Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus and Sharpen Your Creative Mind

How can you find your creative focus in a world that seems purpose-designed to distract you?

Can you trick your brain into creativity?

How can you establish a daily routine that works with the grain of your creative inclinations, instead of against it?

Is it possible to use social media mindfully?

What can you do when your creativity feels stuck in a rut?

These are some of the questions I and 19 co-authors address in the new book Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus and Sharpen Your Creative Mind.

The book is the first in a new series for creative professionals from 99U, the ‘insight factory’ from Behance.

I’ve been a writer at for several years now, so it was great to work on the project with my super-smart editor Jocelyn Glei and the rest of the Behance team.

I’m delighted to contribute to the book alongside Dan Ariely, Leo Babauta, Scott Belsky, Lori Deschene, Aaron Dignan, Erin Rooney Doland, Seth Godin, Todd Henry, Christian Jarrett, Scott McDowell, Cal Newport, Steven Pressfield, Gretchen Rubin, Stefan Sagmeister, Elizabeth G. Saunders, Tony Schwartz, Tiffany Shlain, Linda Stone, and James Victore.

As you’d expect from the line-up, Manage Your Day-to-Day is chock-full of insights and practical tips for creatives working in any field. And as you’d expect from Behance, the book itself is beautifully designed.

I contributed two articles to the collection: ‘Laying the Groundwork for an Effective Routine’, and ‘Getting Unstuck’. Here’s an extract from the first one:

From: ‘Laying the Groundwork for an Effective Routine’

Creative Work First, Reactive Work Second

The single most important change you can make in your working habits is to switch to creative work first, reactive work second. This means blocking off a large chunk of time every day for creative work on your own priorities, with the phone and e-mail off.

I used to be a frustrated writer. Making this switch turned me into a productive writer. Now, I start the working day with several hours of writing. I never schedule meetings in the morning, if I can avoid it. So whatever else happens, I always get my most important work done – and looking back, all of my biggest successes have been the result of making this simple change.

Yet there wasn’t a single day when I sat down to write an article, blog post, or book chapter without a string of people waiting for me to get back to them.

It wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t, particularly when I get phone messages beginning “I sent you an e-mail two hours ago…!”

By definition, this approach goes against the grain of others’ expectations and the pressures they put on you. It takes willpower to switch off the world, even for an hour. It feels uncomfortable, and sometimes people get upset. But it’s better to disappoint a few people over small things, than to surrender your dreams for an empty inbox. Otherwise you’re sacrificing your potential for the illusion of professionalism.

I’m enjoying dipping into the book and learning from my co-authors’ perspectives on the creative process. It’s the kind of book to keep handy for those challenging days when you’re feeling overwhelmed and under-inspired.

Thanks to Jocelyn, Scott Belsky and the rest of the Behance team for making the project happen, and to my fellow authors for producing a book I’m proud to be a part of.

I hope you find Manage Your Day-to-Day helpful and worth your time.

How to get creative work done in an "always on" world

Productivity for Creative People

Mark McGuinness' latest book Productivity for Creative People is a is a collection of insights, tips, and techniques to help you carve out time for your most important work – amid the demands and distractions of 21st century life.

“Of all the writers I know, I have learned the most about how to be a productive creative person from Mark. His tips are always realistic, accessible, and sticky. It’s not just talk, this is productivity advice that will change your life.”

Jocelyn Glei, author and Founding Editor, 99U

More about Productivity for Creative People. >>

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  1. christine swinson says:

    I just bought a copy on .com. Your book looks fantastic, can’t wait to receive it. BTW, your sales ranks (for both ebook and print) are terrific. Good for you!!!

  2. Act first, react later. I knew this. Not that you’d know it from my daily routine, but I knew this.

    I used to wake up, get my tea, and dive into the creative. Then I got lazy and slipped back into “get the emails out of the way” mode.

    I know better.

    The questions at the end of the video above are terrifying. 20 years, frittering like I’ve done the past 3 months? Nuh-uh. No thank you. (Though that sound track makes me even more determined to flesh out my drum kit and move outside of town.)

  3. Just finished the book today Mark. Got some great points from it and have already begun to alter certain parts of my daily schedule.

    Aaron Morton
    The Confidence Lounge

  4. Jason Cartwright says:

    Just started reading this book and already can’t put it down (apart from writing this!). Only read the first two sections and already started to look at my routine and started to rethink how I do things!
    Looking forward to reading the rest!

  5. Hello Mark,

    Your book seems very interesting. To be honest, you cover one of the most intriguing and challenging issues like rituals, focus and creativity. Generally speaking these three factors need to be in balance with your inner personalities and inner conflicts. I mean that no matter how great is the information that someone can give you, there will be sometimes that you’ll face inner conflicts within you and you’ll be lazy to death. Even if I try to spend everyday on creating content, focusing and establishing new habits that will have positive long term results in my future, sometimes I stuck! 😀 However the good news is that my marketing efforts are in a consistent basis and I wan to remind to people that if they have a goal in their life, no matter how their emotional and motivational states are during the journey, they have to stick to their work until the end and never to give up!

    Thank you,

  6. Martin Pigg says:


    I’m really grateful that I’ve found your work. It inspires me. Two days ago I purchased “Resilience,” and I just downloaded “Manage Your Day-to-Day.” I recently finished the manuscript for my first book, a memoir, and I’m waiting to hear if the “powers-that-be” will deem it worthy (even though in my mind, I already know that it is!). So the timing couldn’t be better. Thanks for inspiring us.

  7. Hi Mark –

    After underlining most of your chapter in ‘Manage Your Day-To-Day’, I came to your site and immediately signed up for The Creative Pathfinder. In the book, I especially enjoyed p. 215: “. . . let your unconscious take the strain,” and “Creativity can be intense. Faced with the unknown, you may be scared of what you’ll discover or reveal about yourself.” Indeed! Brings to mind what Tennessee Williams once said: “Life and art need to be grabbed by the neck and sorted out, straightened out, arranged in a way that invites understanding.” Thank you for being willing to write to that.

  8. Mark, thanks for this part:
    “It takes willpower to switch off the world, even for an hour. It feels uncomfortable, and sometimes people get upset. But it’s better to disappint a few people over small things, than to surrender your dreams for an empty inbox. Otherwise your’re sacrificing your potential for the illusion of professionalism.”

    Great part to remind yourself once you want to allow distraction to take your precious time away.

    Greetings from Poland!

  9. Mark, your portion in the book really stuck with me. Love your advice and tips. Thanks!