Posted in bullet journal, Bullet journaling, creativity, Planning and journaling, Setting goals and intentions

Setting up my bullet journal for October: Autumn theme

Hi everyone, hope you are all well. This month, I’ve gone for an Autumn theme featuring brightly coloured leaves and acorns. I really enjoyed practising my drawing skills and I’m pleased with how the pages have turned out. I hope you like my spreads and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone else’s chosen themes for October.

For my cover page, I took inspiration from @lilbrownjournal on Instagram who created a wonderful circular design. Before starting, I spent some time doodling different leaf shapes using a variety of tutorials and images I found on Pinterest. I decided not to use my circle drawing tool this time as I wanted the outline to be quite big, so I took out my compass instead. To ensure that I didn’t end up with a hole in the middle of my page, I placed a few post it notes over the area before making my two circles.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

The leaves and acorns were drawn in pencil and then outlined with a 0.2 Pigma Micron. I decided to use pencil crayons to shade them in to avoid ghosting. The only problem with this is that when you write on the page overleaf, it tends to transfer onto the previous page. It’s easy enough to remove with an eraser though.

Although I enjoyed using my circular month at a glance, I went back to a two page calendar for this month with 6 dot by 6 dot squares again drawn with my 0.2 Micron pen. Again, I decorated with lots of bright Autumn leaves and acorns.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

October is a busy month for tidying up in the garden so I spent some time researching what needs to be pruned and then created this spread as a reminder of the benefits of pruning and the plants which need our attention.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

The final page for this month is my habit trackers. I enjoyed the format I chose in September so I kept the layout the same but changed the decoration. I kept some of the same habits and added a few new ones focusing on getting outside for my walk every day and making sure I do my yoga consistently. I added some lovely Autumnal washi at the bottom which was gifted to me by my friend Bev and I think it finishes things off nicely.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

That’s it for this month. I’m getting really low on pages in my Leuchtturm so I think I will probably be moving in to my next BuJo before October is over. I’ve gone back a Scribbles That Matter again as I’ve decided I prefer the thicker, white pages.

Thanks for reading,

Posted in bullet journal, Bullet journaling, Planning and journaling, Setting goals and intentions

My new circle drawing tool plus setting up Level 10 life and goals spreads in my bullet journal

As well as my amazing birthday gifts, I was also given some money and I knew straight away what I wanted to spend it on. As well as getting this gorgeous Finetec metallic gold watercolour set, I also ordered the Helix Angle & Circle Maker tool which has been on my wish list for quite a while now. After experimenting with how to make angles and circles, I use my new stationery must have to create a new Level 10 Life assessment wheel and identified some steps and goals for making improvements. In today’s blog post, I’m going to talk about various ways of using the Circle maker in your bullet journal and I will also share my Level 10 life spreads.

The Helix circle and angle maker is great for creating different sizes of circle and angles which makes it really easy to produce circular habit trackers, birthday spreads, mood trackers, monthly calendars (I’m just in the process of setting one of these up for September which I’ll share very soon), a decorative wreath outline or even a future log that’s a little bit different. You can also use the smaller circle templates in your weekly and monthly spreads, for example when labelling the dates in your month at a glance or to add decorative elements. I’ve collected some examples and added them to a new Pinterest board which you can check out here.

I’m sure many of you who use a bullet journal will already be familiar with the concept Level 10 life. If you’ve not heard of it and have no idea what I’m talking about, basically it’s all about living your best life by evaluating the life you have currently and setting mini goals to maximise a feeling of satisfaction and work towards your best (Level 10) life. The idea was created by popular author and entrepreneur Hal Elrod who outlines it in full in his book The Miracle Morning. He invites you to assess your life in 10 categories (or you can choose your own ideas if you wish) and give each a score out of 10. This can be recorded on a wheel of life so you can see where you stand at the moment. The categories are as follows:

  • family and friends
  • personal growth and development (which I labelled as personal development)
  • spirituality
  • finances
  • career / business
  • significant other / romance (which I labelled as marriage)
  • fun and recreation
  • contribution / giving
  • health / fitness
  • physical environment (home / office)

I created my wheel of life using my circle drawing tool to create 11 circles which provided me with 10 ring spaces. I began with the hole nearest to the centre and worked outwards. It’s a bit tricky to hold the thing in place but will a little practise on some scrap paper I was confident enough to go straight in with pen. I divided the circles up into segments of 36 degrees each which was easy enough to do with the angle measuring and drawing part of the tool.

