Time For Change

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It’s been a while since I wrote my last post.

As my teaching job placed increasing demands on me there seemed less time for anything else. I write this update because I finally have time to communicate my thoughts but not because I have made that time but because I have been forced to. I have ground to a halt. I was trying to do it all, be a committed teacher in state education, strive to parent my daughters with patience and presence and somehow eek out time for myself. You can guess which one of those things dropped by the wayside. The result was exhaustion, overwhelm and a feeling of failure.

This blog charts my journey to carve out a more simple, intentional and creative life but my posts are proof that it is not always easy and mistakes are often make along the way. However,  when there’s a bump in the road you can count on me to pick my self up, dust myself down and try again. So here I am, trying again.

This is one thing  I have learned during these testing few months.

Give up things you love

I’m not advocating that you systematically remove all that brings you happiness, but experiencing the loss of something unknowingly precious can be a powerful lesson in acknowledging one’s priorities.

I started a new project this spring and in doing so I knew I would be placing an additional strain on my time and my energy. So I made a choice to remove something from my schedule, I stopped going to my choir. Whilst it seemed the sensible thing to do (I wouldn’t have to attend evening practices or practice during the week) I was shocked at how it left a small, sad hole in my heart. It wasn’t obvious obvious at first, I felt low, unfulfilled and increasingly anxious. I couldn’t place the cause and then it dawned on me. I missed singing. I missed those inexplicable moments of joy that you only find when making music with others. I missed the connection with my choir members, people I now regarded as dear friends. I hadn’t appreciated how important singing with these lovely people had become.

Though the last few months have been painful , this experience taught me what I need to prioritise in my life, and how my internal world suffers if I ignore these priorities. By giving up something I loved for long enough to notice it’s absence I now value it more than ever before. Now all I have to do is work out what I need to remove from my life to leave more space for these creative priorities. More of that to come…

What are you making a priority in your life?

Change Your Life, One Tiny Step At A Time

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Each year I used to make a new (and unachievable long) list of goals. Things I want to change or improve. You name it, it’s been on the list. Unfortunately I rarely achieved these goals and so the cycle continued. You too?

Change for anyone can be hard and according to collaborative thinking expert M. J Ryan, even positive change can spark fear in our emotional brain. If big enough this fear of change can  trigger the flight or fight response making us actually run from whatever it is we are trying to achieve.

Then a few years ago I discovered the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen. It means small yet continuous change and it embraces the idea that if you make the change small enough you won’t even notice. That tiny shift will add up to a dramatic change if the practice is maintained.

For example:

You want to get up earlier every morning. You can simply set the alarm clock an hour earlier and struggle out of bed each morning until your body adjusts. This approach of course, may work for some but you run the risk of giving up sooner as this intense process of change feels uncomfortable and difficult.

Switch to the Kaizen approach:

You set the alarm 1 minute earlier everyday. Sure it would take you almost 2 months to achieve your desired goal but some say that the act of committing to  21 days of continuous action will cement any habit. I for one am all about the gentle approach these days.

I have found this approach enormously helpful in my journey to carve out a more creative and fulfilling existence. By using the Kaizen method I am trying to change my life. Little by little day by day.

How To Talk To Children About Their Art

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I couldn’t count how many times a week I am asked “Do you like this drawing, Miss?” “Is this painting good, mum?’. We are taught that you can never give a child too much praise and that it is essential if we are to raise one with a healthy self esteem. Except research shows this may not be the case, in fact showering them with too much unfiltered praise may actually do the opposite.

Children need validation and they constantly look for our approval. This is never more true than when they present you with something as personal as their artistic creations. Talking to children about their Art can be confusing and it seems easier to offer them a stream of compliments. I know, I have have done it myself. Unfortunately what this actually does is prevent a child from forming their own opinions about their work, compromises their confidence in their ability and hinders their innate creativity.

Here are some suggestions:

Avoid using automatic statements

‘It’s perfect’, “Yes it’s good’, “Yes, I like it’. Use these phrases often and they will not believe what they do is of worth until you tell them. Encourage them to be more discerning and confident about their work by trying the following:

Invite them to tell you about their artwork

Instead of asking closed ended questions like ‘Is that a flower?’, ‘What is it?’ consider asking ‘Tell me about this’, ‘Where did you get your ideas from?’

