The Weirdest Reason to Not Write a Blog Post?

Writers block, a creative rut, or outright procrastination, there’s certainly a lot of reasons why I’ve failed to write as regularly as I’d have hoped to over the years, but right now, I have a problem much more bizarre than any of those…

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Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

Okay, so, currently I’m coming up with a lot of ideas to write about – so, check – I have the time to write – check – and I’m very excited about what I want to right about – again, check. But, and it’s a big but, I’m hardly writing anything at all because every idea I’m coming up with, I feel like I should save it for “later”. Later, when I’m a better writer, later when I’m more knowledgeable on the subject and later when hopefully, I’ll be able to reach more people with my writing.

It’s like a crazy mutation of imposter syndrome – it’s not that I feel I’m not good enough to write; I firmly believe that everyone has a unique voice and viewpoint to share, including me. No, this is like some sort of self-imposed, nonsensical, qualification system, whereby I’m restricting myself to only write about the things I’m currently “good enough for”.

And, “good enough for”, what does that even mean? The way to become more comfortable with writing is to write more, and the way to become more knowledgeable about a subject is to study it. By locking myself into this cycle where I won’t let myself write because I’m not good enough, but I can’t get better because I won’t let myself write, is just locking in a course for failure.

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Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s probably quite normal to keep a project or two up our sleeves for the future – for me, that would be writing fiction – but I think the goal then is still to be moving towards that, right? It’s one thing to be not quite ready for a project and to circle it slowly, but it’s another thing altogether to lock it away in a box and put it on the high shelf out of reach for “when we’re good enough”.

And for me, the craziest thing about all this is that this idea of not wanting to “waste” a good post idea really goes against the essence of what I want my blog to be. I’ve never intended to try and write a blog from the standpoint of being an “expert” on any given subject; I’m a human, on a journey, learning and making mistakes, and I’ve always wanted my writing to reflect that – ESPECIALLY when it comes to writing a blog, which is, by it’s nature, a sort of continuous writing piece with ebbing and flowing subjects and opinions, rather than some sort of static encyclopaedia type work. So, yeah, maybe tomorrow I’ll write a post about something; I’ll give it my all, I’ll believe what I write but then 18 months later I’ve learned a lot more or I’ve changed my mind entirely – that’s completely okay!

Growth and change are normal, they are great in fact – if I was ever to stop opening my mind and my heart in order to be able to say “here is my definitive opinion on whatever”, I think that would be sad, and it’s certainly not a state of being that I’m aiming for, or one that I would like to portray in my writing. So, I’ll conclude this long blog post about erm… how I can’t write blog posts by saying; I’m here, I’m bursting with ideas and it’s time to let them come flooding out. And, if you’re here, reading this and you too have felt like you’re “not good enough” or knowledgeable enough to write about something you’re passionate about, then let this post be a little nudge for you – YOU ARE AND YOU CAN.

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Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

5 Best Podcasts for Creative Entrepreneurs

Podcasts, eh? What did we used to do all day before we had all these amazing shows to listen to? Well, I for one used to get a song stuck in my head and sing the same three lines to myself over, and over, so yeah, thank God for podcasts – saving people who work alone at home from a slow descent into sing-song madness. I listen to all sorts of shows, to entertain me while I run, to help me fall asleep, and, increasingly, I’m listening to podcasts to help me run and grow my business. I want to share my five favourite work-related podcasts with you today – some are more specifically geared towards creative entrepreneurs, some dig deep, some are more generalized, but all of them are amazing and well and truly worth a listen.

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The Mood Booster – Creative Pep Talk with Andy J Pizza

When I get a bit bogged down in business admin, or I’m having some sort of creative confidence crisis – which is oh so often, let me tell you – Creative Pep Talk is always there to, well, give me a pep talk. Host, Andy is so passionate and insightful about being a creative that it’s impossible not to walk away from an episode feeling energized and remembering WHY you wanted to do this work in the first place. It’s a show that will help you overcome setbacks, whether it’s things in the real world, or that nagging voice in your head. It’s funny, it’s helpful, it’s a truly comforting voice in amongst the sea of depressing statistics about working in creative industries – I really couldn’t be without it.