When you’ve set up your wheel, you can then evaluate your life under the different headings to see what you’re doing well at and which areas would benefit from some attention. I’ve done one of these diagrams before and it’s best not to spend too long thinking and just go with your gut instinct. Here’s a close up of my scores:

When you’ve established your current scores, you can then work on setting some mini goals or things to do to improve them. I’ve just written my initial ideas here and then I can look into them in more depth later and set some actionable and measurable goals using my thoughts to help me.

When you’ve done these spreads, you can use them to set yourself mini goals for each month – maybe choosing the section with the lowest score to focus on first. Then, as long as you revisit regularly, you should find you make good progress towards your ‘Level 10 Life’. After a given amount of time, say three months, you can either record your progress on the same wheel by colouring further up the segments or you can make a new wheel of life and compare it to your old one.

That’s all for today but if you have any questions about the circle tool or Level 10 Life, feel free to drop them in the comments and I’ll do my best to help.

Posted in bullet journal, Bullet journaling, lifestyle, Planning and journaling, Setting goals and intentions

Monday Matters: Making it stick, how to form positive habits and keep them going

Checking out Pinterest last week I found so many pins about habits and habit trackers. Habits of highly successful women, morning habits for a productive day, habits for a healthy mindset and so on. There’s also a plethora of bullet journal habit tracker examples and so many different beautiful and useful layouts to try. But what I wanted to know was, how to ensure that productive and positive habits stick. I found a few books on the subject and have added them to my TBR pile. I also found some useful diagrams that show the science behind habit formation but decided it would be really good to create a practical guide to instilling new habits to go with the theory. So let’s dive right in…

What is a habit?

According to the online Cambridge dictionary, a habit can be defined as ‘something you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you are doing it’. Habits can be good and really helpful e.g. flossing your teeth, getting regular exercise, drinking plenty of water each day, keeping a gratitude journal, or can be bad or unhelpful e.g. eating too much junk food, criticising yourself, biting your nails or always being late. Some habits are really hard to break, such as smoking, being self critical, and drinking too much alcohol and may need help and support or a structured plan to enable you to make changes. Others can be difficult to keep up with for many people, such as eating a healthy and balanced diet, maintaining a positive mindset, having a good exercise routine and always being grateful for what you have.

The habit formation loop

The habit formation loop was first explained in detail by Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit. The idea is that each habit is made up of three parts – The Cue (or trigger), The Routine (physical, mental or emotional behaviour that follows the cue and The Reward (a positive reinforcement which tells your brain that the routine works well). Here it is in diagrammatic form in my bullet journal:

Putting the theory into practice

So, the theory is easy enough to understand and has been widely accepted as a good explanation of how habits are created. But how can we apply the science when trying to form new habits? Here are some tips:

Start small

Choose one habit that is realistic i.e. one that motivates you and can relatively easily slot into your life. For example, if you want to start on a fitness journey, you might set a goal to go out for a brisk 20 minute walk each day at 11am rather than saying that you are going to go running for an hour three times a week, to the gym five days a week and swimming at weekends. In other words, take baby steps and take it slow!

Plan what your cue will be

I’ve found that the best thing to use as a cue is a given time. So, for example, I do my yoga at 11am each week day so I can make sure I don’t eat anything for a few hours before and I only drink squash and not coffee prior to my practice. I also make sure that my workout gear and the equipment I need is readily accessible – and I chose my favourite colours for the items for extra motivation too. My clothes are super comfortable and flattering and I treated myself to a good quality yoga blanket in a gorgeous minty green colour plus blocks and a bolster in a wonderful berry shade.