Comment on specific aspects of their work

Talk about the lines, colours, detail etc. Point out what you can see ‘ I see you are using lots of green lines in the background’, ‘look how those colours are mixed together’.

Ask questions about how their art was made

This helps children recognise the importance of decision making in the art making process. ‘Which part of your painting did you do first?’, ‘What did you use to make those clouds?’

Ask where they got their ideas from

‘So tell me why you chose to draw a beard on your fairy?’.

Very rarely are ideas totally original and asking children about their ideas makes them aware that their artwork is the result of taking inspiration from the world around. By recognising this they will learn to draw inspiration from a range of sources and begin to see value in what they create.

Encourage them to be more critical about their work

If you notice a child has rushed their work, or clearly shows a lack of care don’t be scared mention it.  So often I see children who lack confidence put no effort into their work. They end up with a poor piece of work that they are unhappy with, feel even worse about themselves and Hey Presto! We have a self fulfilling prophesy. Ask children what specifically they are not happy with. ‘Is it the shapes aren’t right? The paint is too thick? You don’t like the colours?’ Once this is identified they are more able to rectify the problem.

Praise effort not outcome

Acknowledge how hard they worked on their artwork, rather than the outcome. ‘You spent ages on that, well done’. ‘That pine cone was really hard to draw, but you tried anyway.’ ‘That would have taken you a long time to draw the laces on that shoe.’

Here’s to raising a new generation of creators. Cheers.

 

What’s Making Me Happy #3

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In these posts I share what is bringing me joy, what is nurturing my spirit, what is feeding my soul.

Singing

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In 2014 I joined a local choir. Park Life Singers is a non audition community choir that sings a fabulous range of songs from around the globe.

To be fair I had no interest in joining a choir and would never have even considered it if it weren’t for the fact that it was run by a very dear family member. For years she gently encouraged me to join and each time I gave a different excuse: ‘I’m pregnant’, ‘I’m still breastfeeding’, ‘Monday’s just aren’t good for me’. When I had exhausted all of my excuses I thought ‘oh balls to it!’ and I joined. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did.

Each week I get to connect with a diverse group of wonderful people. We sing in a range of languages and styles and I feel such a sense of achievement when we finally master the tricky bits and a unified sounds begins to emanate. It may not be spoken, but I know we all feel this joy.  I even love the tea break biscuits where we gather to natter and devour a small mountain of biscuits.

There is plenty of research about how good singing is for your health and even more so if you sing with others. All I know is that for me creating music with others makes me feel connected, invigorates me and literately makes my heart sing.

Before you jump to assumptions about your own singing abilities, be brave, find a local choir yourself and give it a go.

Zen Parenting Radio

 

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Their motto is ‘The best predictor of a child’s well being is it’s parent’s self understanding.’ This fantastic resource is not just for parents, it’s relevant to anyone who wants to develop their self awareness. Self understanding is not just the key to a child’s happiness, it’s the key to your happiness. I listen to their podcasts via the iTunes Podcast app on my way home from work and it has helped me enormously.

Thank you to everyone that has commented on my blog. Your words are always appreciated.

Anna x

What’s Making Me Happy #2

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In these posts I share what is bringing me joy, what is nurturing my spirit, what is feeding my soul.

K.O.G and The Zongo Brigade a2314053117_10

Feeling a bit miserable? You won’t be after listening to K.O.G and the Zongo Brigade. Sometimes known as ZONGO, they are a brilliant band from Sheffield whose music I would describe as ‘African-Gansta-Funk’.

Memberships

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Specifically museum and gallery memberships (I never did really make use of that gym membership).

I am lucky enough to have bestowed upon me each year a membership for The Art Fund, The Victoria & Albert Museum and The Tate galleries.

These memberships allow me to visit (normally expensive) exhibitions for free and (often most importantly) the members room. Ah, the members room….(usually) quiet and serving copious amounts of Earl Grey. Bliss.

These memberships not only save me oodles of cash but most importantly encourage me to visit more exhibitions and be exposed to Art that I might not otherwise make an effort to see.

I usually visit (briefly) with my daughters then come back another day and indulge in a child-free, leisurely morning of culture.  I frequently visit the same exhibition more than once and love to share the experience with friends. London’s museums and galleries are so beautiful that they make a lovely place to meet for tea or lunch, even if Art is not on the agenda.

