Wednesday, 30 January 2013

January 2013: Check In

Last year I failed to keep track of what I had been up to, especially in relation to my goals for 2012. I am determined not to let this slide this year and, so far, I have been keeping this promise. Each week I have been writing a quick update in my progress journal. This technique is working for me as it's keeping my thoughts on goals, even if there are some I have not actively started working towards.

Treat writing as a second job - A

I am slowly chipping away at making more time to write. The Artist in the Office has been a great inspiration for this. One tip Summer Pierre suggests is making a weekly appointment to work towards your creative goals (of course this could be applied to any goal, not just creative ones). Make it fixed: write it down or set up a reminder on your phone. I decided upon making Wednesday evenings my creative appointment and wrote this down in my paper diary. It seems to be working. In January I used the time to research markets to submit my work to, attended Weegie Wednesday and prepared two pieces of writing to be submitted to various publications. 

Another great resource for me this month has been this book: Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It NOW by Jane B. Burka and Lenora M. Yuen. You can read my thoughts about this book here. So far, I have only applied the techniques I've learned to my day job but I'm slowly working them into my 'second job' too. 

Complete the Artists Way program - B1

This goal is on hold for the moment. You can find out my reasons in this post here. In February I plan to have a good think about my current approach to the Artists' Way and whether it's right for me at this time in the year. 

Make and distribute a zine - B2

The problem with this goal is I have so many ideas I want to tackle! It's been hard pinning down what I want to do. Instead I have been putting thoughts into my Notebook and reading other zines to get inspiration. I have also been listening to the back catalogue of the excellent Nobody Cares About Your Stupid Zine podcast on my morning commutes. Nothing is more inspiring than hearing other people talk about subjects they're passionate about. Alex and Derek have been doing a great job of cheering me up on the train to work, as well as providing potential fodder for my zine. 

Work on my writing portfolio - B3

Last week I sent out two pieces of my work. One submission was for an upcoming anthology and I sent off some of my poetry. The second submission was for a spoken word event being held in Glasgow next month. Thanks to Writing World, I have a nifty new spreadsheet to record writing submissions in. I'm so pleased that I have already filled out two slots for 2013. 


Enter and complete a 10k - A

This goal has taken a rather interesting twist. I finally hit the boredom wall of running on a treadmill at the gym. The weather has not been great this month and that has stopped me from going out, pounding the pavements. A couple of weeks ago, Him Indoors suggested that we go swimming and it turned out to be reasonably enjoyable. Since then, I have been trying to go to two fitness classes and/or swimming at the local gym. I have regained an enjoyment of Zumba and seem to be a bit better at it than the last time I went (almost a year ago!). 

So, the running has been put on hold for January - at least, until the weather improves. However, I'm still getting more exercise so surely it's better than nothing? 

Self Improvement 

Update my 2013 Progress Journal on a daily basis - A

This is the one goal I appear to be acceding at. Marceline, the brains behind Asking for Trouble, has created a beautiful five year diary that is easy to update. There's also a space at the front that you can fill out for each year including your hopes and goals for that particular year. I keep the diary on my bedside table and it only takes five minutes to fill out what I've been up to that day. 

Have one Internet free day a week - B

Strictly speaking, I have not been sticking to Internet free days. It might have been to become an appointment based tasks, as per my creative hour mentioned above. My laptop is now kept in the spare room/office and not on my footstool in the living room. This simple move has seen a big improvement in my time management at home. Instead of wasting away hours on the Wild Web, I have been more productive at Getting Things Done. 

Next month, I'd like to plan my Internet free days a bit better and be more strict at cutting down my activity. A big impact has been an increase in my reading time. This month I managed to read seven books which is a change from months I'd hardly read. At all. It has been intimidating to see how much of my time was sucked up by mindless Web surfing, but it's made me more determined to change it. 

Review: Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It NOW by Jane B. Burka and Lenora M. Yuen

You can find out more about this book by going to its Amazon page.

