How I do it…

One of the biggest obstacles in our creative lives may well be getting to the completion stage. We have such great ideas but sometimes we look at the whole project and it all seems so overwhelming.

If you’re in my Creatively-U Academy program, you know that we dive deep into the details of planning and completing projects. If you’re not in the program, let me explain that in the last two weeks we dive even deeper into how to set up creative goals and a schedule that works. It’s all about moving from concept to completion and I thought it would be valuable to outline it here.

I have a particular routine that I follow that helps me organize my thoughts for the year into manageable chunks. I then take those pieces and break them down into sections on my wall calendar. I learned this technique in the garment industry, and we called it a “Time and Action” calendar. It provides a very visual idea of what’s going on for the entire year and makes it easy to back into all my big projects. It allows me to plan plenty of “time” for all my “actions.”

So, if you’re visual like me, grab your colorful office supplies! Have some fun and “color block” your various activities for the entire year. Let’s outline the process I use. I’m going to cover the process over the next 5 weeks in a mini-series.

Let’s start with the end in mind so you can get a sense of where we’re going and how valuable this is. Here’s my calendar.

Right away, I want you to notice:

It’s quite simple – it’s clipped to a piece of foam core. I’ll pin it up to the bulletin board when the planning stage is finished.

It’s a 2022 year “At-a-Glance” dry erase calendar that I got from Amazon for just over $20

I used colorful dry erase markers and post-it notes to plan out major activities:

  • Orange is for my free “Passion – on Purpose” mini-series
  • Turquoise is for my Creatively-U Academy program
  • Pink is for each new mixed media collage collection, and the pink post-it page flags indicate their release weeks
  • Dark blue is for travel dates

Now that you have the overarching picture, let’s walk through a summary of the entire process so you know exactly where we’re going. HERE is the link to the calendar I used and HERE are the colorful dry erase markers. I also use page flags as small post-its. You can find them HERE.

Step 1: The Big Picture

The work starts with your big picture and by establishing several things that you want to accomplish. Sit down and write out what your big picture looks like. Don’t get into a lot of detail here.  Just a basic overarching look at a couple big things you’d like to accomplish this year. We’ll go into more detail later but for now, start thinking about what your vision is for your creativity. Write down 1-3 goals that you’d like to achieve.

Step 2: The BIG rocks

Once you’ve established your big picture, start to map out a couple of big things you might need to do to get there. Remember that this is just an outline and things can change! Right now, working with a good draft is just fine. Let’s say you want to finish three quilts this year, how do you plan to do that? What are some of the different things you might need to plan for and which ones are realistic and feasible for you?

Step 3: The Resources

Now identify the key resources you might need, and this includes T-I-M-E. This part makes the goal come to life. Think of what you might need to help you accomplish that goal: how much time, what materials, what kind of space, how can you use what you have and what might you need? It’s also important to break your big rocks down into smaller “stones.” It’s important to understand that details matter and breaking your goals down into small bite sized pieces helps you achieve them.

Step 4: The Strategy

OK, get out your office supplies! Here’s where you start marking out blocks of time on your “At-a-Glance” calendar and map out each major goal. I like the visual element at this point, and I keep it as simple as possible. That’s where the different colors come in handy. Then I step back and look to see how those Big Rocks relate to one another. Am I missing anything important? Have I allotted enough time for each activity? Have I included personal activities? You can erase and rewrite with the dry erase markers and move the page flags around as needed.

Step 5: The Daily Implementation

This is when I move into my Full Focus Planner by Michael Hyatt. This is my favorite planner and it’s the one I use for step five. I follow Michael’s recommendation about “The Daily Big 3” which are three important tasks for each day. Keeping your task list short and aimed at you Big Rocks ensures that you focus on the right things. You’ll build momentum as you check them off the list and see the progress you’re making.

So, there you have it…an overview of my entire process. I hope that it makes sense and that you can see how each step lays the foundation for the next.

Join me LIVE on my Facebook page Virginia Leigh Studio at 3 pm Central time every Wednesday to ask me questions and talk about our weekly topic.

Next week we’ll start talking about each individual step with real-life examples of how this process works, starting with Step 1:  The Big Picture. I’ll see you then.


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  1. Actually, your Daily 3 are three small things you want to do that day which will help get you toward your Big Goals. The daily three are small and are things you really feel you can get done consistently. They are not negotiable for me. They are like grains of sand that will help me accomplish everything I want to get done for the week. I carry the “three” thing from day to week. Then the bigger things I will accomplish this week will point to what I want to get done the whole month. And so on. For example, Monday daily big three are Write Blog, Schedule Newsletter, Schedule all SM posts for the week. I will get more done than that, but those all support by business and are small enough that I can count on myself doing consistently, which leads to a stronger business. Your Daily Big 3 are not the same as Your Big goals for the year, but they will be the tiny steps that will get you there.

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