Getting It Done in the Margins of Life

Getting It Done in the Margins of Life

Sitting on a low wall outside our digs for the summer, I waited while my daughter ran up to grab her metro card.

She would need it for the destination we had just decided on: the Apple Store in a mall on the outskirts of town.

I knew it would be at least ten minutes before she would rush back downstairs. I even began guessing at what she might say detained her. If you have a teenage daughter, then you know what I mean.

What could I do in ten minutes?

I could check out some news headlines. No thanks. 

May be give my thumb a workout and scroll through Facebook. Nah.

What I really wanted to do — and had originally scheduled for today — was to work on an upcoming online workshop.

Happening soon,  I had planned on working on a sign up page, decide on which exact content to deliver in each of the segment, think up a fresh title …

Yes, I had planned on lots of creative productivity today.


Making The Plan A Reality

But now, here I was — not at my desk, not at a digital-nomad-friendly coffee shop, not in an air-conditioned library.

And I only had ten minutes for my next pomodoro.

The minute I thought pomodoro, I went into work mode.

No MacMillan? No problem. I had my mini-TV, i.e. IPhone 6 Plus.

I pulled up my toy du-jour, MindNode, and started working through the live steaming content I wanted to deliver.

By the time my beautiful child came bounding down the stairs, I had planned out all my talking points for the virtual working session.

I did just one 10-minute pomodoro, but because it was focused, and I was ready with the my tools, it was effective.



Finding Productive Space

There are lots of dead spots throughout our day, when you’re waiting for something or someone.

The trick to turning them from frustrating waits to productive nuggets is being prepared.


Have the tool ready

Beyond MindNode, I use Ulysses to write, and may be Apple Notes to capture snippets of stray ideas.

But mostly, I use my current project’s mind map to capture my … mind.

To stay productive and immersed in my project, I make sure that I have the project mind map everywhere I go: on my IPhone.

Of course it also lives on MacMillan (my MacBook), as well as my iPad, and all three are synced at all times.

Whatever your tool is, have it with you at all times.

Focus on one node at a time

Ten minutes is not a long time. But if you know where to focus and can immediately delve in, you CAN make the most of even the smallest snippets of time.

On my mind map, the outermost leaves are my action points of focus (unless I’ve marked them complete, but that’s for another blog post).

Chances are I don’t need to review the entire map each time. Since I’m having a running conversation in my head about the project anyway, I roughly know where I need to zoom in and work.

So I get on that node, and capture what I need.

More times than not it’s content of some sort. It may eventually become a slide deck, a webinar or a blog post down the line. But it starts as a series of text nodes on my mind map.

Do away with the preamble

We all have a bit of a ritual we indulge in before we buckle down to do creative or project work.

I, for one, must tune in to the right playlist, have something to sip close by, a notebook, my favourite pen, gum ….

When you’re taking your work “out on the town” so to speak, you can’t have that kind of preamble as a pre-requisite to produce.

May be the playlist, since that is reasonably portable. So is gum actually. And may be a bottle of sparkling water — my latest craze.

Actually, none of them are necessary to start cranking out the minute a dead spot becomes available.

Do away with all the rituals that precede a work session when you’re squeezing it into the margins of life.

You can always indulge in them when it’s time to do work for which you actually need a proper workstation, a desk, your laptop.

A long tram ride later, we arrived at the mall.

As I got busy, the first draft of this post was finished. That was also one of the nodes that were ready to be executed on my mind map.

So we got to wander around the summer sales in air conditioned comfort, and got my daughter’s iPhone speaker issue resolved (a lovely Apple support young lady, a soft brush and a good drool on my part at all the goodies on display).

On the return trip, I did the edits, and I will do the final bits, like graphics and posting, when I’m back at my desk.

You see, you can make good use of dead spots of time if you are prepared.

And we all know what happens when preparation meets opportunity!

What project could you start to chip away in the margins of life?