Know that it will take time

It takes time to develop a habit and it’s different for everyone. Don’t expect it to become automatic straight away – you need to work at it and train your brain! For a few months, I would write yoga on my daily to do list in my bullet journal to remind me that I needed to do it. Now, it’s part of my routine and something I do without thinking. If the habit is important to you, and you remain focused, you can do it. If you’re not really interested in making the change, then you will be less likely to achieve your intention. However, you should also be kind to yourself and not berate yourself if your habit formation doesn’t go as smoothly as you would like.

Hold yourself accountable

There are a number of ways of holding yourself accountable. You could share your intentions with a partner or friend and ask them to check on how it’s going. You could arrange an accountability partner who is trying to instil the same habit as you and motivate each other as you go. Or you could set mini goals to work towards and reward yourself each time you reach a milestone. I know of people who have shared what they hope to achieve in a group on Facebook and then updated everyone on their progress regularly.

Expect to have blips and work through them

Accept that there will be days when you don’t do what you set out to do or feel resistant. For example, I was feeling under the weather for a whole week at the end of last month and didn’t do my aerobic workout, toning exercises or daily yoga for five days. I could have quite easily continued the habit of not doing my workouts, but instead, I recognised the reasons for me not keeping up with my practice and made a promise to myself that I would start back up again when I was feeling better – and I did. I also reminded myself of the benefits of my routines for body and mind and this helped me get back on track.

You can also produce a written record of your intention in your planner and then evaluate how you’ve done each week. You can even give yourself some written feedback including what you did well and a couple of suggestions for improvement a bit like a work performance appraisal!

Write a plan using the habit formation loop as a guide

On his website, Charles Duhigg provides a number of resources to help you with breaking, forming and changing habits. The plan can be written in the following form: When (cue), I will (routine) because it provides be with (reward). So, for example, if you want to adopt a daily yoga practise, you could write the following plan: When it gets to 11am, I will change into my yoga gear and set up my equipment and do a 20 minute routine because it provides me with better focus and improved body strength. Or if you want to start keeping a gratitude journal you could develop this plan: After I finished the final daily chores, I will spend 5-10 minutes reflecting on my day and then jotting down at least 4 things that I am grateful for because it helps me look for positives in my life and reminds me that I have so much to be thankful for.

Track your habits

Writing down your habits in your bullet journal and tracking them is a great way to stay focused. I’ve tried various layouts in the past and my experience has taught me that it’s best to have a very small number of habits which you are really motivated to stick with. So, for example, you could choose a few things which you already do but want to engage in consistently e.g. meditation, in bed by 11pm, face cream, 10K steps etc. If you are wanting to instil a new habit, I recommend just selecting one that you can easily incorporate into your current lifestyle and that you are really highly motivated to put into place.

The first photo here is an example of a habit tracker that I tried in the past and found really overwhelming. You can see I had so many habits listed that just filling it in was hard to keep up with never mind actually doing them all. Needless to say, I regularly forgot to fill it in and gave up on it in the end! The second image is the one I have set up for next month. The new habit is studying for my distance learning course and I put it at the top as it is to be my main focus. The other habits are things that I do already but want to do consistently and preferably on a daily basis.

An overwhelming habit tracker that didn’t work for me
Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Final thoughts

If you want to make changes to your life by instilling new habits then the best way is to keep it simple and achievable, develop an effective routine and record your progress. I also think sharing your intentions with others is a great way to keep yourself accountable as you can often rely on family and friends to ask how you are doing and keep you in check. However, ultimately, it’s up to you to keep yourself motivated and regularly assess things and evaluate how your new habits are affecting your life for the better.

I would really love it if you took the time to leave me a comment telling me what habits you want to form next month and how you’re going to go about sticking with them. I hope you’ve found my ideas useful and that they help you work towards your goals.

