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!


The Artist’s Practice

Can I get real ?  Overwhelm really sucks, doesn’t it?

Wouldn’t it be nice if Overwhelm was like a one shot deal where you experience it, and then it never returns?

Because when Overwhelm sets in, everything pretty much STOPS.

That feeling of joy in your process? STOPS
Creative Flow? STOPS
Inspiration? STOPS
Receiving the reward you desire? STOPS

Your whole head swells in mass confusion to a point where the ONLY type of input seems to be solitaire on your smart phone or binge watching the latest Netflix original.

And in the aftermath, you hear that voice in your head saying,
You did it again…
You’ll never succeed
No one wants your Art anyway
You can’t handle the spotlight

And there we are right up against a HUGE wall with flashing lights saying,

And how does this feel?
Is this helpful?
How is this working for you?

As my Zen teacher said to me,
Overwhelm is a kind of insanity.

So, how do we get sane and get off the crazy merry-go-round?


I’ll share with you, I have been feeling Overwhelm very deeply lately.

In the past four weeks, I’ve moved out of my apartment, moved out of the city where I’ve lived for over 19 years, set up a home, gotten engaged, and went through buying a car for the first time in my life.

Just a FEW life changes at once!

To say I needed some quiet time is a massive understatement.

Why? Because I could feel myself shutting down……..

So, I spent last weekend completely unplugged at a retreat on Manifesting Compassion at Zen Mountain Monastery.

When my teacher looked at me and a whole room and said,
Overwhelm is a kind of insanity

I felt it.

I thought of all I had on my plate, all that was important to me right now,
My relationship with my man
My clients
My tribe
My new home
Planning my wedding
Starting to try for a family
Learning how to be a car owner and take care of it
My health
Yoga and dance
Finding a new network of friends in NJ

SO much…..have you ever looked at all that is on your plate and wanted to go running for the hills?
So, what’s the answer?
What do we do when it’s all there and ALL important?

Sitting there intently listening to my teacher, he summed it up beautifully,
Let things stand in their place, one step at a time.

Practice the ground you’re walking on.

I frantically wrote these words down in my journal, my pen moving as fast as it could to fill the page.

What did this mean for me?


After the teaching session, we had dinner and an hour of silence.  My fiance was helping out in the kitchen, so I decided to go for a walk outside.

There was a light snow on the ground, and a path of stone steps leading up into the trees.I felt restless, and started to climb.  When I reached the top of the path, I felt torn.  I wanted to sit down, but didn’t see a place, so I descended again to a bench at the foot of the path.

I felt like a world was swirling inside me…dark and unknown.
I stared at the rising mountain in front of me, and watched birds land in the trees, their evening calls floating across the grounds.

And I checked in, asking
What am I feeling?

And what arose was,
I feel detached.

Instantly, I felt relief.
I felt something loosen.  The overwhelm started to lessen.

I heard my teacher’s voice saying,
Suffering can only arise in the GAP.  Get inside it.  Let things stand in their place, one step at a time. Practice the ground you are walking on.

I had detached in the overwhelm because I didn’t know how to move forward. I had stopped.

I’ve been given everything I asked for; an incredible man, a home, a car…..but what was not fitting was ME. It was my overwhelm, my frustration. In truth, it was me actually LIVING it.

It was hearing everyone’s congratulations and feeling ashamed at my overwhelm.  Why wasn’t I happy and at ease??

There was NO way I could know WHAT I would feel at this point in my life with all these changes UNTIL I was IN it.

Practice the ground you are walking on.

The answer lies in where you are now.
The ground you are on NOW, not before.

The former me, the single New Yorker isn’t helpful here. I’m changing, and the WAY I move forward, and end the Overwhelm is to practice where I am NOW:

Practice being engaged
Practice being a new homeowner
Practice being a car owner
Practice being a NJ resident

Not from OUTSIDE, but INSIDE, in the now.

One step at a time, with each standing in its place.

I was detaching because I was trying to approach these changes from who I WAS.
What I forgot is that change is constant, and who I was yesterday is not who I am today. I am becoming with every new experience.

And I can take a moment, take a breath now, and relax the perfectionist that wants everything neat and tidy. I can just practice…that’s ALL. Just practice…..what a relief.

And this is where Compassion comes in.

Because we are all human. We all do this.  Welcome to the party!

Compassion is your answer to Overwhelm.
There’s a reason you are shutting down.  Most likely you are trying to do way too many things at once, and you probably believe it all has to be perfect.  It all has to look a certain way.

But as you grow, as you receive acclaim, you are changing.  You won’t know what it’s like until you get there. ALLOW for this.

Practice the ground you are walking on.

Because this is where you create.
Not yesterday.
Not tomorrow.



So, check in.
What are you feeling?
What are you detaching from?

And let each thing stand in it’s place, ONE step at a time.
Release the perfection and what you felt it was supposed to look like. Come back to a beginner’s mind. All you have to do is practice.

Allow for the miracle, and watch your Art soar.