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The All-Rounder – The Side Hustle Show with Nick Loper

A lot of the YouTube and podcast content I consume about business is geared specifically towards working in the creative industries or e-commerce, The Side Hustle Show is different for me, it covers industries from dog food blogging to knife sharpening – and while obviously not every bit of information is relatable or directly applicable to me or my entrepreneurship journey, I love the show for being a consistent source of inspiration – it’s the chance to hear people talk about their own entrepreneurial journeys: the challenges they’ve overcome, the lessons learned and the highlights too.

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The Eye Opener – Ctrl Alt Delete with Emma Gannon

While I do love working from home, alone, I think I definitely run the risk of ending up with my head up my own butt. Having only one opinion on something, hearing only one voice – I don’t think it’s ideal when running a business. Ctrl Alt Delete is one of my favourite podcasts because it gets me out of my own head and exposes me to amazing conversations, different experiences and stories than I would ever come across rattling about in my own head. While many of the guests are entrepreneurs, this show for me is less about literal advice and more about just getting the chance to think about something interesting – I often feel really inspired to write after I listen to this show.

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The Handmade One – Dear Handmade Life

I found this show while I was frantically trying to work out why I’m so bad at selling on Etsy – this show has given me a lot of good points to work on, but actually, it’s done a lot more too. One of my favourite aspects is that it tends to deep-dive some of the more nitty-gritty aspects of running a creative business – thing such as Pinterest strategies, sustainability in business and the differences between selling wholesale and retail. Some of the episode titles might not sound as sexy as some of those from other entrepreneurial shows, but at the end of the day, a lot of the time, running a business isn’t sexy. It’s important to visualise, to dream, to have goals… but it’s also really important to understand some of the legal aspects of being a working creative.

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The New Find – Raw Milk with Beth Kirby

Okay, so I only came across this one recently and I’ve only listened to a handful of episodes, but I just had to share it here! From the very first – two part – episode, the show had me hooked. Beth is engaging, inspiring, experienced and incredibly knowledgeable and she’s very free with sharing her lessons learned here on the show. I feel like I’m gushing, but honestly, she explained Instagram in a way that changed everything for me – I actually get it now, rather than just feeling like I “should” use it. I absolutely can’t get enough of this show right now and I’d really encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already – but pro-tip; you probably want a notebook to hand while you do, this show is absolutely packed with information you will not want to forget!

So, ta-dah, my 5 favourite podcasts for creative entrepreneurship – what do you think? If you have any suggestions, or any gems you think I’m missing, please let me know in the comments – I’m always on the hunt for enough shows to fill my days… lest I go back to singing Part of Your World over and over to myself…

 

 

 

 

Print on Demand: June 2019 Update

Hi, friends.

Welcome to the June 2019 update post for my Print on Demand work. I post work to a few sites, including Redbubble, Tee Public, Society 6, Zazzle and Merch by Amazon – but in this update post I’m just going to focus on the three that do the best for me, as otherwise this post will end up being a novel. Also, just to add a disclaimer to this post – I am very new to print on demand, I’ve made a few sales, but I have a LOT to learn, so this post is more like a diary entry and much less of a how-to.

As I mentioned in my Etsy update post, June has been an a-typical month as I was out of the country for most of the time. Of course, the amazing thing about print on demand is that it is still working for me even when I’m 4,000 miles away from my laptop, but it does mean that I didn’t really spend any time putting up new work, or analysing any sales or lack thereof!

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Stats for various stores

  • Site name: Redbubble (TimorousEclectc)
  • Sales of all time: 40
  • Sales this month: 2
  • Listings added: 6
  • Listings total: 255
  • Profit this month: £1.88
  • Profit of all time: £15.65
  • Hours worked: 4
  • Site name: Tee Public (Timorous Eclectic)
  • Sales of all time: 35
  • Sales this month: 6
  • Listings added: 5
  • Listings total: 157
  • Profit this month: £16.60
  • Profit of all time: £83.00
  • Hours worked: 4
  • Site name: Society6 (Timorous Eclectic)
  • Sales of all time: 5
  • Sales this month: 0
  • Listings added: 2
  • Listings total: 130
  • Profit this month: £0.00
  • Profit of all time: £21.60
  • Hours worked: 4

Where am I at with the stores?

