The Three C’s of Creative Productivity

Do you look at your To Do List and want to run and hide?
Do you see your most important projects looming over you and EVERYTHING on the list is important?

It can be so overwhelming!

What do you do first?

It can feel like your mind is going to explode with all that has to be done,
phone calls

and somewhere in all of this…the actual creation?!

You can feel like you are standing on a HUGE bridge and you KNOW you have to get to the other side, but all the things you have to do seem so daunting.  So, you stand frozen. And now nothing is getting done. OR you are rushing through everything and you can feel you are creating really sub-par work.

Creative flow has gone OUT the window.

Have you ever felt this?

So, what do you do in that moment?
Is it even possible to cross the bridge?

Last week I was filling you in on all that is happening  here are ZenRedNYC.  We are launching some very large events, and in the middle of this…I’m getting married.

Running my business AND planning for one of the most important days of my life has definitely filled my cup.  When I decided to schedule these things together, I knew it was time for some SUPER tools.

And that is what I want to offer to you today.

You may be asking,
How the HECK is Nikol smiling with so much going on?

Because, I honestly put some very specific tools in place to allow me to do my creative work I love AND plan for my deeply sacred day.

And trust me, I’m still feeling SO many emotions, and anxious and excited for ALL of this…..AND I am actually getting things done. My emotions are part of the experience, but not taking me out of productivity.

I’m NOT frozen.

And this is how I wanted to help you today.  Let’s get you out of overwhelm. I teach these super tools to all my clients and today, my loving TGIF gift to you is offering them to you.

I can break this down into Three Super Tools, or the THREE C’s for Creative Productivity:

* Calendar Magic
* Clipboard Hearts
* Colorful Post Its


A large part of overwhelm happens because there is no structure.  Structure actually helps when we are most anxious.  We may know when something needs to completed, but what about all the steps leading to the finished work?

I’m a huge fan of printing out calendars, or you can use one you already have on your wall.  I love to print out from my iCal.  Start with this Question:

1) How many months is your project or projects? However long it is, either print or grab these months from an existing calendar.

Now, let’s start to use the tool so it’s HELPFUL. I specifically created these calendars for the project of my wedding, and the online events I am creating in my business right now.  Both of these are big projects that have many steps.

2) At the TOP of the calendar write down what needs to happen in this month.  For instance, for last month at the top I had written:
– wedding favors
– buy fiance’s ring
– seating plan
– new event title and tagline
– new promo banner created

3) Go into your calendar and write in the events that are already scheduled.  This may be weekly meetings, your newsletter going out to your fans, actual performances, and any other networking or conference events coming up.

4) Now, working backwards from your deadline, write in your calendar what you are working on week to week.

** So many times, the overwhelm happens because we don’t have the big picture.  Having all your months laid out in front of you, allows you to see how much time you DO have, and to actually chunk it down.  In this first tool, you are going from BIG project, to using your calendar to actually MAP OUT your months.


Now that you have the big picture, with the monthly view, let’s chunk it down to weekly.

One of my closest friends, client, and my photographer (she actually shot that gorgeous picture of me on the Brooklyn Bridge at 7 am!) made this beautiful clipboard for me as a gift.  It actually has my company name on it, ZenRedNYC.  I LOVE it!  Too often, as Creatives, it can feel so DULL and BLAND applying these business tactics, so liven up your office supplies!

1) Create a weekly To Do and list out everything you need to do JUST for this week.  At the top, write the dates of the week, and then put down some words or affirmations that are really feeling good to you right now.  I’m personally writing down:

It can be whatever you want!  This is your creation.  Take the breakdown FROM your calendar, and transfer here so you can look at each week at a time.

So, why do I call it Clipboard Hearts?  Because, I love to put hearts around my To Do list.  It reminds me WHY I’m doing the work I’m doing.  You can use any colored pencils or markers or even stickers with this list!  Allow it to be an expression of you.


Lastly, we have the Colorful Post Its.

Overwhelm happens when we are looking at too much at once.  In every instance, your best bet is to practice some self empathy, allow yourself to feel what your feeling, and then chunk it down to ONE step.

1) The night BEFORE your day, take a colorful post it and write down THREE THINGS you need to do for your project.  Why the night before?  Because then you can just go into your day, instead of starting with the anxiety of, “what am I going to do today?”  You’ve already decided, and can then just grab that simple post it and do ONE thing at a time.

2) Take your Daily Post it three things FROM your weekly To Do.

So, we can have continuity and structure.  What at first felt totally unmanageable, now has a timeline, magic, lots of color, and an expression of you within it. 

And with all things, if you get to the end of the day, and something didn’t get done, practice self empathy first.  This isn’t about saying you are wrong, but offering super tools to bring productivity to where you were frozen before.  Start a new post it, and know this is a new day, one you have never lived before.

So, live it well!

Let me know how this works for you!  It has saved my life over and over again, having this calendar to have the bigger picture, then knowing what I’m responsible for weekly, and daily.  Set these magical parameters and watch your projects complete with joy!


When Your Inspiration Runs Dry

You know that moment when everything is just FLOWING?

