Bright Method Basics

May 14, 2023

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For this first episode of the Bright Method podcast (!), I figured it made sense to walk through an overview of the Bright Method. This will give us a great framework to use and introduce some of the language we’ll use from here on out. 

Before we dive in, for clarity’s sake, the Bright Method is my time management system designed for professional working women to help you manage it all in your personal and professional life. I designed it as a newly-overwhelmed big law attorney, and it served me for years as a patent litigator.

Listen to learn about the three underlying principles of the Bright Method:

  • Simplifying: Inventorying all the places your events and tasks live (e.g., to-do lists, Post-it Notes, email inboxes, phone notes apps, task/project management tools, your head) – and what to do instead to ditch those scattered feelings for more clarity;
  • Making it visual: How to stop reconciling everything you have to do in your head so you free your mind to bring its intellectual and creative A-game to work and be more present at home;
  • Planning: If you want to feel on track, you have to lay down the tracks.

This will all help you in so many different ways, including helping you:

  • Plan more realistically, 
  • Not choke yourself up with deadlines, 
  • Protect time for the most important stuff, 
  • Start seeing your workload more objectively, 
  • State and hold boundaries, 
  • Advocate for yourself, 
  • Be more confident making informed decisions about where you want your time to go,
  • Understand how things get done over time so you can actually check out and take that break,
  • And so much more.

I’m excited to dig into this stuff further with you on this podcast.

Thanks for being here. If you loved this episode and where we’re going, please send this to as many friends as possible. It’s how this small but mighty podcast will grow, and it’s how more women will reclaim control of their time and enjoy their lives more. Thank you.

Here is a transcript of the Bright Method Podcast, Episode 1 (transcribed by Otter.ai):

Kelly Nolan 0:02
Welcome to the Bright Method podcast, where we’ll discuss practical time management strategies designed for the professional working woman. I’m Kelly Nolan, a former patent litigator who now works with women to set up the Bright Method in their lives. The Bright Method is a realistic time management system that helps you manage it all personally and professionally. Let’s get you fallen asleep proud of what you got done today and calm about what’s on tap tomorrow. All right, let’s dig in.

Hey there. This is the very first episode of the Bright Method podcast, which is wild, and we are going to dive straight into the good stuff. So what I teach is the Bright Method, which is a time management system designed for working women to help you manage it all in your personal and professional life.

Today, I figured it made sense to walk through an overview of what the Bright Method is, this will give you a great framework to use and introduce you to some of the language that I’m going to use from here on out. So let’s begin to get the peace of mind and the clarity that we all crave. We need to do three things.

First, we’ve got to simplify.

I want you to kind of take an inventory of where do you keep track of all of the things you need to spend your time on. So for event things like time specific events, going to a work meeting, you have a scheduled phone call, things like that, where do you keep track of those? Most people use, you know, an Outlook calendar at work, Google Calendar and their personal life, maybe some flipping of those. You might also use a paper calendar for some of that you might use a whiteboard, a wall calendar, things like that.

So just inventory, where are you keeping track of those?

And then I also want you to think through where are you keeping track of your to-dos, both in your work and your personal life? Where are you keeping track of all the things you need to do that aren’t necessarily like a meeting or a scheduled phone call? So for like drafting a brief or putting together a slide deck or, in your personal life, what are you preparing dinner to if you have little kids, when you’re doing bed and bath time or a dog when you walk in the dog, all of those little things, where you keeping track of those? A lot of us on the work front use to-do lists, post it notes, maybe a task management app, maybe project management app, your email inbox is often a whole nother to do lists right in there. And for a lot of us in our head, particularly on that personal front, when we talk about when we’re gonna walk the dog, cook dinner, and do bed and bath time, when are we going to shower and get ready… all of that… we’re juggling a lot of that in our head.

And what I want you to hear is that if you have a lot of places like that, that all these places live, if you’re like, oh my gosh, I keep track of these things. I’m like five to six of these places, please know, that’s great.

That’s actually really great news because we can simplify a level of your stress and overwhelm you just by streamlining work all of those things live. So take it as a good sign, because there’s a lot we can do to help on that front.

Because we do need to streamline, we do need to minimize all the different places that all the different action items live, so that we’re not looking so many places when we need to figure out what to do next.

The reality is is the more you are scattered across all these places where all your action items live, the more you feel scattered. So I just want you to think about that, in that you don’t have one your to-do’s are scattered across all these different places, you don’t have one clear view of what you have to do. So you definitely don’t have a clear understanding of how it’s all going to get done. Or if it’s all gonna get done. Or if you can take a break tonight, and it’s all gonna get done.