Posted in lifestyle, Planning and journaling, productivity, Setting goals and intentions

Monday Matters: What is the ‘WOOP technique’ and how can it help you achieve your dreams?

This week, I wanted to write a post about goal setting and fulfilling your dreams. I talked last week about the power of positive affirmations in developing confidence in your ability, but is telling yourself you are something such as successful, confident or happy enough to achieve in a particular aspect of your life? Whilst perusing the Internet for inspiration for my chosen focus, I came across something I’d never heard of before called WOOP. I’m willing to bet that a lot of my readers might not have heard of it either, so today’s Monday Matters is going to be an introduction the principles behind this fascinating and scientifically researched idea, which to me, make a lot of sense and might need more consideration.

What is WOOP?

WOOP, which stands for Wish, Outline, Obstacle, Plan is a scientifically based principle developed by German academic and psychologist Gabriele Oettingen. Her research has focused on ‘how people think about the future and how this impacts cognition, emotion and behaviour’ (Wikipedia). Gabriele has found that if we just dream or fantasise about something we want, our brains tend to think we have already attained what we desire and this can make us relax and prevent us from actually achieving our goals. She talks about two processes that we need to go through for the WOOP strategy to take effect, namely mental contrasting and implementation intentions (MCII for short). Basically, this means focusing on the contrast between the positive aspects of your desired goal and the barriers (negative aspects / obstacle / internal struggle) of you actually achieving your goal or wish. So, the WOO bit is the contrast as you imagine / visualise how wonderful it would be to fulfil your wish and then conversely, look at what might stop you. Thinking about both of these helps to motivate your self conscious to do something about the issue you face. The P part is the implementation intentions as you are coming up with a plan of actions and thoughts to work against your obstacle.

Gabriele and her team have spent 20 years fully researching and investigating goal achievement and the effects of mental contrasting and implementation intentions with studies including participants of different ages and backgrounds. The results of their work, has lead them to create WOOP as a framework for implementing change. The process has been found to be affective at helping people improve their social behaviour, health and academic performance. Examples of these scientific studies can be found online if you want to find out more.

Creating a WOOP

Wish Gabriele says that it is vitally important to give yourself some mental space in which to think about and imagine what you wish for yourself right now. You should dedicate some calm and uninterrupted time where you can specifically focus on your immediate wish for this present moment. Clearing your mind of everything else is essential so that you can dedicate your attention to working on your WOOP.

You may find that many wishes come into your mind, but you need to select the one that is most important to you and is challenging but do-able at the same time. Wishes can be about anything you want, your relationships, your job, your education, your health and fitness, whatever is important to you right now.

When you’ve decided on your wish, you should try to come up with 3 to 6 words to summarise it. I found this part really difficult as I’m very good at saying in 50 words what could be shrunken down to 5 but it’s important to be concise so you should really take your time to think.

Outcome When you have outlined your wish, you need to imagine what it would feel like if it came true (you might like to close your eyes for this bit so you can create an image of your life). Think about what the very best outcome would be and describe it in a small number of words (approximately 3 or 4 is a good number).

Obstacle Next, you need to think really carefully about what holds you back from achieving that wish. In other words, what is the main obstacle? For this, you should focus on an inner obstacle, i.e. something in you that is preventing you from realising your wish. You might find here, that you start to think of external obstacles such as other people or situations which you find yourself in but it’s important that you try to concentrate on yourself as it is much easier to create changes within yourself. Again, you could close your eyes and allow yourself to come up with a vivid image.

Plan When you’ve identified your main obstacle, you need to come up with a plan to overcome it. Again, you should try to summarise thoughts or actions in 3 to 6 words. Keep these in mind, whilst you create an If… then plan. Take your obstacle words and put them after the If. Then, place the thought or action after the ‘then…’. You can then recite your If… then plan a few times.

An example

Here’s an example from my own life. I’m now pretty good at doing yoga every day but there are always occasions when I don’t feel like doing it or think of other things I would prefer to do.

