My favourite reflection guide

My favourite reflection guide

Tis the season for reflection, as Christmas ends and we draw closer to 2016, there’s going to be plenty of talk about 2015, how it went, what went well, what didn’t go so well, new years resolutions etc.

My favourite reflection tool has been Mathias Vestergaard Annual report 2014. He gives a brilliant and simple guide for creating your own annual report (reflecting on the previous year)

“You will need five sheets of paper (or five pages in your favorite notebook), a good pen and a great cup of coffee (optional).

Step 1: what happened? Make a timeline of the past 12 months and add the primary things that happened this year. Travel, important milestones, career changes, family. You can use your journals from the year, your calendar, Twitter and Facebook feeds and whatever else that might help you. You don’t need to write anything about it right now. Just get the facts laid out. If you count less than 10 things, then you are probably being a little too strict about what counts as a significant. If you have more than 30 things, leave out the least important.

Step 2: who were in my life? On a new page: Make a map of your people. Start anywhere and draw a little stick figure and give it a name for each person that was significant in your life this year. There might be a group of your closest friends. A group of your co-workers. Who were the new people that came into your life? As in step 1, try to just focus on the facts. 

Step 3: how did it feel? On a new page: With the facts out, now it’s time to go a little deeper. Pick one of the elements from step 1 and try to remember a little bit more about what happened and how it felt. How did it feel when it happened and how does it feel now, with a little bit of time in between? Big challenges might have felt super scary when you were in it, but now that you look back on it, it actually feels great. Try to capture both feelings. Repeat for at least three other events from step 1.

Step 4: what have I learned? On a new page: Try to make a list of the five most important things you’ve learned or discovered in the past year. How did you discover it? What allowed you to capture it as a learning? How has it changed your view on life, the world or whatever it relates to? Step 5: Look ahead. On the last page: With 2014 over, the last step is to look ahead for 2015. You can make this quite complicated but actually try to not overthink it: just draw the three most important people, two concrete things you really want to do, and one word that describes a good attitude. Don’t think about it. Grab a pen and see what comes out. I also highly recommend my friend Chris’s approach to redesigning your new year’s resolutions. Read it here and be inspired: http://bit.ly/1DvYIzd

I’ll also be adding a mapping of  what I want my life to be like in 3 years, 5 years and 10 years. I was speaking to my Dad today, he asked me “have you thought about your long term goals?” and I realised I haven’t thought about that in a long time, I’ve been in present mode.

I’ve also decided not to do New Years Resolutions (I never stick to them so why start the year failing?). Instead I’m choosing three principles I want to live by in 2016. I’ll be posting them soon so you can help keep me on track :).

Let me know how your annual report/ reflection goes!

Reflection- Active Socioplastics 1 year on 

Reflection- Active Socioplastics 1 year on 

Why did I start this blog?

I can’t actually remember why I started blogging. I’d been wanting to do it for ages but had never got round to it. So finally after my birthday last year I just went for it. Started. No more excuses!

I do remember why I called it Active Socioplastics. I’d read an interview with Denise Scott Brown, urban planner and architect, where she spoke of active socioplastics as a method that combined sociology and design. People and the environment. And I thought this was fantastic. It said everything I wanted to do and was trying to do.

Given what you’ve done up to now what do you feel?

Good.

Over the last year I’ve made about 150 posts over the last year. About 5-10% I’m proud of and average about 5+ readers a day.

Not great numbers! But I feel so much more content with what I’m posting . I am excited most days to write something now and feel happier to share it. A massive change from a few months ago!

My ‘what the hell am I doing?’ period was round April.

 I’d been coasting along on blog posts I wasn’t really loving and didnt feel that excited about (check out the productivity series).

Then I attempted to post everyday for a month inspired by James Greig. I’d done it for a week with Seth Godins challenge and thought “I can do it”. A month of daily posts is a whole different ball game!

I had some ideas but not many I actually wanted to write. I didnt really know what I wanted to share. I had graphics I wanted to make but no time to do them…..

Feeling overwhelmed, I ended up with a mental block. Wrote posts that I wasn’t very proud of (I mean I wrote about catwalk modelling! Clutching at straws!)

So I just stopped. I felt like I didn’t have anything interesting to say and was so concerned about what people would think if they read my blog.

I eventually got back to writing again. I set the bar really low for myself. Only 1 post a week, didn’t manage that at first. However it made me be more thoughtful about what I wanted to say.

My breakthrough was writing the post on creativity, passion and finding your voice. I’m so proud of that post. I finally felt like I was expressing what I was thinking about, connecting the ideas and things I’d been learning in a way that added some value. I started to explore using text as a graphical style, mixing and breaking up lines, which I enjoyed.

I suddenly feel like I’m finding my voice something that I’ve been working on in general for a while now. I’m getting more comfortable with expressing more and more of myself and what I’m exploring 🙂

What have you done right?

I’ve experimented with a range of blog organisation techniques. From a weekly blog calendar, to a google docs (both made me feel overwhelmed, there were too many ideas and too few insights).

Now I just use Evernote.

Every month I start a Spark Page and note all my ideas. I started by just putting the link or the idea but hardly ever came back. Now I try to flesh them out immediately so the base is there. Then add to it whenever I discover some other interesting thing that fits the topic. They constantly evolve. After I upload the post, I delete them.  Such a nice feeling!

I’m also attempting to hand write first. There’s something about writing by hand that seems to imprint the idea more than typing on a computer. It’s like word vomit and I don’t have to worry about it being perfect.

I have lots of ideas I want to do but I’m getting better at knowing when to stay no. For example I have graphics I’d love to make but I don’t really have the time to do. Instead  I’ve been experimenting with just using the text layout to create a graphical effect.

I feel like a kaleidoscope of ideas, interests and passions; finance, enterprise, architecture, fashion, design, development, personal growth, productivity, being black, Africa…. I’m getting better at reflecting this in the blog and I’m feeling more and more comfortable about expressing myself. 

What could you do better?

Definitely get better at making meaningful connections online. Things like responding to other peoples posts and connecting with people online. I keep hearing about this, building relationships, talking to people but I’ve struggled with this. So if you have any tips I’d love to know!

Since my brother advised me to do this, I’ve started sharing the things I discover and I’m constantly emailing my friends about. I’m totally an information gatherer and it’s been quite liberating having somewhere to share it all.

I’m now working to start to join up information to connect ideas and add my perspective. I’m still conscious of my friends brilliant advice to write why the topic is interesting for me and the experiences that have influenced that. To write like I talk basically.

I also want to develop my writing skills so I’m taking the How to Write with Flair  course on Udemy.

What blogs do you aspire to be like?

Stumbling on Austin Kleon’s tumblr blog and Keri Smiths blog made me realise that I can express my crazy mix of interests on a blog. To treat it more like a scrapbook and a journal. The structure Keri has is easy to navigate and Austin is brilliant at simple and effective posts.

I remember listening to a Design Matters podcast with Maria Papova and just absolutely wanting to be like her. She writes her blog for herself, things she’s interested in and exploring. She spoke of doing what you do best and linking to the rest, creating a framework of what matters and why and storytelling with a strong point of view.

Some of my favourite blogs include Swiss Miss, Design Affects, Red Jotter and Seth Godin for their straight to the point, friendly and insightful posts.

All in all it’s been a great year of exploration. This year I’d love to focus on learning and building my skills.

I look forward to what it brings! 🙂

p.s

the reflections questions I use are from a group mentoring session I had when I was as director of a social enterprise.

It’s one of my favourite reflection exercises, so simple and effective. Really gets to the bottom of what you’re feeling and where you want to go :).