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?
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.