I mentioned this book in my post but it started to spawn a life of its own. When I hit paragraph three, I realised that perhaps it deserved a post of its own. 

The book is split into two sections: the first section discusses factors and behaviours behind procrastination, whilst the second section offers practical tasks aimed at breaking the procrastination cycle. For many years I have been rather snotty about self-help books, seeing them as a sign of weakness rather than a useful tool (and, as I discovered, this attitude is one of the factors that contributes to my procrastination). When my procrastination began to seriously impact on my day job, I swallowed my pride and looked around for some advice. On my travels, I stumbled across this book. 

Thank you so much to Jane and Lenora for writing this book. As I read through the pages I kept thinking "That's me! Oh so that's why I behave like that." I wish that I had read this book when I was at university - it might have helped me get a better mark for my degree. Working through the exercises in the book I realised that I have a small problem with time mangement, a common trait amongst procrastinators. For some reason I find it hard to judge how long a task will take or how much time has passed. In other words, my relationship between objective time (fixed by a clock, calendar etc.) and subjective time (your own sense of time passing) is a little out of step. At the moment I'm trying to keep track of how long tasks take me at work to help improve this relationship. It's getting there, slowly but surely, and I feel like I am improving. 

Another method that has been helping me is the "15 minute approach" recommended in the book. I find myself putting off tasks because I think I don't have enough time. My current means that I assume I need a block of two hours to write that report. Researching a certain topic will take me all day. To be honest, that is time I am never going to have and I need to get out of that mindset. When I look at a task, I say to myself "I will work on this for 15 minutes and see how far I get." It has been really surprising how far I have been getting on with work using this method. Bit by bit, I am getting things DONE.

I cannot emphasis how much this book has changed my life. Over my extended Christmas break, I devoured its pages and felt so inspired to change my approach to work. At times I seriously considering handing in my notice because I didn't feel good enough to do my job (again, another trait of the procrastinator as highlighted in this book). This book helped me to realise that I am good at my job, I can work well and that it was easy to change my behaviour.

Fellow procrastinators, the best thing you can do is read this book. You will not regret it.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Artist's Way: A Dilemma

Last week saw the return of going to my Paid Job which requires getting up early to brave public transport. Going back to work was one of my concerns when it came to following my New Year resolutions. It's all very well having good intentions when you've got plenty of free time on your hands.  Rising at nine o'clock to do morning pages at a leisurely pace is a very different experience to waking up when it's still dark, with a morning commute ahead.

As a result I completely forgot to do my morning pages 1 on my work days this week. The last time I tackled The Artist's Way (TAW), it was in the middle of summer and light when I got up in the mornings. Also, my desk was in my bedroom and within eyesight of my bed so it was easy to remember to do the morning pages. So I decided to move my morning pages notebook to my bedside table where it jostles for space with my Five Year Diary and Random Sleep Thoughts notebooks.  Problem solved.

Alas, the next problem is a bit more pressing. I settled down to start working my way through Week One of the programme. On my last attempt, I gave up around Week Six - halfway through the twelve week schedule. It was hard to work on the Week One exercises without referring back to my previous attempts. One task includes writing a letter to a previous critic of your work and the same individual I wrote to last time kept swimming around in my thoughts (don't worry, I didn't post the letter). And that's what I'm worried about. Will I learn anything if I keep repeating the same information? Is it a cop out if I re-start the course at Week Six? Should I re-start the course from Week One and to hell with it if the same responses keep coming up?

1 Morning pages are an important feature of doing The Artist's Way. Julia Cameron instructs students to get up each morning and write three pages before they do anything else (although I'm sure you'd be allowed to pop to the toilet). The thinking behind this task is that this 'free' writing allows you to clear your head and let your creativity come more naturally.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

List of 2013 Goals

Here is a full list of my goals for 2013, grouped together by category and in order of priority. I used the system outlined in Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracey, where tasks are assigned to an ABC category depending on their importance. A tasks are deemed the most important and goes down to D which means a task can be delegated. For obvious reasons, I've only adopted the ABC method for my goals.


