May goals

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How is it already almost May? I thought it was February yesterday? Haha! Approaching the beginning of a new month and finishing a big project means I’m realigning my goals and priorities. 

This morning, over a frothy decaf latte, I made my list of goals and intentions for May in my Powersheets Goal Book. Then, to make sure I wasn’t overwhelmed by it all, I drew a little mini-me in the margins giving me encouragement in a speech bubble. So, that’s my daily drawing today. A little boost of encouragement for myself, and for you as well.  We’ve got this! We can do it, whatever “it” is. 

What are your goals for the merry month of May? Tell me in the comments! I’d love to know!

Un-planning my life

The other day, in the late afternoon, Little One and I listened to the complete piano sonatas by Mozart at top volume.

The day had been chaotic, and I hoped that the soothing tones and rhythms would quell the thirtieth (or was it fiftieth?) toddler-tantrum of the day.

So, we listened, we took deep breaths and we read a story.

We floated on the music for half an hour, and then started the quiet ritual of bath, dinner and bed.

It was the simple act of letting go, just for a moment, that changed the tenor of the day.

The afternoon before had sat down with my journal, determined to plan my life "once and for all." I turned to the next blank page and drew bullet points down the left-hand side. This was to be my "list to end all lists." I was finally going to feel like I was leading my life, instead of it leading me.

I sipped my decaf.

I stared at the blank page.

I wrote two, maybe three ideas down.

And then I realized something important.

I write the same lists, day after day, week after week. I write them because I think they're going to help me feel more in control and more accomplished. But they don't: so I repeat the process over and over.

But... lists are flat.

There are linear.

They don't, in fact they

can't

, reflect the messy, three-dimensional complexities of life. So, I write list after list in an attempt to control the chaos, but instead they make me feel more frenzied and frustrated.

I have decided that this summer we are going to follow rhythms instead of lists. We are going to float with the ebb and flow of the day. We are going to sleep when we're tired, drink when we're thirsty, eat when we're hungry, and dance when we're happy. We will run in the rain and bask in the sunshine.

All those bullet points on my lists were like a sack of bricks slung over my shoulder. It is liberating to let them go.

I will listen to beautiful music and let go. I will daydream and let go. I will draw and write and let go. The folding and scrubbing will happen (as they always do), but I won't spend time dwelling about them, or writing detailed schedules for them.

I am finding, when I let go, even cleaning can become a kind of meditation.

This week I am un-planning my life.

What are you doing?

Make your notebook extraordinary

What is a notebook?

A notebook is paper, card, glue, and perhaps a twist of thread to stitch the binding together.

The components are simple.

But notebooks are magical.  As soon as you purchase one at the stationery store and scrawl your name in the front cover, it has been transformed.

It is no longer

just

paper, card, glue and twine; it is an extension of you. When you add yourself to the ingredients list it isn't just

any

notebook anymore, it's

your

notebook. There is no other like it in the world.

You add your thoughts, your habits, your visions, your goals. It is messy. It is neat. It is dog-eared. It is imbued with your personality and emotions. Sometimes your notebook is the only safe place to express those emotions...

Not only that.

It is your notebook at this specific time and place. A notebook you bought and used two years ago will bear no resemblance to the notebook you bought yesterday. In that interval of time you have changed and matured, and the notebooks will reflect that.

To make your notebook extraordinary, and like no other, all you have to do is sit down and: write, scribble, sketch, glue, paste, cut, doodle, or do whatever else you feel like doing at that moment.

And then it is yours.

And it is extraordinary.

Because you are extraordinary.

My notebook collection

This weekend I spent some time organizing my studio, and I thought it might be fun to take you on a tour of my notebook collection and show you how I use them.

My Journal

I have been keeping journals continuously since I was 12 or 13 years old. I started in sweet looking cloth-bount diaries, then moved on to Mead 5-star spiral bound scribblers, then decided that I needed to be stylish and chic, and graduated to moleskines.

I write an entry almost every day. Normally I describe what happened that day (or the day before, if I'm writing first thing in the morning), and outline my thoughts about my projects or things that might be happening in my life.

However, I don't always write journal entries in my moleskine journal. I keep a concurrent journal in a Scrivener file and sometimes I brain-dump my thoughts into that. It's nice to be able to type at the speed of my thoughts, instead of waiting for my hand and pen to catch up.

I'm not precious about my paper journals. They're messy. They're full of scribbles. They're peppered with mis-spelled words and incomplete sentences. Sometimes I only have the time to write quick lists about the day -- things I saw, things I thought about -- in a rapid logging style. My journal is for un-selfconscious experimentation and expression. It's where I push my voice to its limits and figure out what my heart really wants to say. It is utterly private, but at the same time, there isn't much in there that is deeply secret or unsharable.

