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My ADHD-Friendly Productivity System to Help Me Build My Creative Business

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Hello, creative minds! I’m Kerry, an aspiring surface pattern designer in my early 60s, navigating the world of entrepreneurship while managing life with ADHD. If you’ve ever felt the tug of overwhelm steering you towards a nap instead of tackling your business goals, you’re in good company.

I started using Notion about a year ago because I was completely overwhelmed trying to keep on top of all the things I needed to do to build a business with little outside help. The process of doing this is hard enough, but even more so with the added challenge of ADHD.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I tried using Notion templates created by others, but they only added to my frustration. So, I realized I need to create my own custom productivity system inside Notion, but before I begin, I need to figure out what that system looks like.

So what do I want to use Notion for?

I want to use it primarily to help me continue building my illustration business. I’ve already done a lot, but I still need to focus on completing a portfolio and begin pitching my work to potential licensing partners. But licensing can take some time, so I also want to set up some print-on-demand stores and look into additional passive streams of income for my designs.

What do I need to track in my system?

Eventually, I want to use Notion for both my personal and professional lives. But for now, I need something to help me focus on my business. Not that my personal life isn’t important. But I want to practice using Notion and my productivity system consistently before adding more complexity to it.

So for now, I’m sticking with business goals and only tracking that.

What are the components of this system?

To provide an overview of the setup I’m creating, I like to start with “Core Areas.” When I’m filling in the system for the first time I start with “Core Areas,” then I go to “Big Vision” and “Goals.” Based on those goals, I create “Projects” and “Tasks.” I also incorporate “Daily Habits” into the system which are always associated with a goal and core area, but may or may not be tied to a project.

As I said in my previous post, I need a productivity system where I can focus primarily on the day-to-day tasks of completing a project and reaching my goals. But I also need to be able to zoom out to see the big picture. Without that, I tend to get lost in the details and lose track of where I’m headed. But I don’t want to spend too much time focusing on the big picture – because “the big picture” is vague and fuzzy. So most of my time will be spent in the day-to-day tasks (the details).

So, what are these major pieces of my Notion setup, and why do I use them?

Core Areas

Core areas are things that do not have an end or completion date; they are ongoing segments or domains of your life that you tend to manage throughout your life. An example of this might be health and fitness, as it is an area in your life that you might care about (which is an important part of designating something a core area). Also, taking care of your health doesn’t have an end date like a goal or project would. You will manage this area of your life throughout your life.

Since I use Notion for managing both my personal life and my business, I typically separate my core areas into three types: personal, business, and both. There is a small handful of core areas that can fit into both my personal and business life. I can filter out what I’m looking at based on what I’ve chosen: business + both or personal + both.

Big Vision

Your big vision dreams are directly connected to your core areas. They are the aspirations that will bring you greater happiness based on the things you care about (your core areas) and help you manifest the life you dream of. These dreams typically span 1-5 years into the future. Also, your “big vision dreams” will likely expand and evolve as you get closer to reaching them. Similar to the horizon you see on a journey that is always pushing you forward and expanding your life, your big vision dreams will probably undergo changes and growth over time, especially as you attain them.


Once you have outlined your “Core Areas” and connected your “Big Vision” to those areas, it’s time to ground those dreams and create goals that will help you manifest those big dreams into reality.

Unlike the more vague and fuzzy nature of big vision dreams, the goals associated with those dreams—that will help you attain those dreams—are more specific, concrete, and tangible. You might have several goals related to one big vision dream. Typically you have more than one.

To begin, consider all the elements that must fall into place to achieve a big vision dream. For instance, if one of my big vision dreams is to become a successful surface pattern designer, what specific steps are required to move that dream out of the realm of magical thinking and bring it down to earth? Examples might include: gaining recognition for a signature illustration style, building a portfolio showcasing creative and innovative designs reflective of my style, generating a six-figure income from my designs, and securing multiple licensing contracts for the inclusion of my work in various home decor products.

Feel free to include audacious dreams in this process. For instance, a personal example might be the desire to walk into an Anthropologie store and see my work featured on some of their products.

Don’t worry about the specifics of HOW you will achieve these goals at this stage. That’s the job of the projects and tasks related to each goal. The primary purpose of these goals is to ground your dreams in reality, providing a tangible pathway from where you currently stand to the “Big Vision” destination—even if you don’t quite know what that path looks like right now.

Projects & Tasks

The next step in the process is to think of all the things you need to do to achieve one of your goals. Projects are the things you’re going to actually work on in a month, quarter or other specific time period that will help you achieve a goal. The project is then broken up into the daily tasks you need to do to complete that project.

If I take one of my goals from above – build a portfolio that showcases my design, etc. – then what are the projects needed to reach that goal. What needs to happen to “build a portfolio?” These are the projects. They might include, create 4 pattern collections for the home decor market, create mockups of several patterns in each collection on home decor products, create a description and name for each collection, design a simple logo for each pattern collection, build a web-based version of my portfolio and design a PDF version of my portfolio, etc.

It might be helpful for you to think of the tasks or daily action steps you need to take while you’re brainstorming your list of project, or it might be more helpful to create the task lists after you’ve created the projects list. It doesn’t matter how you do it. But what is important is break that project down even further into the daily actions you’ll take to finish that project. These are called tasks and where you’ll spend most of your time in Notion using this setup. 

Some of the steps I might need to finish  one of the projects (create pattern collection #1, designed for the home decor market) might include:

  • Research trends in the home decor market to come up with a theme or topic for my collection.
  • Collect images for a mood or inspiration board on Pinterest.
  • Collect images for reference photos.
  • Begin sketching, drawing, painting my motifs with either actual media or in Photoshop or Procreate.
  • Digitize/scan artwork and bring it into Illustrator.
  • Vectorize digital artwork using Image Trace or the Blob Brush or Pencil Tool. Etc.

It’s helpful to order your tasks in the sequence needed to complete them.

Habits & Routines

Habits are the regular, repeated actions or behaviors that you incorporate into your daily routines. These habits are typically intentional and contribute to personal development, well-being, and productivity. Daily habits are directly related to goals and big vision dreams, and they may or may not be directly related to a project.

Additional Stuff

This next section isn’t really part of the system mentioned above, but it can help me to complete the tasks and projects and achieve my goals.

I will incorporate a knowledge hub into my Notion setup to help me pull in, organize and connect information from various sources like books, articles, videos, podcasts, etc.  and potentially use this information to help me complete a task or project and reach a goal. In the goal example above (create a portfolio) I might collect information about various online portfolio sites, templates and articles on how to use InDesign to create a PDF portfolio, examples and help in designing an effective portfolio, etc.

I will also incorporate a master tag database to help me organize all of that information and more easily connect it to the various tasks, projects, goals, and big vision dreams in my Notion setup.

So that’s the basic system for now. Next up? I need to actually figure out some of the goals and projects I’ll put in my system.

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Hi, I'm Kerry

...of Curiously Designed. This blog documents my journey as I figure out how to finally pursue a long-held dream of being a working illustrator and designer.

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