Reflection Matters

January is a great month to start reflecting on the year that has been and planning the year ahead. December, in my experience, an extremely busy month, with more pressures on us than usual. There are often a lot of events to attend, work parties, and other end of year activities, plus any holidays or celebrations to participate in. So, January can be the perfect time for reflection.

So taking stock of what has bee and what is before us is actually very beneficial. For me, it is easy to become very passive in my life, to let the day to day activities drive my life rather than working to have control; this often looks like indecision. But it can often be due to decision fatigue and a lack of commitment to my own goals.

I started this blog to use creativity and creative processes as a way to engage and fight against consumption. To spend time using creativity instead of filling up hours with consumerism or buffering on social media platforms. Being involved in creativity certainly makes me present in that moment, relieves the constant anxiety to have the same things or compare myself to my peers. To me it is a personal protest against consumerism, with the added bonus of enriching rather than taking (time/money). Even though I’m discussing not purchasing unneeded ‘stuff’ – 2 books, which I have shared before I think are a good purchase, and help – with less purchasing… does that even make sense? These are The Bullet Journal Method, and La’rt de la Liste: Simplify, Organise, Enrich your life.

So coming back to my first point; January is a great time to take stock, reflect on the year that has been and put some new processes in place for the new season. To do this I want to discuss ‘lists’. YES, you read it correctly… lists. One of my current finds is La’rt de la Liste: Simplify, Organise, Enrich your life, it is a beautiful book on lists and the art of list making by Dominique Loreau. When I first picked it up I thought, “Oh No, another book to organise my messy life”, and in a way it is, but it is done with creativity, inspiration and flair.

“Writing, correcting, editing, clarifying, refining… the work of deleting, of filtering, of gradually trimming back the superfluous as we aspire towards the essential. It is always possible to express truths, personal convictions or powerful, fleeting pleasures in a more succinct way. Just like the haiku, the list can represent a way of turning a selection of words and sensations into a mini work of art.”

There is delightful Japanese approach to the book, the way Japanese approach lists and the fine art and execution of them. If you love lists – then you will find this book a treasure. Link here to review.

So back to January. It is here and I have a need to reflect. What have I done in 2021 that has helped me to organise my life and in turn given me freedom for creativity? The biggest change I have made is incorporating bullet journaling into my life (BuJo for those in the know). I actually did this a couple of years ago – BUT – it is still changing the way a ride the wave of time and motivation. Ryder Carroll wrote a book titled The Bullet Journal Method, which outlines a style of journal/diary, he states:

“The Bullet Journal method will help you accomplish more by working on less. It helps you identify and focus on what is meaningful by stripping away what is meaningless.”

Without reading the book, it’s quite difficult to explain the elements of the BuJo that make it so successful. What I like most about it is its ability to put everything in one place. I’ve always had a diary, but then hated the waste of paper, I use lists all the time, and then I write little quotes to myself, or draw, or write down goals in another book – the BuJo method puts it all together using an index system, which is easy and quick to learn.

I recommend the Matter Bullet Dotted Journal it comes in a variety of colours and is simple to use, this is the Lavender one – my favourite. You will see from the pic below – this is not one of those journals – but mine is on order….

This method of organising, has probably been the biggest change I have made and stuck to this year. And, I will definitely keep practicing the BuJo method next year. I absolutely recommend this book. There is also a website to visit, which is linked here.

Thinking about 2022 commitments and goals: I have a selection of ‘list’ activities (below), which I will work through to come to a decision… and stick to it. These activities can be used in all manner of ways, for small aspects of your life, or larger projects you may be working on. I will link the different websites or references for each.

List Activities

Negative Selection

This is a great way of making lists smaller at the beginning stages. If your possible lists for an idea or project has become too large, and you’re confused as to which one to start, you can use the negative selection. We have a great ability to see the negative in something, more than the positive. Go through the list and write down, NO or MAYBE beside each as you think about the possibilities.

Attribute Listing

  • List all the attributes of the object, or process in question
  • Consider the value of the attributes
  • Do the attributes have a positive or negative value
  • Modify the attributes
  • Look for ways you can modify the attributes, so you can increase value

Challenge Assumptions List

  • When having an block, or trying to solve an issue, you can write a challenge assumptions list
  • Start by listing the assumptions you have of the problem
  • Then ask, “What if…… was not true?”
  • This type of listing and thinking will help you to see the issue from different perspectives.

Osborn Checklist

Alex Osborn, who developed the brainstorm technique, also advanced other thinking strategies, and one of these is the Osborn Checklist.

  • Adapt? What’s similar, what are parallels, what can you imitate?
  • Modify? Can you change colour, moving, size, shape, tone, smell, etc.?
  • Substitute? Different process, positions, music, elements from other countries, etc.?
  • Magnify/Maximise?  Increasing frequency, size, height, length, distance, etc.?
  • Minimise/Eliminate? Lighter, smarter, etc.?
  • Rearrange?                
  • Different sequence, etc.?
  • Reversal? How to mirror the ideas, etc.?
  • Combine? Is it part of a bigger picture, etc.?
  • Other use? Is another use possible, etc.?

The Wish List

Wishing helps to expand our thinking, it is playful and without boundaries. You can wish for anything. Making a wish list helps you understand yourself and you can consider ‘what ifs’ without limiting your choices to practical solutions.

