September is the time of year for getting back to things (work, school, the routine of our daily lives) after the summer break. The French call this time of year La Rentrée – the return – and it affects everyone, not just workers and students. I like to think of this time of year as the Creative Return – where we can harness this feeling of beginning, to look forward to the rest of the year and prepare, to be ready to meet whatever opportunities or challenges we may come to.
This month, on the blog, I’ll be taking the theme of the Creative Return to focus on 4 elements: Values, the Big Picture, Reflection and Looking Forwards, with the aim of helping you remind yourself of your Why, to feel inspired about your work, to reflect on past successes and to set a course ahead. I’ll be asking you questions that get to the heart of each element and offering places you can gain additional inspiration or chances for reflection. Last week we looked at the Big Picture, this week we look at Reflection:
Taking time to Reflect
I’m a big advocate for regularly taking time to reflect on how things are going, especially in your creative practice. It can be helpful to pause and not jump straight into the next thing. If we take the time to reflect after each big event or body of work, it’s so much easier to navigate a path forward, one that is responsive to our needs and in line with our values. But it’s not always easy to find a suitable time to stop to do this. Yes, most of us manage a bit of it in January when everyone is busy making resolutions, but after that the year can be a bit of a free for all. Which is why I have started tying my reflection to the seasons, using the natural markers throughout the year to remind me.
The spring equinox and midsummer are great points for harnessing the energy that is coming to life out in the world, whereas the autumn equinox and winter solstice are quieter, more contemplative and drawing in. This Sunday it’s the autumnal equinox – the second point in the year where day and night are in balance. But, unlike the spring equinox, after which the days get longer, the autumn equinox heralds the lengthening nights and a shift in temperature and energy. It’s a really good point in the year to think about how important balance is within our lives, to see if we’re achieving the balance we hope for, and to think about how we can harness the energy we need to make it to the end of the year.
In the last two weeks of this blog series we thought about Values and the Big Picture. So, hopefully you have a picture of why you do the work you do, what motivates you and what it’s all for. I imagine, if you’re anything like me, there was a tendency to only focus on creative or work related things, to slightly ignore the ‘life’ part. It’s so easy to do, especially when we’re looking ahead at 3 months of so much work, a really important time for our businesses. But that’s why it’s vital to take a pause, now, to think about all of it, together. How you would like work and life to collaborate, to find the balance you most need.
A great place to start is by reflecting back on the last 9 months of the year. Acknowledge the things you have done in 2018. It can be helpful to flick through your diary or calendar to really get a sense of all the things you actually did.
Write down everything (both work & life). All the time spent working, in the studio/workshop, at meetings, appointments, selling at shows, fairs or events, professional development days etc. Don’t forget all the things you do for your health & wellbeing - seeing friends, family, and the quality time you take for yourself.
(Isn’t there a lot? It’s easy to overlook so much of what we do, but by noticing and recording the activity of your daily life here, today, you are giving yourself the chance to see how much you have already accomplished.)
What went well? Give yourself credit for the things you achieved, no matter how small you think they might be.
What didn’t go as expected? Consider what happened. How much of this was actually down to you, and what you did, and how much of it was down to the situation or to other people.
What worked and what didn’t?
How did doing these things make you feel?
Which of your values did these events uphold? Which ones were left out?
Would you do them again?
What would you change/adapt/revise?
What did you learn from these experiences?
What would you like to carry forwards through the rest of the year?
Identify the areas where you feel out of balance. The things that might require a bit more focus or a bit more time in the months ahead. And remember, that balance is not a goal or a static state, it’s an ongoing process of small adjustments, responsive to the things that happen (planned or otherwise). It’s not necessarily something that needs fixing, it’s just something to be mindful of, so that you don’t feel yourself slipping too far in any one direction. Don’t feel bad if you feel your balance is off, everyone struggles. What’s important to realise is that you are able to do something about it, if you choose, once you’ve acknowleged what isn’t feeling right for you at the moment.
Want to explore Reflecting a bit more?
Download my Creative Practice Autumn Review pdf for more questions and suggestions of inspiration for reflecting on the year and thinking about balance in your work and life.
Check out one of my blog posts: Today is about Balance (written about Reflecting at the spring equinox)
Watch: TED talk – How to Gain Control of your Free Time by Laura Vanderkam
Read: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (my book recommendation is here)