And that uncertainty of how it’s going to all come together is actually causing a lot more stress, I would say more than the work itself.

And so what we want to do is really streamline so that you do have one clear view of everything you have to do you understand how it can get done over time, you understand how you know you can take a break tonight, and it can still get done over time.

That is critical for our peace of mind.

And when we’re picking that one tool, I want you to kind of take a step back and look at – think of all the action items living in all those different places. They all come back to time, really soak that in, they all come back to time, they all require your time, they all draw on the same bank of time, which is your awake hours.

So when we’re picking a tool like where all these things going to live, it’s most efficient for our brains to use a tool that’s designed to manage time so that we can see how all of these things draw on our time.

We can see – when are we going to do the thing? How long is it going to take? Does it fit with everything else I have going on in our life?

That’s the important question.

And the tool that we use is designed to manage time and can show us the answer to those questions is a calendar.

Now I am a paper lover I process by writing still I have legal pads all over my desk. I love to write with paper and pen when I’m processing. That said when I talk about calendars here, I truly mean a digital calendar. So I really lean in hard I truly believe that paper planners just cannot keep up with our lives right now which is probably been some of for some of people listening is part of the challenge.

A digital calendar is so much more efficient. When we talk about calendaring, all these like little things that we have to do in our life. It’s better communication, there are a lot of reasons for it, I’ll probably do an episode on why digital calendars are so much more efficient and better than paper calendars when it comes to time management and task management, but just take that for what it is right now, if you’re curious, I do have a blog article that lays all the reasons out. But just know that when I’m going forward talking about calendars, I really mean a digital calendar.

And by that I mean Outlook, Google, Apple, any of those digital calendars, whichever one you use, were a fuse a combo of them that really works for this, we just need to be able to really make everything we do visual, which we’re going to turn to in a second when we talk move away from simplifying into making things visual.

But I do want to wrap up kind of with two points. Also, if you find yourself resisting the like, digital calendar thing, because a lot of people are like, Yeah, this makes sense. And then it kind of clicks in that I’m like, I don’t want you using big to do lists and carrying them around with you anymore. I want you you know, putting your to-do’s in your calendar and throwing away the to do list if we can get you there. And people stop nodding, and I totally get it.

And what I want you to hear is that calendars really solve some issues that to do lists have that exacerbate our stress, like to do lists actually exacerbate our stress and calendar solve it. The first is mental gymnastics. So I think we all get it like let’s say you have all your to-do’s on one to do list, you get them all down to one master to do list and you’re feeling good. They’re all in one place. This is great. You’re like oh I simplified into a to do list. The tricky part is, is that everything looks the same. So something could take you know something on that to do list could take five minutes, something could take five hours, something can require your best energy something can be done when you’re zonked. Something can require an office to be open or like a colleague to be working. And something can be done when you know no office is open.

But a to do list when we are looking at it does not help us understand all of those variables. And so every time we sit down and look at our master to do list of what do I need to do next, we have to go through all that mental gymnastics every single time. And that’s really where that decision fatigue starts setting in. And you just start getting confused of what you know, every time you’re sitting down, like what do I have time for? What do I have energy for? What can I do right now, what we want to do is use a digital calendar that can actually help you take that to do list, find the right time to do those things based on all of those variables, but then holds on to the plan. And then you just get to go through and execute the plan, which is really freeing, and helps a lot with that like can persistent decision fatigue that we all go through.

The second reason that to do lists actually exacerbate our stress and calendars can help solve it just for those of you who are like don’t take the to do list is what I call it To-Do List Defeat. Now, that is that feeling where you like knock something out of the park, you’re feeling really good, you send out this huge email on this project you’ve been working on forever and you feeling good. And you turn to your to do list to cross it off, and you see the 48 things you did not get done. And you’re like, ah, what I want you to see is that in no world where you’re gonna get those 48 things done today, but I don’t understand. But psychologically, when things are on the list, we somehow think we should be able to do them all today. And when we don’t we feel super defeated, which we’re feeling defeated unnecessarily because it was unrealistic to get those things done. And in no world like impossible to get them done. But when you feel defeated, that’s how you feel. And you like leave, even though you should be celebrating this huge thing feeling defeated. So we want to use a system that helps you understand, Okay, today, these are the X number of things I’m gonna get done today. And when you do them, you get to celebrate that, instead of seeing the 48 things you didn’t get done that are still on your to do list. What we want to do is take those 40 things and create a game plan over time in our future when we’ll get those things done. And not have them staring us down today and then feeling bad that we didn’t get them done. Okay, hope that makes sense.