So these are some of the activities I will use over the next week to reflect on my commute. Hopefully it may be useful to you as well to think about how you can make some positive changes in your routines for next year.

December Reflection (Part Two)

This blog is a bit personal, as I’m using examples from my own life, and it is also, a bit of a ramble. Hopefully you will get the idea that I’m still working through reflections of 2019, and thinking about goals for 2020. I really want to set up goals that challenge me, but are also achievable and creative.

As you will see below I’ve started working on the issue of my commute, using some of the listing techniques I mentioned in last week’s blog. (My issue is whether to continue with my long journey each day to work, on public transport, or purchase a car and halve my time). I have definitely learnt some things that will help me to make a decision. For example, there is a gym where the bus stops and I pick up the train. So this would break up my trip and also assist with my goal to become stronger. Another alternative is to take the earlier Express Bus that goes all the way into the city, 1.5hr ride, (missing out the train altogether), and then walk the last 25 minutes. There is a number of positives to this; my stop is at the beginning of the journey – so a seat is guaranteed!! This means I can get my laptop or diary out and do some work and secondly, the walk from that stop is very pretty. So some progress, but still more work to do on this issue before I make a solid decision. So I’m going to work on the attribute listing technique (from last week), and see what happens here:

Commute: Attribute Listing

  • Step One: List all the attributes of commuting.
  • Travel, Seated, Standing, Outside, Inside, Tickets, People, Rush Hour, City Centre
  • Step Two: Consider the value of each attribute. (I’ve kept it positive or neutral).
  • Travel: Get to the city and home each day.
  • Seated: Can do work from my laptop.
  • Standing: Good for balance. (The only thing I could think of…)
  • Outside: Enjoying the changing environment.
  • Inside: Out of the weather conditions.
  • Tickets: Easy process and system.
  • People: Great for people watching.
  • Rush Hour: Witness the city movement each day.
  • City Centre: Enjoy the energy.
  • Step Three: Modify Attributes: Think of ways you can increase value, decrease negative aspects or add value.
  • Travel: Can be broken up by going to the Gym. Can use different services to break up the monotony.
  • Seated: Make the most of this time (15 hours a week), to blog, research, get creative.
  • Standing: (This can happen on the train): Enjoy a podcast, think it of an active exercise.
  • Outside: Parts of the journey are extremely beautiful, especially as seasons change. Perhaps create a photo-journal of this.
  • Inside: (Not sure I can add value here).
  • Tickets: There are probably bulk plans that could be a cheaper way of buying tickets, I will look into this.
  • People: Maybe take note of interesting people, again, do something creative here.
  • Rush Hour: Nothing I can add here, but I could possibly change my commute times, depending on work commitments.
  • City Centre: Breath it in!!

Using the Modify Step some ideas of creativity are definitely creeping in, so that has to be positive. I also think that if I commit to commuting for another year, I do need to purchase some gear to help with this. First I need a better rain jacket for summer. In Auckland there is a lot of rain, all year round, and I have a wonderful winter coat, but now that it’s summer it’s become more difficult. I do need a back-pack that can fit more in it than my current bag, and I also need some more water-proof shoes. These are all very boring, I know, but I’ve always lived in a much smaller cities with my own transport, so these issues I’m still working on. When I moved here, I thought I would purchase a car a lot sooner, so I haven’t invested in practical gear to keep me going and support longer durations of commuting.

I’m going to leave this issue here, for this week, and make a final decision about my commute on next week’s blog. 

Below is a series of photos taken on New Years Eve last year. We drove to Mokau Beach on the west coast of the North Island. We spent the afternoon on the beach, and then in the evening parked up on the ridge to watch the last sunset of 2018. We were lucky to catch a glimpse of the sun as it set as the day had been cloudy.

Ok, moving on: I need to spend some time reflecting on some goals I set in place for 2019 but did not accomplish. I want to know why they didn’t happen, and I’m going to use an example of one here. This is to understand on a deeper level what is driving me toward some goals but not others. I’m using a technique called The Five Whys. I found this activity in the Bullet Journal, however, originally it is from Toyota’s production system from the 1950s, where they encouraged the team to analyse each problem, by repeating ‘why’, 5 times.  

So one of the goals I did not achieve (or even start), was to join a language class. I started German when I was in High School, and also did a paper at university, but never finished and have lost most of what I’ve learnt. So this is my problem, as I do want to achieve this:

Problem: I did not join a language class.

  1. Why?   I didn’t want to commit to it and then think I might miss a few classes.
  2. Why?   I don’t like not being able to fully commit and it seems like a waste of money.
  3. Why?   I guess I think committing is only 100% and nothing else will do.
  4. Why?   For some reason I believe in: ‘all or nothing’.
  5. Why?   I actually don’t know how I started thinking this way, but obviously it is not  serving me.

Reflection: Believing in ‘all or nothing’ stops me from joining groups or participating. I could be more relaxed with myself and not put so much pressure to only commit to 100%. This way, joining  in, (not just in language class), will be a positive activity and not become a measure of how I see myself.

Maybe I won’t be able to go to all the sessions, but this is OK.

I’m working on my new 2020 goals, I’m really trying to reflect and consider what it is that helps me achieve some, but not others. I’m truly happy with what I did achieve this year, but there’s always more to learn about the self.

I know this blog is a serious ramble, but hopefully it may inspire reflection and openness to look at ourselves and find ways in which we can grow and see more of our potential.