  • Goal: Yoga for 20 minutes every day
  • W: daily yoga practise for 20 minutes
  • O: Strength. Good posture. Mindfulness.
  • O: Don’t feel like it. Don’t bother.
  • P: If I don’t feel like it… then I’ll put my workout gear on, get out my mat and then remind myself of the many mental and physical benefits of practising.

Some other WOOP ideas

  • In bed by 10pm every night.
  • Be more productive.
  • Get a new job.
  • Find my soulmate.
  • Stop eating unhealthy snacks.
  • Read a self help book.
  • Meditate for 10 minutes each morning.
  • Finish a project before the weekend.

You might find the process a little tricky at first, but once you’re proficient in WOOP, you can apply it to so many situations – daily tasks, habits you want to instil, projects you want to complete or whatever you want really! Also, you will likely get much better at summarising and getting to the crux of the matter in terms of your inner obstacle which will help you develop solutions more quickly.

The WOOP app

When I visited the website for WOOP, I discovered that there’s a free APP available, so I thought I would download it and see how it works. As well as giving an introduction to WOOP, it also guides you though the process of creating WOOPs for professional, health and interpersonal wishes.

The app guides you through each WOOP by giving you a number of prompts. You can choose a timeframe from 24 hours or 1 month or you can select not to have a time frame. The app gives you limited characters in which to compose your wish, outcome, obstacle so as to encourage you to keep it brief but I can imagine it’s quite frustrating if you feel like you can’t condense it down that much. It also asks you to take your time with thinking about each step of WOOP and if you click through the steps too quickly, it will warn you that you are going too fast! If you like having things noted down on your phone, then I think you would benefit from using the app, but personally, I prefer to write things in my BuJo and have a notes page to refer to, to help me create my WOOPs.

That’s all for my introduction to using the WOOP technique for setting goals and creating a plan to achieve them. If you want to learn more about WOOP and watch a great video introduction, visit woopmylife.org Here you can also find the link for the mobile app and a free printable to help guide you through the process.

Posted in lifestyle, Planning and journaling, Setting goals and intentions, wellbeing, wellness

How to create a beginner’s workout routine and why rest days are an important part of your fitness practice

Photo credit: Zibik on Unsplash

If you read my post on my bullet journal set up for next month, you will have seen that I intend to start track my steps and workouts in a handy spread I created for the purpose. As this will start from tomorrow (can you believe it’s almost May already!), I thought I would do some research into creating a good workout routine that targets all of the body and includes all of the necessary elements to increase strength and fitness. And if I’m going to do all of this hard work reading up on creating a rounded routine I figured I should share it with you all in case you are wanting to improve your fitness levels too. Bear in mind this will be very much beginner level and also that I’m over 40 and therefore I have to take into account a little bit of bodily wear and tear! So, without further ado, I’ll jump right into it.

My first port of call was the NHS website as I figured that this was the most reliable source of information I could find. They present guidelines for all adults aged 19 to 64 and state the following

Adults should do some type of physical activity every day. Any type of activity is good for you. The more you do the better.

NHS Guidelines for 19 – 64 year olds

The NHS then goes on to state that the exercise should consist of strengthening exercises which work all of the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest shoulders and arms) at least twice a week plus at least 150 minutes of moderate intense activity or vigorous intensity activity for 75 minutes. Some examples of each intensity can be found below:

Moderate activity

a brisk walk

heavy cleaning (vacuuming, mopping etc)

mowing the lawn

cycling (light effort)

doubles tennis

water aerobics

dancing

swimming

gentle aerobics

Vigorous activity

hiking

jogging

tennis singles

fast bike riding

football game

basketball

running

energetic dancing e.g. Zumba, Clubbercise

This means that, for example, you could aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week or an intense exercise at least once a week plus shorter moderate activities. For my moderate intensity activity, I try to do a brisk(ish) walk almost every day and a beginners aerobics class for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week which starts of gentle and then gets a little more vigorous further in.