My Sketchbook

I recently moved from a moleskine pocket sketchbook to a normal sized one. At first I liked the smaller size of the pocket book because I could wedge it between diapers, wipes and bottles in my hold-everything bag. Now that Little One is older, and we don't need to bring the kitchen sink on every outing, I've opted for a slightly larger notebook. It gives me more freedom to decide how large I want my sketches to be. 

This sketchbook is all about daily experimentation and play. I'm not enamoured with the moleskine sketchbook paper. It only does an adequate job of dealing with watercolours and some pens bleed on the paper. That being said, I quite like that I can't be precious about what I'm doing. I feel free to make mistakes because these drawings are only for myself. 

I have many other sketchbooks which are the workhorses for my various jobs and projects. For those I normally use A3 or A4 Seawhite of Brighton sketchbooks. They're big, bulky, fantastic, and rarely leave my studio. 

My Personal Dictionary

This is where I have to admit to you that I'm a nerd; I'm completely, hopelessly nerdy. When I'm reading and I come across a word I don't know, want to use more often, or think is particularly lovely, I write it and its definition down in this little notebook. 

I don't know where I got this book from and it started off as something different. It's first iteration was as a book of lists: things I wanted to bake, things I loved, etc.  But, it turns out that a book of lists didn't inspire me. 

But a book of words? 

Heaven. 

Here are a few of the words therein....

caparison:

ornamental covering for a horse

fulsome:

complimentary or flattering to a excessive degree

dilatory:

slow to act; intended to cause delay

furze:

gorse (a type of plant). Thorny, evergreen, small yellow flowers, grows in the moors. 

pellucid:

translucently clear

plaints:

another way to say "complaints" 

numinous:

having a strong religious or spiritual quality. 

Will I ever use any of these words in every-day writing or speaking? Probably not, but I love knowing that I have enriched my vocabulary with them. 

My Inspiration Notebook 

Whenever I read inspiring passages or facts I copy them into my inspiration notebook.

In essence, this is like an old "commonplace book," which is defined as a notebook into which notable extracts from other works are copied for personal use. 

I'm on my third commonplace book. At first I copied clichéd quotes and song lyrics (I was in my teens). In my second book I copied beautiful paragraphs from novels, and useful paragraphs from non-fiction. 

In my third book, in addition to recording beautiful and useful things, I'm also trying to incorporate more poetry. 

I need more poetry in my life.

My Gratitude Journal

My Easter resolution this year was to keep a gratitude journal. I've flirted with the idea for years; scribbling little notes in the margins of my journals or day planner, but I've never stuck with it for longer than a few weeks, because I've never had a concrete plan.

I realized that if I listed three things I was grateful for every day, that would be 1095 happy things to remember over the course of a year.

I wanted a special notebook to motivate my in my quest for gratitude, so I ordered the gorgeous "Line A Day" diary from Chronicle Books, which is a perpetual diary that runs for 5 years.

Think about this: five years of daily gratitude would record 5475 happy moments.

My Day Planner

My day planner is a black moleskine notebook with squared pages. I have quested high and low, though stationery stores across three continents, and never found my perfect planner. My main requirements are: a weekly view where the daily portions are vertical instead of horizontal, so I can write lists; and lots of space in the margins for weekly lists that are not day-specific. 

For much of last year I used a planner that I had made in inDesign and had printed at our local Notting Hill printing shop. However, after six months the ring binding was in shreds and pages flew hither and thither whenever I opened it. 

Since moleskine notebooks have the strongest binding of any notebook I know, I bought a book with squared pages and ruled the spreads myself. 

I LOVE this little planner of mine. It is my brain. It is my time-keeper. It keeps me sane and helps when I feel overwhelmed. Everything gets written down, so nothing is forgotten (at least nothing important). 

And, there are plenty of pages in the back for me to keep notes on projects I'm working on, books I'm reading or want to read, random lists, and weekly recipes so that I always have the ingredients lists on hand. 

It's a mess, but I love it.

What do you think? 

Do you have any notebooks you can't live without? 

And, would you like a more detailed tour of any of the above notebooks? Please leave a comment to let me know. 

And, as always, show your love by pinning on pinterest, sharing on facebook or twitter, or hearting in bloglovin! 

How to make work easy PLUS a few daily drawings

{Soaring through the week, and crossing things off my list one by one}

It is a sunny, sweet day: perfect for sitting in the breeze and dreaming. 

Next door, workmen are clanking, whirring and banging. It gives me a false sense of industry. I'm not doing much, but someone nearby is working very hard. It feels like that work transfers to me by proximity. Like when I'm drinking tea and the washing machine is spinning loudly. I'm not doing anything, but it is working very hard, and so I feel satisfied and accomplished. 

I have been thinking a lot lately about what work means. 

My Dad always said that we should "work smart, not hard." 

And I've spent my entire life trying to figure out what that means. 

It means being efficient. It means figuring out what is absolutely necessary, doing that necessary thing, and then resting. It is when we rest that we get our best ideas. 

The trick is figuring out what the necessary things are. 

