Music Well – Dosia McKay, Composer, Painter, Writer

Reflections on Art and Life

“The Muse Planner” for Artists and Creatives – How I Organize My Time and Find Inspiration

Productivity Nightmare

This is your brain on productivity software. I should know because I have used many of the time management applications and became good at juggling several of them at once. Did they make me feel organized and in control? No. They created anxiety, demanded constant tending, and forced me to reinvent the wheels of productivity on daily basis.

The time management applications can be a wonderful tool if you are a software engineer or a sales manager, but not so much if you are an artist or a creative person. And why not? – you ask. For the simple reason that creatives do more than keep track of tasks and appointments. We birth ideas, make sketches, doodle, develop strategies, scour for inspiration, experience random epiphanies, and give shape to intangible concepts. It is great that a calendar can remind you of a dentist appointment, but really, your main focus is on a musical phrase, a new color palette, a geometric shape, a plot outline, or your creative goals for next spring. How do you keep track of all these aspects?

You can’t, if all these productivity applications are blinking and buzzing at you, taking you further away from the intentional pursuit of inspiration into the ADD madhouse of knee-jerk reactions. It is not a way to thrive for an artist who endeavors to spend large segments of time devoted to deep creative immersion.

What can you do then? If you are like me, you can design your own planning system and take charge of the way you approach your creativity. Decide what your goals are and what is important to you. Here is a list of features that I find essential:

– A planner, a journal, a calendar, a notebook, and a task management system, all in one

– A system to track my creative ideas, inspiration, business tasks, and personal life

– A system that is inspirational, always bringing my focus back to ideas that are important to me

– A tool for accountability so I can see how I spend my time and whether I am meeting my goals

– A diary of my creative process so that I can trace how the ideas hatched, grew, evolved, and matured over time

With all these in mind, I created the Muse Planner. The Muse Planner is a system of downloadable and printable pages – yes, I have gone old school, analog pen and paper! These pages can either be printed in color or in black-and-white minimalist design. They can be used with a three-ring binder or an existing planner, such as ARC, kikki.K, Filofax, Day-Timer, Day-Runner, Franklin Covey, in 8.5 x 11, 5.5 x 8.5, A4 or A5.

Here is a view of my new planner in action:

Muse Planner

But first things first:


Muse Planner Yearly View

The planning begins on the yearly level, concentrating on three aspects:

1. Muse (your creative discipline)

2. Career (your business activities)

3. Personal


Then, the focus narrows down to the monthly view:

Muse Planner Monthly View

The division between the Muse, Career, and Personal remains (and continues throughout the weekly and daily views), but this time I have added focusing prompts I want to review on monthly basis:

– Things I Want To Accomplish

– New Ideas I Would Like To Try Out

– People I Want To Connect With


Once the monthly view is set, it is time to narrow the focus to the weekly outlook:

Muse Planner Weekly View

This time the prompts are different:

– The Question Worth Asking

– Things I Want To Research

– The Book I Am Reading


Finally, the daily view allows me to keep track of my schedule and tasks, and lets me track various statistics that are important to me (hours, amounts, progress, quality, etc.). It’s time for some accountability!

Muse Planner Daily View

The right page of the daily view allows me to take notes, make sketches, or draw doodles. I also have a version of this page featuring grid paper and music staff paper if the blank space is not working for me.

Below the notes, I like to enter a quote I came across during my readings that I find noteworthy. No more random predigested cliche quotes that have nothing to do with my creative growth!

Finally, a mini diary consisting of two questions:

– What Am I Learning?

– How Am I Doing?

I also use other pages with two- and three-column design to keep track of my urgent, “soon”, and “someday” tasks, as well as full size pages of grid paper and music staff paper.

I use this system to develop my music composition and painting career, but I think that it would also be helpful to other musicians, graphic artists, designers, visual artists, architects, interior designers, writers, poets, filmmakers, thinkers, philosophers, and other creatives.

Download your copy and let me know how it works for you.

Learn more about the Muse Planner by watching this video:


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