Posted by: Mark McGuinness
Category: Creative Coaching
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Mark McGuinness

In this series I’ve given you my take on time management and how it can help or hinder creative work. In doing so, I’ve taken elements from different systems, having assimilated them over time and adapted them to my own needs. If you are keen to investigate these systems, please make sure you try them one at a time! Otherwise you’ll end up confused. It’s worth devoting some time to working with a system until you know it really well, before deciding whether you need to add to it.

The following are all resources I’ve used myself - if you have any recommendations of your own to share, please leave a comment.

The e-book of this series - Time Management for Creative People

If you enjoyed this series you can download it as a free e-book. The Creative Commons licence means you are free to copy and share the e-book on a noncommercial basis, as long as you keep it intact and credit me as the author.

My ‘GTD’ delicious bookmark

My GTD bookmark is where I bookmark any web pages I find with useful material about time and workflow management. (‘GTD’ stands for ‘Getting Things Done’.) If you subscribe to the RSS feed for this bookmark then you’ll receive new recommendations as I find them.

The creative process

The Creative Habit – Learn it and Use it for Life, by Twyla Tharp
Very down-to-earth, very practical, very inspiring. The famous choreographer shares her working routine and argues passionately that inspiration doesn’t come without a lot of perspiration, discipline and hard work. Highly recommended for anyone who takes their creativity seriously.

Creativity – Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Classic study of the creative process, based on the idea that peak creative performance is characterised by the state of creative flow, in which distractions are tuned out and there is a single-minded focus on the work. Achieving more creative flow is one of the main reasons for a creative person to learn about time management.

Creators on Creating, edited by Frank Barron, Alfonso Montuori, Anthea Barron
A rich collection of first-hand accounts of the creative process, including some fascinating descriptions of creators’ working habits. Contributors include Leonardo da Vinci, Brian Eno, Ingmar Bergman, Isadora Duncan, Richard Feynman, Rainer Maria Rilke and Frank Zappa.

‘Do It tomorrow’ – Mark Forster’s approach

Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management, by Mark Forster
If you’re pushed for time and want a book on time management that will deliver results fast, this is the one I recommend. The book is deliberately provocative, prompting you to reconsider working habits you take for granted and full of non-obvious suggestions that make complete sense once Mark has explained his reasoning. Not only that, the ideas work and can be applied almost immediately.

Mark’s system is not as complex as David Allen’s (see below) but that doesn’t mean it’s less powerful, it’s just different. It may well be all you need.

Mark also writes a lively and useful blog, Get Everything Done and provides a selection of Time Management Articles.

‘Getting Things Done’ – David Allen’s system

Getting Things Done - How to Achieve Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen
David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’ is a powerful system with legions of devoted fans. It’s not for the faint-hearted however - once you’ve read the book it takes 2-3 full days of work to capture all of your commitments and set up the system. Having done this, I would definitely say it’s been worth the time and effort, even if it means sacrificing a weekend.

David Allen’s website - lots of resources, including free articles, a blog and forums.

Productive Talk Podcast - Merlin Mann Interviews David Allen about his system.

Getting Things Done Guru David Allen and His Cult of Hyperefficiency - Wired Magazine feature on the origins of Getting Things Done.

Getting Design Done - excellent piece about the Getting Things Done system and Creativity, from D. Keith Robinson at Graphic Define.

Implementing GTD for Creative Work? Merlin Mann of 43 Folders responds to Keith Robinson’s article and asks whether GTD and creativity are compatible - prompting an interesting discussion in the comments.


If you’re a Mac user, Isolator will help you concentrate on your work by blacking out everything on your screen except the menu bar and the application you are currently working in. I gather Dropcloth does the same for Windows.

I use iGTD to organise my projects and ‘to do’ lists. It’s flexible and reasonably user-friendly.

When I had a PC I used Thinking Rock which has similar functionality.


43 Folders is a hugely popular GTD blog, run by Merlin Mann. A vast archive of tips and techniques for improving your productivity. I’m tempted to say I don’t know how he finds the time, but I’ll resist.

