It's nearly the end of November which means its nearly December which means a mass of busyness and 'hecticness' and worrying about if you've bought/made the right gifts for the right people and if they'll like or appreciate them or even remember who're they're from by the end of Christmas day.
It also means 2017 is painfully, frighteningly close.
And it also means it's a time to carefully review the detailed To-Do list you made for 2016 in your very neat virtual/real notebooks, make insightful comments about what worked well, and then dream up ideas for the coming year.
Or, perhaps more likely, it's a time to wonder where the year went and how come you never actually got around to writing down any plans for this year. And so the possibility that you could have achieved anything must be equally remote.
If you haven't already guessed, the latter is a fair description of me. My life sometimes feels like a avalanche of chaos, tempered by mere minutes of clarity and resolve, which crumble so fast under the weight of overwhelm and lack of focus.
Obviously next year will be different... But then I tell myself that every year.
I didn't make a To-Do list, or even any notes, although I meant to do so. I had plans and ideas and hopes and dreams and then, as always, the reality of living got in the way. But I've become a little fed up at berating myself yet again and so instead am trying to look at not what I didn't do, but what I did.
I've come to realise that it's the little changes that make a difference. Like, for example, if you want to improve your diet then every time you don't buy a chocolate bar it's a win, even if it only happens once a week. It's still a step down the better road.
So here a few notes I'm making now about what I've improved on and learned this year. Don't worry, they're not long...
1) Make a decision, focus on what you're doing, & finish what you start
Okay, that might be three things technically but combined they can make a plan of any kind happen. When it comes to jewellery in particular, every time I begin to make something and then finish it, it's a win. I have endless small plastic grip seal bags of even smaller works-in-progress that, mostly, stay that way. So when I take an idea, focus on it, develop it step by step (see number 4, below), make it work by overcoming any and all obstacles (again, step by step), and then finish it, that's my win. It's even a win if I get one of those works-in-progress completed too.
2) Pay attention and take a break
The Pomodoro Technique has helped me with focussing and progressing no end. It basically carves time up into 25 minute portions. You set a timer for 25 minutes, and work on whatever you're doing for that period of time. Then you have a five minute break. And then you go back for another 25 minute section of time. It seems easier to turn distractions off when you're working against the clock and the five minute refresher clears your head; apparently if we focus on something for too long we start to lose brain power, even if we don't realise it. I sometimes decrease the times involved, but the principal seems to still work as well, the idea of balancing concentration with a little distraction.
This is a handy timer that I use online, but any timer at all will do.
3) Nothing is perfect
My jewellery is hand-crafted. I don't have that many tools. And I like the little signs of 'work' that remain on it, even when it goes into the 'Finished Work' box (yes, I do have a box labelled that, something I labelled this year to help with getting things finishing). Everything I make is individual and that's the joy of handmade; if all the tiny marks of uniqueness are removed from it, then it might as well have been made by machine.
And it's better to finish something than have a pile of 'not-quite-perfects' that are never completed...
4) Small steps make a path
Every tweak I make on improving the look of my blog is another win, even if no one ever notices it (I altered the font of my main text earlier this year, which pleased my eye no end but doubtless went unnoticed (as it should) by anyone who reads my blog).
Every minute I can spend on making jewellery can be productive. I often don't have the time to make a piece of jewellery from start to finish. Sometimes I don't have time to do pomodoros. But if I take a few minutes when I can and follow the simple steps I know I have to take, then I get to the end product, eventually. I find having a plan for more complex pieces, as well as a few simple ideas, means that I'm never at a loss for something to do, even if I don't have time to set up for soldering or polishing.
5) The web is a tool, not just somewhere to waste time.
I will probably nearly always have to remind myself of correct HTML or CSS formatting when working on my blog, and I think that's okay because that's one of the things the web is for - learning (even re-learning and re-learning again).
6) Try something new but not too often.
I always want to try something new; sewing, felting, model-making, watercolour painting, silver-clay... Then I have to remind myself to focus on what I am meant to be doing. But, sometimes, if what you're meant to be doing isn't quite working, then something new can provide a different and, perhaps, better focus... well, that's my theory.
I've used this idea over the last few months, relaxing more with my jewellery making, letting myself play with creating and using more beads (and colour) and less solder, and I've enjoyed taking the (self-imposed) pressure off. Sometimes a new space, whether physical or mental, is a good thing. As long as I remember to focus and not turn to another new thing...
How about you? What have you learned this year and how has it helped you? Do share in the comments as I'm the first to admit I need all the help I can get...
Okay, back to Christmas shopping for me.
PS. if you're looking for more distractions from Christmas shopping and/or working out what you did right/wrong this last year then check out my link love post from a couple of Christmases ago.