Cleaning My Mac

CoM-CleanMyMac2-01My Mac was running so slowly and it really bugged me. I tried cleaning the hardware myself but it was proving time consuming and I was definitely entering dangerous territory. “I’m not sure what this file is, but i’m sure my computer will still work find without it….eek”. After a bit of research I (hesitantly) downloaded Clean My Mac which is nothing short of brilliant. In one afternoon I managed to increase it’s storage by 150GB.

What’s Making Me Happy #1

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In these posts I share what is bringing me joy, what is nurturing my spirit, what is feeding my soul.

The Life of Pi soundtrack

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I love soundtracks. This is my current favourite. It is spectacular. Listen here.

Essential Oils

$_32Burning essential oils in a old fashioned burner, as I tidy the house on a Sunday morning brings me a gentle sense of clarity. Depending on the oils you choose you can uplift, cleanse or bring peace to your home.

Siblings

If you have one, love them.

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Have a wonderful weekend y’all.

Anna x

 

 

 

The Bullet Journal

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I am a chronic list writer. I write lists about everything. Writing lists makes me feel secure and productive, although I have recently begun to question how productive I actually am.

I used to write my list in various places, notebooks, diaries, scraps of paper which led to one very confusing mess. I also recognised that these endless self-imposed tasks were fuelling the feeling of being overwhelmed.

That was until I discovered Bullet Journaling.

Created by New York-based designer Ryder Carroll, Bullet Journalling is an analogue system designed to be a to-do list, diary, notebook, and sketchbook. It claims to teach you to do more with less and, as I have discovered, has the potential to create a thing of beauty.

How to Start

First you need to choose your journal. You can use the original Bullet Journal, but it’s not the only option. Leuchtturm 1917 Bullet Edition Journal Notebook is a good version, but a bit pricey so I opted for the Leuchtturm 1917 A5 Notebook with dotted pages and pre-numbered pages. Molskine are another excellent brand as the paper quality is very good. Any notebook will do, plain, lined, squared or dotted, just try and see what works best for you.

How it Works

Rapid Logging

I was always making complex notes and entries in my diary which was taking a lot time and energy, and sometimes I ignored my diary and it’s contents entirely. What a waste of time.

Rapid Logging is designed to cut the time spent logging appointments and writing lists. It consists of four components: topics, page numbers, short sentences, and bullets.

The Key

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Bullets

Rapid Logging is the use of short-form notation paired with Bullets. The Bullets will help organise your entries into three categories: Tasks, Events, and Notes.

Tasks

Tasks are represented by a simple dot “•” and include any kind of action like “Post parcels at Post Office”. The task bullet has three additional states:

  • X = Task Complete
  • > = Task Migrated
  • < = Task Scheduled

Events

Events are represented by an “O” Bullet. Events are date-related entries that can either be scheduled e.g. “John’s birthday”.

Notes

Notes are represented with a dash “–”. Notes include: facts, ideas, thoughts, and observations. Notes are entries that you want to remember, but aren’t immediately or necessarily actionable. This Bullet works well for meeting, lecture, or classroom notes.

Signifiers

Signifiers are symbols that give your Bullets additional context. A handful of useful examples are listed here; feel free to come up with your own as you get more comfortable.

Priority = *                                                                                                                   Inspiration = !

Modules

Modules refer to the framework of the Bullet Journal. The four modules: The Index, Future Log, Monthly Log, Daily Log help organise specific kinds of entries. The Bullet Journal allows you to mix and match these modules to best suit your needs. 

The Index

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The first few pages of this book are your Index. As you start to use your book, simply add the topics of your Collections and their page numbers to the Index, so you can quickly find and reference them at any point.

Collections

These could be monthly logs, books to read, budgets and project plans.

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Future Log

This Collection is used to store items that either need to be scheduled months in advance… or things that you want to get around to someday. Your future log can span as long as your like. I prefer 12 months.

Monthly Log

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The Monthly Log consists of a calendar and a task list. The Calendar gives you an instant overview of the month where you can schedule Events and Tasks, and the Task Page is a list of both Tasks that you want to tend to that month, and unfinished Tasks that have migrated from the previous month.

