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 Reflection, this week we’ll finish by Looking Forwards:
By now, if you’ve followed along with each blog post in this Creative Return series, you probably have a lot of lists – of your key values for your creative practice and your work, of the things that motivate you, your ‘why behind the work’. You’ll have thought about the people your work touches, and the role it plays out in the world, how you are part of something bigger than just yourself. And, you may well have started to notice where things have shifted in your practice, where the balance is just a little off. So much thinking, a lot of contemplating some of the deeper elements of your work.
That’s all brilliant. But, all that thinking can easily drift away and be forgotten as the pace of autumn and winter pick up, as we head towards the madness of the Christmas season. Which is why this final post is about looking forwards – to create a roadmap of sorts to help you navigate the last few months of the year, making sure that you do all the things that you most want to do, the things that will have the most impact on your creative practice.
Commit to a plan
One of the key features of setting goals is to make them achievable. There’s no point drafting a giant list of all the things you want to do if there’s not enough time or you won’t have enough energy. Remember, there are only 3 months left in the year. So, we need to prioritise: what are the things that if you do them now will have the most impact for you and for your creative practice?
Draw up a list, bearing in mind what we’ve thought about so far (your Values, the Big Picture and Balance)
Select the 3 most important items from the list (the ones that you may feel a teensy bit anxious about doing, or the ones you’ve been shelving throughout the year)
What steps can you take to make a start with each task? Break the big task down into smaller steps
Now, try to put some time-limits or deadlines on them. When do they need doing, when would you ideally like them finished? For some tasks you may not be able to complete them in 3 months, so what are the elements you will achieve in that time?
Put this list, and the timeframes, somewhere you can see it regularly and make time to check in with your goals. The beginning of the week is a good time, before things get carried away. Remind yourself of the things you know you most want to achieve, and plan to work on them. Try not to get sidetracked for too long (it’s only normal for life to take over and things to slow down or be put on pause). If that happens, see if you can do something small, right now, that will take you one step closer towards the goal.
I feel I must admit, now, that I am a reluctant advocate of goal-setting. I believe that short-term goals can be very helpful, especially for individual projects or discrete aspects of your work (we can all benefit from looking ahead and deciding what’s important, and finding a way to get there.) However, when it comes to longer term planning I often feel that setting too many goals, getting too fixed on the outcomes, leaves us likely to miss possibilities and not to take advantage of spontaneous, serendipitous opportunities. Again, it’s all a matter of balance.
This month I’ve been using this idea of September as a time for a ‘return’ to focus on your Creative Practice. It’s a natural pause in the year, a kind of steeling or deep breath before the busy time at the end of the year. It’s a great time to remind yourself of what you’re doing, why you do it, who it’s for and what you’d like to work on now - the key aspects of your practice that can often get lost in the busy-ness. Hopefully you’ve found some of the questions and prompts useful and relevant for where you are with your work. Do check out the additional resources I’ve listed at the bottom of the posts, other people’s hard-won advice and inspiration. There’s also quite a few of my blog posts that cover creative practice development, including last year’s Creative Return series.
Want to explore Looking Forwards a bit more?
Download my Creative Practice Autumn Review pdf for more questions and suggestions of inspiration for reflecting on the year and planning ahead.
Check out one of my blog posts: The ‘no plan’ plan and why it may be the best way to achieve your creative goals
Watch: TED talk playlist #Goals
Read: Dream|Plan|Do by Patricia van den Akker (Patricia is now taking pre orders for the 2019 edition!)