With Tee Public and Redbubble it’s the same few designs that sell for me over and over again – which in some ways feels good because I’ve obviously designed something well. It can also be a bit disheartening, because I uploaded those designs months ago and nothing else I add now seems to generate any sales, or even interest. Additionally, the designs that seem to work for me are simple text-based designs, and not the ones featuring my artwork. Don’t get me wrong, I love making text-based designs too, but I would love to develop my artwork design skills so that in time I can sell them more – but it’s hard to know where to start in terms of learning?

Society6 is totally different for me. I’ve only had a few sales there, but I’ve sold some higher ticket items like duvet covers – which is really, really exciting for me! I actually need to stop thinking of Society 6 as “another POD site” and do some more research into what works well there, and then start designing specifically for that site, I think.

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This is one of the new designs I put up this month – can you tell I’m missing my Florida vacation?! This was also a return to uploading work painted with acrylics. I’m quite happy with how it turned out, but I know with practice I can do more with the style.

What’s going well?

Between the 3 sites, I do reliably make a little money each month. It’s not much, but it’s enough of a trickle to fill me with hope that this can go somewhere and grow into something. Quite a few of my design Pins on Pinterest get a lot of traffic and some click-throughs, which again, right now might not count for much, but shows me that I’m doing something right, and that if I keep working, things can grow. Basically I feel like I have a mountain to climb, but I do at least feel like I’ve found the start of the path.

What’s not going so well?

the trickle of sales is very much a trickle. I think a lot of that is my fault though – I think for a while I’ve sort of been cranking out quite a high number of designs basically on a whim of what I liked, and not spending enough time researching trends, what styles do well on the sites and things like that.

In my head I think I definitely lump all the POD sites I use together, but I think I need to rectify that and separate them out into totally different markets with different demographics.

What am I going to be spending my time on in July?

I think I’m in one of those situations where what I’m doing – cranking out a lot of designs – isn’t really working and I need to accept that and change tactic a bit. For July I’d like to invest time in really getting to know each site as an individual and to be able to better understand how to design for them. I want to look at what’s out there, how my designs fit in, and come up with a plan to tailor what I’m doing for that site in the future.

Screenshot_2019-07-01 'Love this Life - White Brush Lettering Motivational Quote' Acrylic Block by TimorousEclectc
One of the text-based designs I released this month – again, I feel like it might be more than a bit vacation inspired!!!

What goals am I going to report back on in the next update?

Rather than worrying this month about increasing income directly, I want to be able to sit here at the end of next month with a much better plan to guide me going forward. In literal terms, I want to take apart my “POD notebook” and start separating ideas, strategies and sketches out into site-specific notebooks. I’m naturally a very impatient person and I also generally learn best by doing, but making random designs and seeing what sticks is exhausting a bit disheartening. Obviously, not every design will sell and that’s to be expected, but I’d like to improve my ratio a bit at least and ensure that I’m creating portfolios full of work I’m proud of.

That’s it for this month’s Print on Demand Update – not super meaty this month as I haven’t been focusing a lot of time on Print on Demand in June. I’d love to connect with other people who sell on POD platforms – so if thats’ you, or if you have any questions in general, please come and say hi in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

5 Thoughts on my Capsule Wardrobe After 3 Months

Sitting here in late May, it seems crazy to me that already Spring is almost over – as well as my first season of using my current capsule system! For anyone who’s not already familiar, I’m using a system I heard about from Signe on Youtube; I have a core capsule that I use year round (you can read about what’s in that, here), and then I have a supplementary seasonal capsule of about 10 pieces that I rotate out every 3 months. Here is what was in my Spring Capsule, and here is my recap post where I talk specifically, item by item about what pieces in there worked for me and what didn’t.

In this post I want to take more of a step back than I did in my Spring Capsule Recap, and look at how I found the system worked for me as a whole, rather than analysing the nitty-gritty of individual items (although, you know me and data – I’m not saying I won’t go there… just not as much!).

snow scene taken in a park. Snow covered ground, trees and a bridge.
This photo was taken in March…

 

1. I do not have a crystal ball


We started March with more than a foot of snow on the ground here in Glasgow, and on the Bank Holiday weekend in May we had what might well turn out to be the hottest days of the year. Both of these things are a-typical for a Glasgow Spring – we would have been far more likely to have 10c and rain for 3 months! Because weather isn’t predictable it means that I don’t ever want to feel too locked in to my capsule wardrobe. Sure, it’s good to have pieces that can be layered to give as much flexibility as possible, but at the same time, I want to be comfortable and dressed appropriately – so for me this season, that meant wearing my Timberland boots the whole time it was snowy ( I normally only EVER wear them when we’re hill walking), and grabbing an out-of-capsule dress to wear to my mum’s birthday lunch in May because it was the nicest, sunniest day and I would be darned if I was going to miss a rare chance to wear one of my favourite Summer dresses!

