very little done and never feel complete.

For instance, I rarely “feel” like working out. But my wise self knows that working out makes me emotionally stronger throughout the day and in the long run. And sometimes I don’t “feel” like writing a blog. But my wise self knows that if I just sit down and write, eventually the flow will begin. Finding the balance between these two places is the reward.

A Sniggly Day keeps my productive self happy. And it also keeps the creative side of me happy. It’s like giving her a Learner’s Permit. She’s not allowed to drive the bus all the time. But when there’s Adult Supervision and lots of space, she can take a spin.

  • Viv

    Hi Christine.
    You have a new fan – I have always dreaded these sorts of days – I feel guilty for not working, not painting, not blogging, whatever. Now just the word “sniggly” conjures up a whole new way of looking at it – creative, freeing- a whole lot of positive thoughts are evoked by it. I don’t think I will ever feel negative about these days again. I will revel in them and enjoy their random sniggliness knowing that they are clearing the way for me to be even more creative!Thank you for being so inspiring.

  • Christine Kane

    hi angela – i hope the sniggly day went well for you!

    linni – that’s a julia cameron concept. i didn’t invent it!

    hiya pam – so many people do their to-do’s like this – and they get such delight from it. i wonder why more people don’t write about it in their productivity books. it seems like everyone would be a lot happier!

    patricia – my husband would very much like a warning too. i always let him know that he would do well to stay away on those kinds of days at the house!

    debmc – absolutely right about the structure and the creativity stuff. sniggly days are not creative days!

    jo – thanks for your kind words. and yes indeed — make up your own word – being a wordsmith is one of the best ways to have fun with creativity.

  • Jo

    Hi, Christine! I love reading your posts, but I don’t think I’ve ever replied before. You have great creative insight — there’s so much inspiration in your words — and I love the way you express yourself.

    I don’t love the word “sniggly,” but it’s not because it’s too feminine. It reminds me too much of “squiggly,” which makes me think of worms and yucky stuff like that. 😛

    But the concept is something I’ve been doing whenever I could for as long as I can remember; I just never gave it a name. I guess I’ll have to come up with a name of my own.

  • DebMc

    Great word! I realized as I read this that I’ve been stringing too many of these days together. Sniggly days are superficial, easy on the mind days for me. (Which is a good thing, most of the time.)To do the depth of creating or writing I aspire to, I need structure.
    Your term will help me define those days and keep them from appearing too often on my calendar. It will also help me delight in them when I do take a Sniggly Day.

  • Patricia

    My cleaning days are sniggly days. My significant other is amazed at the mess I make while straightening the house. While I’m vacuuming I’ll move furniture, which reminds me that I was going to put out fresh knick knacks, which reminds me to clean out the closet so I can find the fresh knick knacks, which is soo much fun because I found some great silk flowers I’d forgotten about, which brought me back to the furniture, which my dear husband just smacked with his shin because it wasn’t where it was earlier. Maybe sniggly days should come with a warning!

  • ChickiePam

    Hi Christine,
    I love the word, sniggly. I have days like that. I tend to make lists, but some days I just flit around from one thing to another, getting lots done. Then later, I take out my list and have fun crossing things off (and I’ll be honest here…sometimes I add things to the list so that I can cross them off!) Today I had no clients in the morning, so I just stayed home and did some stuff that needed to be done…sniggly stuff…nothing major, just being productive in an easy way.


  • linni

    i love the word sniggly day….but for me ta-dah lists works better! xx

  • Angela

    I’m having a sniggly day tomorrow – yay! I’m so excited! I’ve needed a day like this for ages and your post has finally given me the nudge to give myself permission to have one. I love the word ‘sniggly’ – it makes me smile just thinking about it! Thanks Christine for another wonderful post.

  • Christine Kane

    colin – my friend beth and i did that once. it was lots of fun – but we definitely got very little done!

    thanks matt. I can get a little too sniggly some days in this ‘working for yourself’ mode. it’s not a great thing when it’s ALL the time!

    thanks elaine!

    dave stewart – i was originally going to call it “junk drawer day” because it matched the other title. but then my husband pointed out that “sniggly” is the word i use and that i should use it and be up front about that. (he uses the word sniggly without any issues about its “feminine” qualities too! 🙂 )

    imelda – i, too, love that satisfied feeling of having allowed myself to be peaceful in the way i do things!

    thanks dianna! (actually – lots of men comment on posts – it kind of depends on what i’m writing about though!)

  • Dianna

    Always great to see the guys weigh on your posts. Wish more men would express themselves through blogging. My better half has begun to blog and it’s of real value to have men’s input on subjects – not just us “girls.” Thanks guys!

  • Imelda/GreenishLady

    Thank you for providing the name for these days. I’ve often felt slightly silly for just how satisfied I can feel at the end of a day when I’ve done nothing very important, but a lot of those little tasks – like pop into the back-yard and pick up the pieces of the pot that broke 2 weeks ago! This post just explains why that is, and underlines the value of those days (or half-days) to me. Thanks!

  • Dave Stewart

    Christine, you’re a genius. I love this post – you are so insightful. I also like the idea of Ta-Da lists – just brilliant! I used to cheat on my To-Do lists, and put down things I’d already done, just so I could cross them off for the feeling of accomplishment. A very successful friend of mine once said that the secret of his success was “orderly progress” – and even though lists help immensely in that sense, you’re right – we creative types need a less-structured day to “catch up” on things that don’t fit easily into categories.

    One small comment – I don’t think I can use the word “Sniggly” with a straight face! It’s decidedly feminine. I’ll have to come up with something else more macho – maybe “go-to day”, or “Ketchup Day”, “gopher Day”, or even “Junk Drawer Day”! Thanks for such marvelous insights – you are truly remarkable.

  • Elaine

    I love this… ‘Sniggly’ is a fantastic word and what freedom to allow a sniggly day! I love the idea of NOT writing a ‘to do’ list and just going with the flow!What a delight. Great post – thank you for sharing ‘sniggly days’!

  • Matt

    Sniggly days! I love it! Great article.

    I’m a big proponent of working for yourself. One of the best parts of that is that most of your days can be sniggly (such a great word!). Do what you feel at that moment and don’t spend too much time stressing and planning each minute. I find I do my best work when I’m “in the zone” or like you said in a certain kind of mindset.

    Great read. Thank you!

  • Colin

    Sometimes I combine my sniggly day with a buddys sniggly day, especially ‘drive around errands’ days. Makes it more fun and provides some interesting rabbit trails and conversations, but still gets things done.

  • Christine Kane

    thanks mimi – sounds like you had a great sniggly day!

    hi mags! thanks – let me know how it works for you if you try it!

  • Mags

    Oh, Christine, you have the most wonderful words for things! I love the concept of a Sniggly Day!

  • Mindful Mimi

    Love this post. Had a sniggly day yesterday and have half such a day today. I worked out yesterday, did the laundry, had lunch, watched Grey’s anatomy, did the food shopping, published a post on my blog, called a few people for delivery of things I had ordered and which hadn’t arrived yet. And the same is true for today. I did have a feeling of some sort of accomplishment but the day passed by soooooooo fast.
    I have a little book where I write down all the (fun and less fun) things I need to do and I try to mix them into my days. But sometimes you need a whole day of fun or a whole day of non-fun things to get them done.
    I like the way you describe them for you.