Daily Log

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The Daily Log is designed for day to day use, but I like to write out a month at a time.

*Bare in mind how much space you might need for each day,

Migration

Migrating content is considered the cornerstone of Bullet Journaling. Once you’ve reached your second month of journaling, take a look at your previous entries. Where there any unresolved Tasks?

If a Task has become irrelevant, cross it out. If the Task still needs your attention, migrate it,  turning the “•” into “>” to indicate that you’ve migrated that Task, then add it to the Task Page of your new Monthly Log.

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This process may seem like a lot of effort, but it actually encourages you to be more intentional as you have to consider each item. If an entry isn’t even worth the effort to rewrite it, then it’s probably not that important. Get rid of it.

Why I love my Bullet Journal

Business does not equal value or happiness                                                                   Bullet Journalling helps me focus on the things that are truly worth the effort and to become aware of my patterns and habits. Because I take more care with the presentation of my journal I think more carefully about what tasks I add.

One notebook for everything                                                                                               Gone are all my diaries, notebooks and paper scraps. Everything I need is in my journal.

It makes planning easier and more fun                                                                           Rather than feeling like a chore, I savour those quiet moments when I can plan a future project, jots down some ideas or plan the week’s meals.

I am less busy and more productive                                                                                 I have notice that since I began my Bullet Journal my To Do lists are actually smaller.  I have more free time and don’t feel the compulsion to pack each day with a multitude of errands or activities.

It gives me an excuse to draw                                                                                            I have a real love of illustration and of typography but I convinced myself I was too busy to draw with no purpose and instead I looked with envy at beautiful sketchbooks on Pinterest. Now I love spending time trying out new fonts and borders and researching other journals for inspiration. Of course this may feel far too time consuming for you, but that’s the beauty, you include only what’s important to you. You may simply want to scribe using a biro or you may write quotes and collect images inspire you.

Some good resources to help inspire you are Boho Berry, Without Elephants for visually beautiful journals and Bullet Journal for more practical tips.

What are your tips for productivity and journalling?

 

Welcome!

Well here it is. Post No.1.

I’ve thought long and hard about whether to write this blog, not least because I didn’t want it to feel like another thing to add to my To Do list, but it was reading Joshua Becker’s post on why you should start a blog which convinced me to start one myself.

Despite the fact that I have been reading about minimalism for sometime, and have made some positive changes to my life (have I mentioned I used to be shopaholic?) my life still feels more overwhelming and less satisfying than I would like.

As a mum of two children, teaching 3 days a week in a large (2000 students) secondary school I find myself increasingly fatigued, irritable with those I love the most, and a distinct feeling that changes need to be made in my life.  The list of things I feel I need to accomplish to be healthy, successful, happy, a good teacher, a good mum, a good wife etc just keeps growing and so does the feeling of failure. Queue: massive overwhelm.

Spirit

What I do know is that the core of all my happiness lies in my spirit.  If this part of me is neglected then mind and body swiftly follow. My role as a mum and a teacher so often leaves me feeling depleted and not able to give as I would like. Often at the end of the week there is nothing more to give. I intend to explore and share how best to care for my spirit.

Art

I teach Art. I love Art. But I don’t have much time for Art any more. This makes me sad.

This blog began the day I realised that I needed more Art in my life. I strongly believe we all need Art in our lives in order to nurture our minds and spirit. Don’t be mistaken by thinking I’m talking to the Graphic Designers and Art Historians among you. I think every human has an innate desire to create. After all, Art is beauty and beauty elevates us from the ordinary.

This is all starting to sound a bit serious and deep…..

What I mean to say is that in my experience, being creative makes you happy. Despite the fact that I teach Art and have a cupboard at home full of enticing Art supplies I am finding that there is less and less time in my life to be creative. I want that to change. I will share with you the steps I am making to make space for more creativity in the hope that you tap into your creative side too.

Home

Home is where I feel most at peace. Much of my time goes into creating a home that meets my needs and those of my family. Come with me as I explore various ways to create a happy, healthy home.

For anyone out there who is also feeling overwhelmed and trying to find a better way, this blog is for you. For those that are striving to move towards a more intentional, simple and fulfilling life too, this blog is for you.

I don’t claim to be an expert, I’m simply finding my way.