December Reflection: (Part One)

December is a great month to start reflecting on the year. It’s also, in my experience, an extremely busy month, with more pressures on us than usual. There are often a lot of events to attend, work parties, and other end of year activities, plus any holidays or celebrations to participate in.

So taking stock and spending some time amongst all this noise is actually very beneficial. For me, it is easy to become very passive in my life, to let the day to day activities drive my life rather than working to have control; this often looks like indecision. For example, at the moment I commute 3 hours per day to work and back. On one hand using public transport makes me feel environmentally good, however, if I had my own car I would cut my commute down by half, giving me 7 more hours in my week. But I sit on the fence, become passive. I keep going back and forth, without making a clear decision. I’m commuting long hours, but are not content with what I see as a waste of time – so this back and forth type of thinking continues. (If I did purchase a car it would be a hybrid or electric).

I started this blog to use creativity and creative processes as a way to engage and fight against consumption. To spend time using creativity instead of filling up hours with consumerism or buffering on social media platforms. In New Zealand we have just experienced ‘Black Friday’, not something that has been common here. However, more and more of our bigger companies are advertising ‘Black Friday’ sales as our consumer habits become more global and it is increasingly difficult to see through how the media is influencing us and the use of our time, (and money). Being involved in creativity certainly makes me present in that moment, relieves the constant anxiety to have the same things or compare myself to my peers. To me it is a personal protest against consumerism, with the added bonus of enriching rather than taking (time/money).

So coming back to my first point; December is a great time to take stock, reflect on the year and put some new processes in place for the coming year. To do this I want to discuss ‘lists’. YES, you read it correctly… lists. One of my December books is La’rt de la Liste: Simplify, Organise, Enrich your life, it is a beautiful book on lists and the art of list making by Dominique Loreau. When I first picked it up I thought, “Oh No, another book to organise my messy life”, and in a way it is, but it is done with creativity, inspiration and flair.

“Writing, correcting, editing, clarifying, refining… the work of deleting, of filtering, of gradually trimming back the superfluous as we aspire towards the essential. It is always possible to express truths, personal convictions or powerful, fleeting pleasures in a more succinct way. Just like the haiku, the list can represent a way of turning a selection of words and sensations into a mini work of art.”

There is delightful Japanese approach to the book, the way Japanese approach lists and the fine art and execution of them. If you love lists – then you will find this book a treasure. Link here to review.

So back to December. It is here and I have a need to reflect. What have I done this year that has helped me to organise my life and in turn given me freedom for creativity? The biggest change I have made is incorporating bullet journaling into my life (BuJo for those in the know). Ryder Carroll wrote a book titled The Bullet Journal Method, which outlines a style of journal/diary, he states:

“The Bullet Journal method will help you accomplish more by working on less. It helps you identify and focus on what is meaningful by stripping away what is meaningless.”

Without reading the book, it’s quite difficult to explain the elements of the BuJo that make it so successful. What I like most about it is its ability to put everything in one place. I’ve always had a diary, but then hated the waste of paper, I use lists all the time, and then I write little quotes to myself, or draw, or write down goals in another book – the BuJo method puts it all together using an index system, which is easy and quick to learn.

This method of organising, has probably been the biggest change I have made and stuck to this year. And, I will definitely keep practicing the BuJo method next year. I absolutely recommend this book. There is also a website to visit, which is linked here.

And as I stated previously, not being settled with my 3 hour, daily commute; going back and forth on how to solve or evolve the problem has been this year’s biggest dilemma. So with this in mind, I have a selection of ‘list’ activities (below), which I will work through to come to a decision… and stick to it. These activities can be used in all manner of ways, for small aspects of your life, or larger projects you may be working on. I will link the different websites or references for each.

So, next week on the blog I will show some examples of these at work, as I think through my commute issue, and hopefully come to a solid plan for 2020. Hopefully one or more may be inspirational to you to reflect on 2019 and gear up for the year ahead.

List Activities

Negative Selection

This is a great way of making lists smaller at the beginning stages. If your possible lists for an idea or project has become too large, and you’re confused as to which one to start, you can use the negative selection. We have a great ability to see the negative in something, more than the positive. Go through the list and write down, NO or MAYBE beside each as you think about the possibilities.

Attribute Listing

  • List all the attributes of the object, or process in question
  • Consider the value of the attributes
  • Do the attributes have a positive or negative value
  • Modify the attributes
  • Look for ways you can modify the attributes, so you can increase value

Challenge Assumptions List

  • When having an block, or trying to solve an issue, you can write a challenge assumptions list
  • Start by listing the assumptions you have of the problem
  • Then ask, “What if…… was not true?”
  • This type of listing and thinking will help you to see the issue from different perspectives.

Osborn Checklist

Alex Osborn, who developed the brainstorm technique, also advanced other thinking strategies, and one of these is the Osborn Checklist.

  • Adapt? What’s similar, what are parallels, what can you imitate?
  • Modify? Can you change colour, moving, size, shape, tone, smell, etc.?
  • Substitute? Different process, positions, music, elements from other countries, etc.?
  • Magnify/Maximise?  Increasing frequency, size, height, length, distance, etc.?
  • Minimise/Eliminate? Lighter, smarter, etc.?
  • Rearrange?                
  • Different sequence, etc.?
  • Reversal? How to mirror the ideas, etc.?
  • Combine? Is it part of a bigger picture, etc.?
  • Other use? Is another use possible, etc.?

The Wish List

Wishing helps to expand our thinking, it is playful and without boundaries. You can wish for anything. Making a wish list helps you understand yourself and you can consider ‘what ifs’ without limiting your choices to practical solutions.


So these are some of the activities I will use over the next week to reflect on my commute. Hopefully it may be useful to you as well to think about how you can make some positive changes in your routines for next year.

4 Comments

  1. […] started working on the issue of my commute, using some of the listing techniques I mentioned in last week’s blog. (My issue is whether to continue with my long journey each day to work, on public transport, or […]

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  2. Wendy Cook

    Thanks for the information about lists. I know when I make lists I certainly get more done. I think I might try the Bullet Journal method, you have mentioned above as I feel I still waste a lot of time.

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    1. Thanks Wendy, The Bullet Journal changed everything…haha

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  3. […] worked through a number of reflection exercises to fully take stock, some of those are in December Part 1 and Part 2. So here I am again, thinking about the new year […]

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