Lifehacker is a constant stream of potentially useful productivity tips, many of them tech-oriented, e.g. Manage a to-do list with your iPod touch. There are lots of posts published every day, but it doesn’t take long to read - I just skim through the headlines until I find something useful. is another deservedly busy and popular productivity blog, run by Leon Ho and his team.

The Four Hour Work Week - As the title of his book The Four Hour Work Week suggests, Tim offers a radical and provocative approach to rethinking your work and life. It goes way beyond time management and is a provocative and stimulating read for anyone who feels overloaded with work and wants to spend their time doing more interesting things. I first heard about Tim’s ideas through this interview with Darren Rowse of Problogger.


The Behance team specialise in helping creative professionals ‘make ideas happen’. They espouse a philosophy of ‘productive creativity’, embodied in their Action Method and in their range of products for capturing and processing creative ideas. I blogged about their Action Pad for creative meetings a while ago.

There’s an argument that having good quality tools will encourage you to use them more. Since buying some Moleskine notebooks earlier this year I’ve definitely noticed my fingers itching to scribble down more creative ideas and lines of verse.

What do you recommend?

What about you? What resources do you use to manage your workload? Please share your recommendations for books, websites etc. in the comments.

Mark McGuinness | Coaching Creative Professionals

Time Management for Creative People is one of the ways business coach Mark McGuinness helps creative professionals and creative agencies succeed.

For more practical tips and inspiration visit his Wishful Thinking blog. Subscribe to the feed to have the latest posts delivered to you via RSS or e-mail.

Edit: You can now watch a time management training video in which Mark explains some of the key ideas from this series.

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Comments to this post:

Comment: Danny Outlaw says

I like the sound of the Do It Tomorrow book. Sounds perfect for this professional procrastinator.

30th November 2007 Quote

Comment: Mark McGuinness says

Hi Danny, yes it fairly jumped off the shelf when I saw it in the bookshop!

But it does involve actually DOING it tomorrow…

1st December 2007 Quote

Pingback: Wishful Thinking » Blog Archive » Time Management for Creative People - Free E-book says

[…] A big thank you to Cat Morley and Neil Tortorella for prompting me to write the material and hosting it as a series on Business of Design Online. The final post in the series, on time management Resources, is up on BoDo now. […]

3rd December 2007 Quote

Pingback: Time Management #8: Resources says

[…] In this series I’ve given you my take on time management and how it can help or hinder creative work. In doing so, I’ve taken elements from different systems, having assimilated them over time and adapted them to my own needs… Here is a round up of great tips from Mark McGuinness. There is some good reading and tips here! The whole series is also available as a free e-book! Click here to read the article and download the free e-book >> No Comments, Comment or Ping […]

5th December 2007 Quote

Comment: usability user says

Thanks for the book, but it took me over 5 minutes to find the download link. Maybe I’m a dummy, but why not underline your links?

27th December 2007 Quote

Comment: Catherine says

“Maybe I’m a dummy, but why not underline your links?”

You mean, have our site look like Jacobs? Thanks for the suggestion, but no thanks :-D

Btw - underlining links is not industry standard. Making links a standard style and colour throughout a site is. Ours just happens to be orange. Unless visited. Links off the site have an icon.

Anyway, Happy New Year!

31st December 2007 Quote

Comment: hasnaa says


16th February 2008 Quote

Comment: Mark McGuinness says

@Brisbane @Internet marketing - thanks! Great suggestions.

30th July 2008 Quote

Comment: Toad Trap says

The trick is to “fail early” and if you don’t fail to push through the dip until you succeed.

I’ve just finished reading a book called The Dip, by Seth Godin.

7th September 2008 Quote

Comment: RSA certificate says

What I need is a book titled “The 4 Hour Blog Week”. Thanks for the list.

20th September 2008 Quote

Comment: says

One of the greatest challenges many people face in business and in their personal lives is that there never seems to be enough time to accomplish everything they need to do, let alone finding time for things they want to do.

9th November 2008 Quote