But those are the two reasons that we haven’t talked about yet, including things being scattered, that if you’re using to do lists, you’re probably exacerbating your stress more than just the work itself. And so that’s why a calendar, simplifying everything down into a calendar is huge.

Okay, the [second] principle of the Bright Method that we’re digging into today, the first was simplifying is then we want to make it visual. So this is where time blocking / time boxing, whatever you want to call it comes in where you’re basically blocking time for every activity. We’re not just using your calendar for the events that you have to do with other people or the things you have to do for other people. We’re using it to make visual, all of the things that you want to do, including in your work, but also your personal life and fun and things like that.

This requires a reframe of how we think of our calendars because a lot of people especially when it comes down to like calendaring fun are like well, that makes them fun feel like work. That is not a reason not to do it. In my opinion. The alternative to me is that you don’t calendar fun and then the time gets eaten away by other people and work so you just don’t get the fun.

So going back to making things visual, we really want to shift into making everything we do visual, including what I think of as the invisible to do list. Now the invisible to do lists we touched on earlier is like, When am I going to shower and get ready? When am I going to make dinner? What am I going to take the trash out? What am I going to, you know, even drive to that appointment that I have the types of things that typically don’t make it onto the calendar or onto a to do list but take up hours of our day hours. And so the more we can make these visual, then we start factoring them into our plans and appreciate how much we’re doing. This helps us see like, oh, okay, this is kind of frustrating to have less time than I thought. But now I can plan realistically, instead of ignoring those invisible to do list things. And essentially ignoring hours of things you’re going to do that day when you’re planning your day, planning it as if those things don’t exist. Therefore, the plan is unrealistic. And you kind of don’t finish your plan. And you’re like, what was I even doing, I don’t even know where the day went. And in those scenarios, I think we beat ourselves up for not doing more, when in reality, I don’t think we were appreciating how much we have been doing. We really want to make that invisible to do lists visual so that we can plan more realistically and appreciate how much you are doing.

Now, I do want to be really clear here. This is easier said than done. Because when I talk about putting in visible to do lists and everything in your calendar, that sounds simple enough, but it then gets super cluttered. And there’s just like, like, what am I even supposed to be putting in here and like, it’s just easier said than done.

Unknown Speaker 11:45
And I want to be really clear about that. Because I when I felt overwhelmed as a new attorney, I truly hates a strong word. But I think I hated a lot of those like kind of time management productivity people who would be like just batch or just do this. And then I would go sit down to do it and was really hard to execute. And then I felt even worse about myself. And so I just share that this is hard.

Kelly Nolan 12:07
If you struggle with this, this is not, I don’t want to sugarcoat it. And I also don’t want you to feel bad about yourself. But it’s really worth it. Because when we create this visual plan, then it keeps us honest about what’s realistic. Because also, you’re going to find out that you’re like, Okay, I want to do this, in my ideal week, I would do this thing five times a week. And so you plot it out in your calendar, and among all the things you’re plotting on your calendar, you start to see that is not realistic. Like, that’s just not there’s not enough time for it, it’s not going to work. So you adjust, you’re like, Okay, I’m gonna do that x thing, maybe just twice a week, having that realization is critical, because then you start setting your expectations realistically, and actually set yourself up to accomplish that versus living in kind of unintentional denial that you can’t do something five times a week. And at the end of the week, you’re consistently beating yourself up for not getting it done five times a week when it was unrealistic to begin with. So that is huge.

If you start plotting out the things in your calendar that you’re doing, and you’re like, it’s not fitting together, that’s frustrating, but lean into that and get creative and find an alternative solution. Now, some people are like, okay, but you’re like, there’s a lot, we’re putting in our calendars, that’s gonna get super cluttered. And I teach tech strategies to alleviate that pain point. But the principle of it is still critical to address.

So yes, your calendar is going to get more busy. It’s just it just is like, if you only had events in there, and you start putting all this stuff in there, of course, there’s going to be more in there. What I want you to see, though, is that if you were just using your calendar for events before, and now, like, let’s just say there was a ton of whitespace. And it was just like your events and meetings and things like that. Your brain like you know that whitespace was not free time, it wasn’t like, Oh, you got nothing to do cool. That was time where you went and looked at your to do list and your post it notes and your email inbox and all those other things. And then your head, what we’re doing by putting it in our calendar is essentially pulling from all those places just like you were already doing, but then not asking your brain to hold on to it.

And we’re getting it into your calendar so you can play with it visually see how it comes together. And then when curveballs hit, you’re not trying to like rearrange your plans in your head and hope you’re not forgetting something you literally are doing that in front of you visually. What I’m trying to say is, yes, your calendar will get busier, but your brain will get lighter. And that is the more important part.