2. I still much prefer to plan my outfits the night before 

I know that for a lot of people, the draw of using a smaller amount of clothing that works together is the increased ease and speed of choosing an outfit. I definitely do find it a lot more enjoyable to put together an outfit now, but because I’m such a “just in case” person, if I leave my outfit choosing until the morning and haven’t checked what I have clean or what the weather forecast is, I know I’ll just end up wearing my rain coat “just in case” it rains, or a big jumper “just in case” it’s cold – thus robbing myself of the opportunity to wear a lot of more fun outfits on what turn out to be warmish, sunny days! Maybe as time goes on and I become increasingly familiar with the contents of my capsule and various, favourite combinations I have then this will change for me, but for the forseeable future I definitely see myself taking 5-10 minutes of an evening just to sort myself out.

black boots and autumnal leaves
This photo was taken in April…

 

3. I feel so much more put together when I leave the house 

I touched on this a little in my Spring Capsule Recap; when I talked about a t-shirt that went unused, simply because I never found myself getting dressed in a panic and flinging on jeans and a t-shirt. Even though a lot of the outfits I did wear were still very simple, and perhaps, to anyone other than me, it would have been imperceptible that I was now using a capsule system and getting dressed in a very different way, I just felt so different in my own skin. I didn’t become oddly clothing-fixated and spend all day focusing on the merits of my outfit or anything, but something about the act of getting dressed intentionally just made me so much confident and … it’s hard to put into words… to sound a bit cheesy, I just felt like “my best me” most of the time, whereas in the past, that was a rare occurance in amongst all the days I left the house praying I wouldn’t bump into anyone I know. For this single reason, even if there was no other benefits, I would be in love with the capsule wardrobe system.

4. I’m okay with having a bigger capsule, for now at least

I definitely am way up on the bigger end of the capsule wardrobe spectrum – and I don’t include bags or accessories in mine either (I have a post coming up on why I took these out of my capsule, so stay tuned for that one). I have 40 items in my Core Capsule and 10 in my supplementary Seasonal Capsule – which is a lot altogether, really. For some people this will seem vastly excessive, while for others, like my past-self, this will seem small and restrictive. It’s all relative. Even now, with only one season’s data, I feel like I could comfortably cut out maybe 5 pieces from my Core Capsule – take it down to 35, but what’s the rush? My journey towards a capsule wardrobe, or indeed, towards a minimalist lifestyle in general, is a gradual one, and I’m comfortable with that. With letting things evolve organically and move at a pace that I’m comfortable with, with taking time to really see how I feel about things, rather than making impulse decisions; whether that’s bringing items in, or taking them out.

sunny day in Glasgow showing blue skies and intense sunshine
And this photo was taken in May!

 

5. I’m happy to take the time to iron, hand wash or mend my clothes

This is a big one – for a lazy gal like me at least! Prior to using a Capsule Wardrobe system, I was (shamefully) a get dressed from a pile of clothes on the floor, and if something smells funny, toss it in the direction of the laundry basket kind of a person… yeah, I know. Now having less to work with causes me to take the time to hang clothes up when they come out of the laundry – because odds are I will be wearing them in the next week or so, so I need to keep track of them. Having less to work with, allows me to really focus on constructing outfits and choosing my favourite pieces to be part of them – from bras to silk blouses, I’ve come to realise that it really is worth taking the time to hand wash them, if they make me feel great when I wear them. As for repairing clothes, well, I’ve taken up sewing lately (I know, I’m as surpised as you are, if you’d like to read about it, I have a post – here), and after a slightly epic repair on a pair of Kenny’s Levis, I’m feeling empowered at being able to extend the lives of my clothes, or to repurpose them when the time comes. I always thought mending and hand washing clothes would seem like such a hassle, but actually, it gives me a very strong sensation of liberation and of connection to the items I own and the choices I’m making in life.

So there you have it, my thoughts on using a capsule wardrobe system… so far! If you’ve ever used a capsule system I’d love to hear what you thought about it? What did you learn early on? Did you feel constrained or liberated by having less to work with?