The other day I made a list of my "necessary" things. It is small but mighty: daily drawings, daily journalling, writing stories, working on my illustration projects, reading novels and poetry, keeping detailed to-do lists. (Playing with little-one and hanging out with my husband are necessary things, but they don't fall under the "work" category; they are unadulterated fun.)

That is all. 

Six necessary things.

Of course, my day-to-day life contains a million and one things I need to do: hanging laundry, cleaning the toilet, making my toddler's dinner, making our dinner..... These all huddle under the umbrella of "keeping detailed to-do lists." 

My to-do list umbrella protects me from the storm of tasks that constantly hurls itself at my door like a monsoon. I simply write down the things I think are most important.

And then I stick to it. 

Then powering through the drudgery becomes automatic. For example, I don't question whether or not I clean the bathroom on a Wednesday, I just do it. And, while I'm cleaning, I go through the motions by rote so that I can let my mind glide off and spin in circles, thinking about my wonderful, confounding ideas. 

But, that is tangental.

Meanwhile, I'm focusing on daily drawings, journalling, and doing good work in my studio. 

What are your necessary things? 

How do you work "smart, and not hard? 

Is anyone interested in reading a more detailed post about how I structure my to-do lists so that I can minimize my effort on a weekly basis?

{Don't forget, you can download all sorts of to-do list and planner printables if you join my

"Studio Friends" mailing list.

I'll add more printables every month.}

{The work in progress}

{Hippity-hop hippity-hop}

{Drawing faces on paint blobs}

{I can't get enough of cherry blossoms: I captured these on our morning walk to little-one's nursery school}

{A weekend trip to the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park, a short bicycle ride from our house}

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Making lists to get things done

Every Sunday evening I sit down with a glass of wine, my moleskine planner and a favourite pen.  It is a moment of quietness; a moment in which I can visualize the coming week and all the tasks I need to accomplish.  

A few weeks ago my writing and illustrating group had an email discussion on how we plan our projects. It was refreshing and enlightening to hear everyone's perspectives.  So, I thought I'd share my process with you here on my blog, and I'd love to hear your planning ideas in the comments!

This is how I schedule my life: 

On the blank, right-hand page of my Moleskine planner I write down all the things I need to accomplish that week. I divide the list into 5 sections, corresponding to the 5 facets of my career: illustration, writing, blog, etsy and other.  

If there are specific deadlines or events, I'll schedule them into the calendar portion. If the deadline is still upcoming I'll often write something like "2 weeks left" beside the task in my list.   

When I have ongoing projects, I make a note of exactly how much I need to accomplish each week. For example, for my current illustration project I have basic tasks outlined for each week until the deadline at the end of this month. 

This system gives me a structure to know exactly what needs to be done, but also freedom to do it at my own pace as the week unfolds.  

You might have noticed from the photo that I use the pocket moleskine planner, and not the full-sized one. Even though it's half the size, I can still fit all my notes onto the pages, and the smaller size reminds me to keep my to-do lists and expectations simple.  There literally isn't enough space to keep writing tasks ad infinitum. Also, it fits easily into any sized handbag. 

I love broad margins in my daily routine. I crave blank, unscheduled time when I can reflect on my creative journey and the world around me. Idle time is golden because it's when I get my best ideas.

How do you schedule your week? Do you have any tips and tricks for staying sane when tasks and deadlines pile up? What kind of calendar/planner do you use? I'd love to hear from you! 

Are you interested in reading more about the subject of balance and getting things done?  Here are a few amazing blog posts I've read recently.  Take a moment to read them, they might just change the way you look at life.

Truly.  

 

Out with the old

Goodbye 2012, you were a good companion for 366 days. And welcome 2013!

This morning I pulled out my new day planner and flipped through the pages, wondering what might fill them.  Switching to a new notebook is difficult, I become good friends with my day planners.  They're never far from reach, and I often use them almost like a journal, not only recording my appointments and lists, but also recording how I feel about life, and what my goals are each week.

This new notebook has no dog-eared corners, no scribbled-out appointments, no to-do lists or hastily scrawled reminders.  It's fresh and clean, like newly ironed linen. It will take a while to feel completely at home within its pages.

I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, except maybe for the constant resolve to keep pursuing my dreams without losing courage. (and we all know how difficult that can be on a daily basis).

Having said that, one small resolution is to be more active on my blog.

I've let the blog lie dormant for the past year, which was completely necessary.  I needed quiet time (read: offline time) to gather my thoughts about who I was creatively.  I felt quite vulnerable, and giving too many glimpses into my studio felt too exposed.  This time apart has been invaluable, and I feel like I've reached a kind of creative epiphany in the past few months.

But now I'm ready to share more of what I'm doing and my creative process.  I've missed all you readers and bloggers!  And thank you for all your lovely comments, it means a lot that you take the time to leave messages, and they always help to inspire me.

And, to start the year off right, here is a little peak at what's on my studio table at the moment.  It makes me think of London, and cosy cups of tea while watching the rain lash against the windowpanes.