Unknown Speaker 10:02
By calendaring the fun, we’re protecting it, what we need to do is reframe how we think of our calendar. So instead of this like boss telling you to eat your vegetables and show up for these work, things, start trying to shift into thinking of it as a tool used to design a life you’re pumped about, and then you get to go live. All right.

Kelly Nolan 14:32
Okay, so just again, to recap, we’re going to make it visual. We’ve simplified into a digital calendar, we’re making it visual. This is harder than it sounds, you are not weird if you struggle with this. We’re going to talk more about how to do these types of things. And then also just know that there are tech strategies that I teach within my programs that can help but if you can run with this without them awesome.

So I’m just trying to like help kind of baby step us towards where I ultimately like going here and give you a full overview of what the Bright method is.

Alright, the third component of this or simplifying, we’re making it visual, we do need to plan. So we’re going to dig into this over time, because there’s a lot to unpack in a planning session. But in short, I’m a big proponent of a planning session once a week.

Now, I don’t sugarcoat things. But I think time management has this weird rap of feeling like it should be natural. And we should just know how to do it. Which by the way, then we don’t feel really bad about ourselves. Or at least for me, there was a level of shame when I struggled with this stuff.

But also we sugarcoat how easy it is. And in reality, it’s hard.

So I just want to be very upfront to me a planning session, a real weekly planning session that helps you feel solid and awesome. And like some of my clients want to go buy champagne after and I get this, like, you’re just so excited after you’ve gone through it. It takes two hours. Now what I if you’re like, Well, I’m strapped on time, and how dare you suggest I should add something that takes two hours to my week, every week, I just want to be clear that to me, we are corralling the decision making and checking in on all the projects and all that kind of stuff. We’re corralling all of that stuff that we do throughout the week, into a two hour session. And of course, things change. But it really, really helps you kind of corral that decision making. So the rest of the time, most of the time you’re able to really execute.

The other part of this that I really want to emphasize is I love doing it before the weekend. I’m a huge Friday planning person. I think that you know, I love doing it on a Friday afternoon, you might love doing it on a Friday morning, you might need to do it on a Friday morning if your energy’s gone by Friday afternoon. But what I want you to hear is that, you’re again, you’re gonna feel really awesome after it. So we want you to have that clarity and peace of mind going into your weekend. So you can soak it all in and have fun, versus having that like looming Sunday scary feeling all weekend long. And then getting clarity right before you go back to work. So really encourage, before the weekend or Saturday morning, if you need to do it on the weekend, really sitting down.

And you know, if you want to feel on track, you’ve got to lay down the tracks. And this is when you do that in a planning session.

Alright, so to recap, we’re going to simplify into a digital calendar, we’re going to make it visual through time blocking, and really getting clear on you know, all the things that we want to put in there. And then we’re going to plan so you can be and feel on track. When all of these things come together, you should plan more realistically, only so many things can fit into a day. And that’s the beautiful part of a calendar, it keeps you honest, if those little blocks of time don’t fit in there, you are objectively trying to do too much. We’re gonna, when you do all of this, you start helping yourself, not choke yourself up on deadlines, because you’re like, Oh, I’ll do that tomorrow. And then you look at your day, and you’re like, I have no time to do that tomorrow, that will be later. So you start really making more informed decisions.

This helps you protect time for the important stuff, because you just have that reality check of that time is limited, like I cannot do everything. And so this is going to keep you really clear on I can’t do everything. So I need to project time for this. And that other thing that sounded cool is gonna have to go. And that can be frustrating. But that is how we protect time for the most important stuff. And oh, by the way, just kind of like jumping a little bit all over here. But you can also punt this stuff for the future. So if you’re like, I can’t do this right now, let me do that in the future. And we’ll talk about ways to do that.

You also start seeing your workload more objectively, which helps you state and hold boundaries more firmly. And you know, with kindness and professionalism, but still really holding those boundaries. It helps you advocate for yourself if you are completely overwhelmed. Having this system helps you specify what the issues are and advocate for yourself with specifics, which is more effective.

It also helps you understand how things get done over time. So you can alleviate yourself of that pressure to do it all right now or it’s not going to get done, which I totally understand and so much more.

And so I’m so excited to dig into all of this with you further.

Thank you for being here.

And if you love this episode, and where we’re going, please send this to as many friends as possible. It’s how this small but mighty podcast will grow. And it’s how more women will reclaim their time and enjoy their lives more wins all around. So, thank you for being here, and I will see you in the next episode.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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