Treat writing as a second job - A
Complete the Artists Way program - B1
Make and distribute a zine - B2
Work on my writing portfolio - B3


Enter and complete a 10k - A
Commit to running three times a week - B

Self Improvement 

Update my 2013 Progress Journal on a daily basis - A
Have one Internet free day a week - B

You can read more about the reasons behind my goals by visiting this post: Baby steps in 2013.

Baby steps in 2013

In my last post, I discussed my strengths and weaknesses when tackling my goals in 2012. Here I'm going to chat a little bit about the goals I'm focusing on in 2013.

For the past week I have kept a little notepad beside me and I have been jotting down thoughts as they've come to me. One of my goals popped up whilst I was drying my hair whilst others appeared when I was doing a mundane task, like washing the dishes. Today I sat down and wrote all my goals out on a piece of paper to see if there were any themes appearing. Conveniently, the ten goals could be grouped into three categories that I have named:
  • Creative
  • Health
  • Self-Improvement 
However those three categories are not very helpful. 'I want to be more creative in 2013' is a lovely statement to make but it's rather vague. As I learned from last year, being vague does not work for me. I need deadlines, I need a timetable, I need a concrete goal to work towards. It explains why I achieved my running goal by entering the Race for Life. Friends and family sponsored me and that gave me the pressure to keep up with my training. 


This year I really beat myself up in relation to my creative life. I have done enough wailing about it so I won't go over it again here. Many things have helped give me a kick up the backside, namely the help and support from writing friends (you know who you are) and some choice reading material. One of my growing passions this year has been exploring zine culture and the place the perzines1 still have in the age of the blog. I loved getting a parcel of zines through the post and reading about other people's lives - the ultimate treat for a nosey sod like me. One zine, Mythologising Me, talked about a great book called The Artist in the Office by Summer Pierre. The Artist in the Office is a lovely read in which Summer shares her own experiences chasing creative dreams and strategies for including your creative self in your paid job. I felt so inspired after I had finished reading this book; it was certainly a big help when I was thinking about my goals for 2013. 

My main creative goal for 2013 is to treat my writing as a second job. It's rather simple: I get time to write, I enjoy it, I feel better about myself and the world feels like a nicer place. I have lots of mini goals relating to this to help me on my way (more about them later). 


As eluded to in my previous post, a family member had a big health scare this year. They're getting better but it made realise how much I take my health for granted. This serves as a perfect excuse to get back into running again. 

My main health goal for 2013 is to enter and complete a 10k. 

Self Improvement 

Now this goal popped up out of nowhere. As a student I was used to getting feedback through essay and exam marks. In the working world, it's a lot harder to get this feedback. In other words, you have to take responsibility for pushing and progressing yourself forwards. It's rather shameful to be waking up to this at the age of 27 but it's still not too late. 

On New Year's Eve, I spent time filling in a journal that is going to record my thoughts and feelings as I march towards my goals. It will be a space for me to honestly reflect on how well I'm doing and what I need to improve on. 

My main self improvement goal for 2013 is to completely my journal on a daily basis. 

You can read my full list of 2013 goals here where they are grouped together by category. This list will probably be added to as I work through them and other goals pop up announced. 

1 Perzines is the definition giving to zines that focus on the creator's personal life and experiences, rather than a specific topic such as cycling and vegan cooking.


Greaves, Suzy Make your dreams happen in 2013, Psychologies, pp.42 - 47 (February 2013) You can also follow Suzy's goals for 2013 by visiting her blog here.

Ingrid, Mythologising Me (2011)

Pierre, Summer, The Artist in the Office (Penguin Group, 2010)

Top 10 strategies for making your New Years Resolutions Stick, Lifehacker, - last accessed 31st December 2012