Derek Neighbors

The more I learn, the less I know.

Productivity Finding Time For Innovation

By Derek Neighbors, Published on February 26, 2023

Finding Time For Innovation When You Have a Busy Schedule

The more success you have the harder it becomes to not be filled with busyness. This can erode effectiveness because the broader horizon needed for innovation to make leaps forward exponentially get eliminated or reduced as leisure/thinking time gets replaced with doing time.

I have found the best strategy to overcome this without taking my foot off the gas is to:

  1. Schedule thinking time. Be intentional with your time.
  2. Capture thoughts in a system for later processing. Getting thoughts as they happen is crucial.
  3. Create and a path of execution from the time spent thinking. Great ideas without action are worthless.

Scheduling Time


I schedule a daily review every day that has these items on it.

Deke's Daily Review

I schedule a daily time to run/exercise.

I schedule a daily time to read/reflect.


I schedule a weekly review on Sundays that has these items on it.

Deke's Weekly Review

I schedule a weekly “thinking time” session that requires me to sit in a chair uninterrupted for at least an hour with only my head and a pen and a notebook.

Purposeful Intent

I schedule regular brainstorming activities related to projects and problems as needed. Inviting others if necessary. I value deep collaboration so try to get the right people to bounce the best thoughts off of. These generally are done during my processing activities.

Randomness via Async Methods

Sometimes in the moment if an idea or thought is bursting and I can’t wait. I will generally engage someone close to me to bounce an idea off of. Slack works best for me as I can “save” an item and have it go directly to Things for later action. Email and SMS are other alternatives.


I capture thoughts/ideas during the following activities:

  • reading
  • reflecting
  • running
  • exercising
  • meeting
  • brainstorming
  • daily review
  • weekly review


Processing looks like daily grabbing my notes that I have captured above and putting them into Things as action items, projects or thinking time prompts during my daily review. Weekly during weekly review I take the time to think about what is an open loop that needs attention or needs more thought and collect that accordingly. Also, during this time I transcribe and process voice memos. Weekly during my “thinking time” I process all the open prompts.

Tools Used

  • Moleskin - My go to collection device. I have several of them. One for habit tracking. One for ideas. One for notes. I carry them with me in my backpack.
  • Uni-Ball Vision Elite Pen - It’s my weapon of choice. Quality and smooth, yet cheap.
  • Evernote - Allows me to take a picture of my Moleskin notes and it OCRs them so I can search them later. Also, in some meetings its a faster way to collect information than writing. I find writing in physical Moleskin to be the most effective.
  • Things - My go to capturing system that is what I use to operate daily out of.
  • Fantastical - Where I go to schedule my days.
  • Voice Memos - How I capture voice thoughts while driving, reading, running.
  • Descript - How I transcribe my voice memos.