The website also says that we should reduce the amount of time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity. This is where a Fitbit fitness tracker is useful because you can set it up to vibrate if you haven’t done 250 steps in the hour to remind you to move (it even tells you how many more steps you need sometimes!). In fact, at 10.50am as I sit here typing, my Alta HR has just vibrated so I paused and went for a short walk around the garden and popped up the stairs to deliver this morning’s post to my husband in my craft room. I also use the opportunity to do a few basic stretches, particularly of my neck.

If, like me, you are a beginner or are just getting back into a fitness routine, you should remember to take it gently at first, so no doing long, vigorous workouts and collapsing in a heap at the end! I found that when I started doing the aerobics sessions it was tempting to push myself too far in a bid to see faster results but this is certainly not to be recommended. Far better to push yourself a tiny bit harder each day and build up to more intense routines.

You can also find a list of very intense activities which are known as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). These are done in short bursts where you put in maximum effort followed by periods of rest. Just thinking about that has made me feel exhausted (ha ha!) and reminds me of when I once went to a spinning class and could barely drag my jelly legs off the stationary bike by the end!

For muscle strengthening, exercises such as yoga, pilates or Tai Chi are recommended but you could also try some heavy gardening such as digging when the weather allows. Lifting weights or using resistance bands are also good for developing muscle. Personally, as you will know if you follow my blog, I’m really getting into yoga and try to do at least 20 minutes per day. It may look easy with it being so slow but some of the poses can be really intense. There are so many benefits for body and mind with yoga and if you want to learn more, check out this post. I’ve even found some yoga routines online which target specific parts of the body so you can work on strengthening your back, upper body and even your core. This is one of my favourite YouTube channels right now.

Muscle strengthening

You can combine your moderate aerobic activity with your muscle strengthening routines or do them at different times or on different days depending on what suits you. I do my yoga and a walk in the morning and then do my aerobics in the afternoon but I’m finding that the bright afternoon sun is making my living room really hot so I may change this as the weather improves. After lockdown is over, I’m also hoping to do my hour long yoga session on a Friday at the wellbeing centre and also go to the gym for resistance work and some time on the treadmill, the bikes or stepper.

Remember to exercise safely

When you first start, it’s really important to ensure you are performing exercises correctly. That’s why I would recommend that you go to a class or seek the help and support of a fitness professional. I know, at the moment, due to lockdown and social distancing, doing this in person is not currently possible but there is advice to be found online on various websites and a whole array of YouTube videos from instructors. If your technique is poor, you won’t get the expected benefits of an exercise and it may even lead to pain or injury so please do make sure you workout safely.

Schedule in rest days

When you begin a new exercise regime and develop the motivation to stick to it, you can quickly become addicted to the rush of feel good endorphins that are released during moderate activity workouts. Also, when you start to see results in terms of better muscle tone and strength or weight loss, you may think that working out intensely every day is going to help speed up your progress. However, the opposite is in fact true. Taking regular breaks in the form of rest days is just as important as exercise as it allows your body to recover and repair. In fact, skipping rest days often leads to burnout or injury.

A rest day doesn’t mean you can’t do any exercise at all. It just means that you take it easy and avoid doing anything intense. A little light stretching or a gentle walk are absolutely fine. So, for example, I shall still be doing my yoga and getting outside for a nature walk each day but I won’t be doing my aerobics on at least two of the seven days. By building in rest time I’ll be feeling refreshed and ready to continue with the rest of my routine.

I hope you have found today’s post helpful. I’ve tried to put the key ideas in bold so that you could skim read if necessary. Let me know if this lockdown period has provided the encouragement for you to get fit or if you really need to up your activity levels but haven’t found the motivation to get started yet! (I know some people are struggling with fatigue right now due to the fact the situation is quite overwhelming and stressful). If you have any further ideas or advice for me in my journey to fitness, please feel free to share your suggestions.