Starting from Scratch: Learning to Sew

I worked in a craft studio for seven years and completed an honours degree in art, so, while I’m certainly not claiming to be any sort of expert – I think it’s fair to say that I’ve always been a relatively arts and crafty person, obtaining a relative level of proficiency in working with various media from acrylic paint to clay and silk to glass… but put me near anything “string-ish” and I’m hopeless. This includes sewing, embroidery, crochet, knitting and yes, even pom-pom making was beyond me. I’m not sure why, but I can cause a sewing machine to malfunction from 100 yards away. My mum is a fantastic knitter (is that the technical term?) and my maw-in-law (who was also the owner of the craft studio where I worked) is a dab hand at most things, but especially good at sewing (and baking, but that doesn’t seem relevant here), anyway, my point being that both of these skilled women invested significant time over the years trying to teach me “the way of the thread”… and they both gave up, and remain a little traumatised from the experiences.

close up shot of the foot of my sewing machine, with fabric in the background.

There are a lot of things in life that I’ve realised I’m not good at and have happily walked away from (mum told me I would regret giving up the violin when I was 10… STILL WAITING MUM), but sewing is not one of those things. Not only does it open up so many cool doors for me, a mixed media artist, but when you start tying it in with an interest in sustainable living – the idea of being able to repair and alter my clothes seems too good an opportunity to just give up on.

Fortunately for me, and somewhat by random chance, I found myself at the Kinning Park Complex (my local community centre) a few weeks ago, taking part in a patch-making workshop as part of Fashion Revolution Week – it was a spur of the moment decision and I’m so glad I jumped at the opportunity. I met the lovely ladies from Kinning Park Couture, who make amazing up-cycled jewellery from waste plastic materials, and also have incredible patience and enthusiasm for helping newbies like me get comfortable with a sewing machine. At the end of a couple of hours not only had I not somehow managed to burn the place down or kill someone just by my being in proximity to a sewing machine, but I had also made my very own activism patch, and learnt to thread a sewing machine, and to not scream audibly every time I put my foot on the pedal.

Well, after that I was hooked, I was back at Kinning Park Complex a few days later for Social Sunday, and Kinning Park Couture helped my fix up a pair of Kenny’s Levis jeans which he had managed to somehow entirely rip the crotch out of (?????). The satisfaction I got bringing those jeans home to him and knowing that I had salvaged them and saved all that fabric from being wasted, was so immense, so much greater than if I had gone into a store and just picked him up a new pair of jeans. And not only is it so “worth it”, I also find sewing incredibly therapeutic: time somehow flies by and I just sit absorbed, stitching away (then unpicking, then stitching again… I’m enthusiastic, not skilled).

close up of all the bits and pieces in my sewing box at the moment
Ah, a box of sewing bits and pieces that was passed on to me – let’s just pretend I know how to use any of the things in this box…

I totally lucked out as well, because, after telling my mum about my sewing (and reassuring her no lives were lost in the process), she suddenly realised she still had her old sewing machine buried in a cupboard somewhere (hurrah for my mum never having read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up that I gave her 18 months ago), and so she fished it out and brought it to me and now, sitting proudly on my dining table is my very own sewing machine. Old, strangely creaky, but working perfectly fine – and I couldn’t be more excited!

Currently, I’ve gotten as far as making reusable cotton pads to take my eye makeup off each day, using scrap fabric from a pair of Alice in Wonderland pyjama bottoms that I had somehow managed to completely rip the crotch out of (????? seriously, why does this keep happening to our trousers?!). While not exactly a technically ambitious project, it’s a good example of how learning a skill like sewing to even the most basic level can make allow for the making of something that is actually useful in every day life. No more wasting of cotton pads and the plastic bags they come in for me, no sirree (and yes, my sewn ones have survived the washing machine, trust me, I was just as surprised my stitching held up as you probably are after reading this post).

overall shot showing my sewing box, machine and fabric.

While it’s obviously still early days for me, I do have my sights set on making a sort of “zero waster companion pouch thing” (erm, still working on the name there). Basically I want to make a type of roll, like a jewellery roll, but something that will have a section for me to store a reusable straw or two, some metal cutlery, and also a couple of cloth napkins – all things I’m trying to get in the habit of carrying, but am not quite sure how to safely/cleanly transport them in my hand bags. If you can sew and have any tips or ideas on how I might go about making this please (no seriously, please) share them in the comments below, or, even if you’re not a sew-er (again, is that the right term?), let me know if you have any ideas of other sections I might want in the pouch – I have the overwhelming feeling that I’m forgetting something obvious that “zero wasters” might carry for eating…

So anyway, I hope maybe this post gave you a chuckle at my hopeless sewing skills, but I also hope that maybe you take away from it that if something is important to you, don’t give up, you can find a way. No, I’m probably never going to work as a seamstress (oh, it’s seamstress, not sew-er isn’t it?) for a major European couture fashion house, but that’s OK. With a bit of hard work and yes, 17,000 mistakes along the way, it’s entirely possible that I can become competent with sewing, and like I said, sometimes that’s all it takes with a skill to be able to create something that can improve your, or someone else’s, quality of life.

5 Newbie Bullet Journal Mistakes I’ve Made!

Ah Bullet Journalling: finally a hobby that can be both incredibly useful, and, incredibly soothing – well, until I make a mistake, and then I pretty much want to throw the blasted thing out the window. Literally. Before I tell you about the mistakes I’ve made (already), let me just say that this is not a “mistakes I’ve made, so you don’t have to” type of a post, because if you take up bullet journalling (or any other new hobby) you ARE going to make mistakes, that’s just part of the learning experience. Instead, I wanted to write a post just to share what did go wrong for me – because, trust me, I was completely blindsided by some of these issues – just as some food for thought for other new Journal-ers, and also to try and lighten the mood a bit about some of these sorts of mistakes, ‘cos like I said, it’s normal to make them… but it’s still pretty soul destroying to spend several hours on a spread only to realise it is in fact April, not May. Yeah.

a close up photo of some of my pen testing in my Bullet Journal

1. I didn’t test my pens PROPERLY

I mean, I did test them, of course, just not well as it turns out. I diligently assigned the back couple of pages of my book as a testing space, and I took the time to take every pen I own and draw a line with it to check for bleeding and ghosting – sounds good, right? Well, as it turns out, there’s a difference between quickly drawing a thin line with a pen and using a pen to “colour in”  – even if that is just doing a thicker line, or filling in a box on a tracker. What I discovered, was that I owned plenty of pens that I could quickly draw, or write lines with, but actually very few that could be used for shading or blocking in colour – but boy, did I learn this one the hard way!

Flicking through my Bullet Journal

2. I left pages blank that I was going to absolutely, definitely come back and do, like, any day now

I had read warnings about this before I started; about the importance of not pre-allocating pages and of making assumptions about future content. But it was fine, I KNEW I was going to want this spread, I KNEW I was going to do it just in a couple of days or something. Yeah it wasn’t fine, I didn’t do that spread, and I still have blank pages near the start of my journal.

One of the great things about the Bullet Journal system, is that, thanks to the indexing system, you don’t need to plan the page-allocation of your entire book out beforehand – if you decide you want a new tracker, you can just pop it in between months. But in my head I just really thought I would try and guess at what all my annual trackers would be and place them all at the start of the book, because it would be prettier. Yeah, random blank pages are not “prettier” as it turns out.

a close up of a spread I badly designed

3. I didn’t consider how much functional space I actually needed on a page

When I first started setting up page layouts, I was so focused on the aesthetic – on making them look cute and complete, and well put together, that sometimes I seemed to just totally disregard what I actually needed to use the space for. This went both ways – some pages I have masses of space when I only needed a few lines here and there, and other pages I’m now sitting trying to write three sentences in a space roughly the size of a postage stamp *sigh*.

A stack of journals

4. I didn’t trust my gut enough and I did all the pages I should do

Obviously the core bullet journal system is very well thought out, and used by a lot of people, but, one of the most amazing things about bullet journalling is its adaptability and flexibility. When I started out doing my journal I diligently included the year planner page… even though, thanks to crippling anxiety and depression, I don’t have any friends and therefore no weddings or dinners or parties to attend. (not feeling sorry for myself here, but it is nevertheless true). We aren’t taking any vacations or trips this year due to Kenny finishing off university and my cat now being at a stage where she can’t readily be left with other folks so easily… so yeah, not really a whole lot to mark on that page. At all. Probably should have just trusted my instincts there and saved myself the time!

Flicking through my Bullet Journal

5. I Didn’t check layout consistency from one page to the next: there’s so many things to think about,  it can be hard to get it all running smoothly at first.

Starting learning to Bullet Journal is a bit like starting to learn to drive, at least here in the UK anyway. You come up to a roundabout and when you’re new at it, it seems like there’s 1000 things to think about and you can’t autopilot any of it, so you’re trying to actually not hit any other cars, handle the clutch, time your move and have the correct speed crossing the roundabout (and don’t hit IT either), all while remembering to change gears appropriately and to mirror, signal, manoeuvre. At first, it’s a lot. Well, I think Bullet Journal layouts are the same – at first it’s hard to get your writing styles looking consistently the same, to have the same line intensity, same shading, same portions of the page divided up for different things  – it’s quite likely that you’re going to drop the ball on at least one of those things and “screw it up” a bit. Fortunately, like driving, you soon become more able to auto-pilot things, and fortunately unlike driving you don’t run the risk of killing someone in the meantime.

So those are just some of the “mistakes” I’ve made in my Bullet Journal already! I’m looking forward to making many more as I continue on this learning journey. Let me know down in the comments below if you use the Bullet Journal system – what did you find most difficult at the beginning? Do you have any tips for me?

The Difference Between Dead Time and Down Time

Growing up, I feel like I always had a lot of ideas; always had a bunch of projects I was working on, and a list of things I wanted to learn about. I wanted to illustrate books and I wanted to be bilingual, I wanted to travel and to write and to help people plan Walt Disney World vacations (I mean, I know that last one reads sort of specific, but it’s the truth so…). In short, I never saw myself as a lounging around watching VHS/DVD/Netflix (delete as appropriate for specific life era) sort of a person. But unfortunately, that’s what I’ve become.


Living with anxiety and depression has meant that there have been a lot of times when I’m not at my strongest; when my energy reserves have been low, my mood has been all over the place and my creativity has been entirely absent. The real problem with this is that I am REALLY bad at identifying and correctly managing these issues. Historically, I’ve pretended they’re not happening and forced myself onwards regardless; bullying myself for being weak or for failing at things, I believed that willpower alone should be enough to override the depression. I believed that getting blog posts or videos up was my priority and if I was missing my upload deadlines the solution was to skip other things; things like eating, bathing and relaxation time, in order to not lose face or to feel like my dreams were slipping through my fingers. Needless to say, this did not work out so well for me, and over the years I experienced some very big crashes which pretty much resulted in Kenny making me fish fingers and waffles twice a day for a week, while I sat in the same pair of pyjamas and watch Deadly Women on repeat on Netflix and cried into my teddy bear, wondering what Candice DeLong would have to say about me. I know it sounds like I’m joking, but honestly, I’ve experienced some really bad times.

I stopped believing anyone would ever read the blog, so why write it?

Over the last year or so though, things swung too far the other way. I think I gave up. I stopped believing anyone would ever read the blog, so why write it? I couldn’t consistently upload to YouTube so why keep disappointing people? The language I was learning wouldn’t stick in my head, the diet plans were abandoned when I had a ‘dark day’, I pushed and pushed at the few friends I had to try and get them to leave before I ruined things… what was the point in anything. I would only fail and exhaust and embarrass myself in the process.

The more I felt I was struggling the more I tried to slow down, so the more time I blocked out for myself. I needed an hour in the morning and three at night just to veg out and watch things online, to feel placated enough to somehow function throughout the rest of the day. Then when this didn’t work, I blocked out more time. Cancelled date night, stopped cooking, stopped reading, stopped painting my toenails – there wasn’t enough time for any of that. I didn’t have enough time. No matter how many hours I sat and did nothing, I could never relax.

Meanwhile, my Bookmarks folder and my YouTube watch later playlist were overflowing. I had a notebook bulging with thumbnail sketches and planned blog posts. I would jot down jokes, or prompts or things I thought might help people – if only I would one day be strong enough to do something about it. Then, one day, as I rolled over onto the third season of Suits, and realised I’d hated at least the previous 1.5 seasons of this show I began to wonder what I was doing with my life.

I had so many ideas and so many things that I wanted to do and to give back, I really believed that I could help other people with mental health issues, but I just felt so powerless to do, well, anything about it. Nevertheless daring to hope a solution was out there, I started looking into time management and productivity methods. I downloaded approximately 73,000 apps to help me, I tried bullet journalling, we bought a white board, but nothing really helped because I was so stuck in this feeling of needing safe time, quiet time.

I tried bullet journalling, we bought a white board, but nothing really helped because I was so stuck in this feeling of needing safe time, quiet time.

Then in my reading I came across the Tony Robbins concept of N.E.T – which stands for No Extra Time – and I’m not going to lie, on the surface this sounded like a scary thing for me. I felt like I could barely function, limping through mandatory tasks like food shopping, and now, I was supposed to do multiple things at once? Seriously? But yes, indeed this is what N.E.T is about. Basically, it’s the idea that we have all this time we have to sink into things such as cleaning the bathroom, jogging or commuting, but, while these tasks engage our bodies and in some ways leave us “stuck”, they don’t actually control our thoughts. Now I, like a lot of the population, used to use situations like this to zone out, or watch something trashy, to “relax”, I thought, my anxiety meant I needed to relax – but what else could I do with this time?

What if the half hour I spend washing dishes can also be the time I learn Spanish? What if I use my bath time in the morning to check-in with myself and visualise the day ahead? What if instead of watching Suits while I eat my breakfast I read or I learn something new through a site like Skillshare – I mean, sure, I’ll miss being #LittUp in the mornings, but you know, sacrifices need to be made I guess.

I’m here today not just to say that N.E.T really works well – because I think, probably, that’s been established already – but to talk about exactly what it’s taught me, and the amazing gift it’s given me. I started by making a list of what I wanted to do with my life, in specifics (as in not just “get fit”, but “run a half marathon in 2018”), and then made a list of things that I know to be true about myself and my needs, (as in, that I am a morning person who starts the day fired up and slowly drains throughout the day) and I set about working out ways that I could match up taking care of my needs with getting what I wanted.

I don’t want to too much into the specifics of the routine I made here as this post is already crazy long, but I do want to talk about the results. I worried that I would feel overwhelmed by giving myself more to do in a day; that I would feel rushed or pressured but actually it’s been the opposite. For example, if I am out a jog and I’m really low energy and I’m walking more than I’m jogging, I don’t find myself focusing on the negativity there because I’m also learning about life in Glasgow in the 1800’s, so even if I don’t run much, I’ve still come back into the house a ‘richer’ person. I could give a dozen examples like this, all of which would be true and, for me, a huge deal, but as I said, I think the benefits of using the N.E.T. method are well established, so let me just finish by talking about the biggest lesson I’ve learned of all.

I had previously thought that all the time I had spent lounging about in front of Netflix was relaxation time, time that I needed to recharge my batteries, but I can see now that I was wrong, it was dead time. I wasn’t learning, or growing or achieving anything, but I also couldn’t relax properly because I was so wracked with guilt about wasting my life away. It’s hard to relax when you have a list of goals you’re getting no closer to, and a pile of dishes in the sink you’ve not washed in days. I kidded myself that the time was good for me, I was listening to my body and showing that I was in control of looking after myself instead of pushing on to silly levels, but I can see now that it was the anxiety talking. After all, anxiety doesn’t want us to become successful, or to take risks or try new things, anxiety wants to keep us where we’re safe and in control – i.e on the couch with a cup of tea in hand. And I let my anxiety convince me that this was for the best.

After all, anxiety doesn’t want us to become successful, or to take risks or try new things, anxiety wants to keep us where we’re safe and in control…

Now, although yes, I am tackling much more in a day, I find that by structuring things well and pursuing things I’m genuinely very passionate about, I feel fulfilled rather than overwhelmed and by achieving so much earlier in the day, by the time evening comes around I’m ready for some ACTUAL downtime. Time where there is no guilt or pressure, where the dishes are done and I can take a little time to be proud of myself for the day before getting cosy under a blanket with a good book, or actually watching a whole film from start to finish.

Learning about the N.E.T method, as well as becoming aware of how I work and what I want as an individual, has meant that I am able to structure my days and make the most of my “good times”, so that when the times come that I’m sad, or I’m tired I have the ability to switch off and give myself some proper down time, rather than staring into space like some sort of zombie, shutting out the real world and my own thoughts. There is a huge difference between down time and dead time, and I am so glad that I’m finally able to tell the difference between the two and give myself the actual relaxation that I deserve.