The perfect words are coming out of your mouth or onto the page
The perfect stroke out of your brush
The song is just soaring…

It’s EASY….

You feel like an unlimited and unstoppable Creative Force, ideas pouring out. 

Isn’t that glorious?

But, what about when you’re stuck?
What about when, no matter how hard you try, NOTHING is coming?

When the cursor is just blinking at you on your computer, or your throat closes when you need to speak, or the canvas just sits empty in front of you, as if to say,
Ummm…Hello?? Anybody there? We’re waiting for your genius…..

Doubt has come in that you will never have another brilliant idea again, and all you can think is,
How the HECK do I get out of here?
Why was this so easy before and now is so hard?

If there was a muse, she has left the building, and there you are, now alone feeling stuck and hopeless.

Have you ever felt this?

When we are mired down and completely uninspired, how do we turn it around and get back into flow?


I have a few things on my plate these days.  Just gave my first ever Move the Crowd Workshop last week (thank you to all who came!), am planning my next big online event, and I’m getting married in two weeks.

I’m deeply grateful for all of this, AND I’m holding a big container.

With so much needing my attention, I could feel my mind squeezing….my inspiration waning.  And I needed it most now.  I actually had one of the most important things of my life to write…

My wedding vows.

I learned very quickly that I don’t write well under pressure or when I’m exhausted. So, I was looking at my calendar and starting to panic.

For those that are new to the community, this marriage is a miracle.  Five years ago I went through a devastating divorce and the worst year of my life, watching all I had built burn to the ground.

I went on the first date of my LIFE at 38, because I had met my ex at 18.  I had a LOT to learn, to heal, and laid myself at so many coaches, mentors, and teacher’s feet to learn HOW to find love again.

I thought I knew what love was….until I met my fiance.

From losing everything five years ago to now living in a house, I’m about to marry a man who not only shares my Zen practice and does yoga with me, he completely supports me and my work.  He’s every vision board I made over the years come true.

This is no small thing, and the first time I got married, at the tender age of 22, the vows were written for me.  I just repeated the words.  They were not my own.

This time, for the FIRST time, I’m writing them. These are my words.

So, it matters…it matters deeply.

For weeks, I’ve felt stuck around what to write, and as each day was passing, I was starting to get more and more anxious.  I’m going to be standing in front of my closest friends and family….I’m going to be FACING the man I’m spending the rest of my life with….

What the HECK am I going to say?


Last Saturday, I did a Half Day meditation sit at the Fire Lotus Temple in Brooklyn.

Our teacher started the day with these words,
I’ve been reflecting lately that we really don’t know what’s going on.  We come to the cushion with our minds racing, and thought after thought pulling us here and there.  Then we sit, and our mind settles, and everything changes.  And it’s not a KNOWING…it’s an experience.  We actually don’t KNOW what’s going on, but it happens. 

This resonated with me, my racing mind, and my anxiety about writing the vows.

So, I sat.
I placed my attention on my breath.
And I practiced letting go, again and again.
I saw each thought as it arose, and released it.
I felt every emotion as it coursed through my body.

And then, I relaxed, and an image came.

When the day was over, I grabbed a pen and paper and just started writing.

One of my friends came up to me and said,
Oh wow….a lot came up, huh?

I took a moment from my racing pen and said,
This is what happens every time I do a longer period of sitting.  What felt impossible suddenly opens.  Where I had no ideas, I now have clarity.  I always walk out knowing exactly what to do next.

And then I said,
It’s really the creative process.


Could we even really explain what happens in that moment of inspiration? Probably not.  The words wouldn’t do ti justice, but you’ve FELT it.  You’ve felt the flow from inside to out.  It’s not logical, it’s not planned….it’s far more magical.

And yet, where it won’t come from, is a place of pressure, clinging or control.

You can’t grasp it.  There’s nothing to hold, actually.

Inspiration is actually an EXPERIENCE.
Creative Flow is an EXPERIENCE.

It’s not something you lock in a cage and demand from.  It’s not something you can “think” or “logic” your way out of. Flow moves and breathes.  It’s alive.

So, what is really vital to the creative process?


When you are feeling completely stuck, step back.  Take a break.  Go outside and connect to the sky, or hold your hand over your belly, and do three deep breaths.  When you do this, all the whirling stops, and you can connect back to your unlimited spaciousness inside.

And from the space comes the inspiration.  And with inspiration, comes the flow.

What helps you to create space in your life?
How can you incorporate this into your life?

We have so much pulling us today as Creative Forces: family, emails, health, constant notifications.

I learned VERY quickly in my business, I needed to schedule in Half Day Sits at the temple at least every two months.  And last weekend, it was proven to me again.

The day after the sit, I sat out in my backyard in the August sunshine, and wrote my vows.

I cried when my pen lay down, because there were just what I wanted.  These were the words I wanted to say. The doubt and pressure disappeared….and all that came from my pen was the intention I had all along,

So, trust the experience of space, and incorporate this into your life.  Invite the muse in openly.  She will frolic and play in the vastness.

When you are open and relaxed, your perfect and truest work will emerge.

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography