Five Resolutions for 2024
Each year I set New Year’s resolutions. There is something about a new year I find invigorating. It brings the opportunity for a refresh, reset, and to try work on all those things about the past year that I either wish I had done differently or that I would like to have tried.
However, each year, without fail, I don’t stick to my New Year’s resolutions. I spend way too much time in December overthinking them, thinking they're etched in my brain, so I never bother writing them down. Fast forward to a month into the New Year, and I've totally forgotten what I even wanted to focus on. It’s seems mad that I repeat this same pattern year after year - changing my approach to resolutions and goals is basically a resolution in itself! So, here's the game-changer for 2024: I'm putting pen to paper (publicly!) and actually holding myself accountable.
This is where my ex-professional life and overly structured way of thinking is going to creep back in... if you have ever worked in a big organisation or done goal setting, you will no doubt have come across the idea of SMART goals before. The idea is to create goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound - this helps prevent overly ambitious or vague objectives that could lead to frustration or burnout. Rather than just vaguely setting the goal, I have decided to take this more structured approach and set actual measurable (and realistic) targets so that I can hold myself to account. For anyone who hasn't come across the idea before, I'll put a little explanation at the bottom incase you want to use the same approach if you are setting your own goals or resolutions.
So here we go... my 2024 resolutions. If I can stick to half this list, then I'll think it a huge achievement!
I believe there is a direct correlation between how inspired and excited I feel about life and the amount of time I spend on my phone. Despite preaching the benefits of sewing as a means to disconnect from screens, I'm not always the best at putting this into practice. Surprisingly, I find it relatively easy to put my phone down in the evenings; this is the time when I stitch. However, during the day is my real challenge. Since social media is integral to my work, it's easy to justify excessive screen time as productive, even when I'm just mindlessly scrolling through more videos of dogs. My average daily screen time over the last year was nearly 6 hours. While a portion of that is dedicated to essential tasks like emails, video recording, maps etc... nearly 3 hours a day on Instagram is far from essential. I could maintain all the parts of Instagram that are essential for The Fabled Thread and that I actually enjoy in a third of that time.
I've been banging the drum about Freedom since I downloaded it in November, and it's truly been a game-changer for me. It's a tool that allows you to block specific apps and websites for set periods, and once activated, it can't be stopped. It synchronizes across my devices, stopping any workaround attempts for those lacking self-control—like me.
Personally, I've noticed a significant improvement in my ability to focus on tasks and be present when I have the app running. Over the past month, I've been setting three-hour windows during which I restrict access to my Instagram, email and my Shopify (i.e. website visitors / sales tracking). Once the time slot finishes, I dedicate a specific period to catch up on these apps before restarting the timer. One particularly useful approach has been running it overnight; I have a pre-scheduled session from 10PM to 8AM. This has helped break my worst habit of waking up and immediately scrolling, especially since I wake up earlier than the session's end time. If you, like me, use social media for work, then I also use Planoly to prepare posts and stories. So this means that I can be doing those whilst Instagram itself is blocked. It helps make preparing content a standalone tasks without risk of getting distracted by the doom-scroll of the Instagram homepage in the process.
While I've already started practicing this and am experiencing the benefits, making it my number one New Year's resolution is crucial because, despite knowing how much better it makes me feel, I still don't activate Freedom as often as I should. Consider this a resolution to hold myself accountable.
So, to wrap up that rather long explanation... my new schedule will be to have Freedom set every night, to run my weekdays in 3-hour blocks and once a weekend I want to set a 24-hour block, so I have either a Saturday or Sunday completely free from distractions.
Running The Fabled Thread is absolutely wonderful, but as I have written about before, it also comes with a lot of harder aspects. One of those is worrying - there is so much that can go wrong, does go wrong, is hard to predict, is out of my control - and I can get into terrible cycle of anxiety, going round and round in my head, spiralling out of control. Once the worry’s start, I haven’t yet found a coping mechanism to stop them.
The one thing I already know hugely helps my worrying is swimming. There is something about the meditative breathing patterns that seems to calm me, and that time alone, doing length after length with nothing but my thoughts, gives me a little time to think through the root of what’s concerning me and to come up with a resolution. Harry can always tell in the evenings whether I have been swimming or not, as I am just less pent up.
But I can’t necessarily get up in the dead of night to take myself swimming every time a worry cycle starts… so I need to find alternative, more accessible worry relief. Therefore, for 2024, I want to learn to meditate. I have met people over the years who have just a calm aura about them; an ability to seem to weather the storms with a sense of perspective. Each of these seems to practice something like meditation (or yoga - however, that is something that after a years of trying, I know is not for me).
So, my resolution is...
To go swimming twice a week. As I know that I'll be bound to have some weeks I can't go, instead I will keep it as a monthly average. So I have to go swimming ~8 times a month, and each month it will reset. That way I make it a more achievable and sustainable goal.
Secondly, to learn how to meditate... I have been recommended to tryInsight, which provides guided meditation sessions, or I know Headspace is also hugely popular. My aim is to persevere for the next 12 months, and if, by the end, I am not finding it useful, then I'll look for alternative ways to manage my worries. If you have any recommendations on where to begin with learning to meditate, do let me know.
Now this is a very fun new years resolution! Over the past year, so much of my day-to-day has been focussed on the business side of The Fabled Thread, from launching the new virtual courses, to the new website, professionally photographing our products, filling out all the gaps in the range... in fact, nearly all the creative aspects of the business that launched this year were designs I worked on in 2022.
Whilst I don't at all regret this, it was essential for pushing The Fabled Thread to the next stage, I have felt personally less creative. It often feels that things like visiting galleries, museums, or reading books, or aimlessly sketching, are the parts of the week which can be sacrificed. However after a year of sacrificing this, I have learnt it is absolutely critical.
I am going to address this by re-prioritising the hunt for inspiration. I will schedule in a minimum of 1 day a fortnight which has to be entirely devoted to creative exploration. I have started making a list of places I have been wanting to visit for a while - be it a trip to Oxford to see the Ashmolean museum, or Farleys house in East Sussex, or a day in the British Museum, or just a day in the studio updating my inspiration folders (I wrote about those here). If I schedule the days in advance (and book the tickets!), then I will make sure it happens.
Whilst a day a fortnight doesn't sound like that much for someone who runs a creative business, thats just the minimum amount I want to make sure I stick to. If I can outperform it and instead so a day a week, thats excellent, but I also don't want to be unrealistic which whats actually manageable whilst devoting enough time to day-to-day of The Fabled Thread.
For years I have had a fascination with printmaking. In exhibitions, the pieces I am always most drawn to are the etchings. I feel it actually carries a lot of similarity with embroidery - there is a simplicity of the line and the limitations of the medium you are using. It's something I feel I would really enjoy, and would be a perfect contrast to the slower craft of embroidery.
I have been longing to do the Heatherleys printmaking course for years. It explores everything from etching, to lithography, to linocutting, to cyanotypes, to mono-printing. It runs every Friday for 12 weeks, so I have been waiting until I can confidently sign up to the course knowing I'll be able to make it every week. However, unsurprisingly, for years that perfect time when I can confidently devote every Friday to printmaking hasn't materialised and in the process I have delayed learning a new craft.
So this year, I am going to give up on waiting for the perfect 14-week period to arise and learn a different way. There are lots of other wonderful places to learn printmaking in more bitesize and manageable ways that fit in with my life. To start I have signed myself up to a 4-evenings intro to printmaking course at the East London Printmakers, then in April I have booked onto the Etching Week at The Prince's Trust Drawing School.
After then, I'll see what I have learnt and enjoyed the most, and if I want to explore etching further, then I can sign up for drop-in sessions at either Heatherleys or The Drawing School, or may be able to independently keep working. This is the year that I finally stop waiting for the opportunity to come, and make it happen instead. I'll look forward to sharing my progress!
I am one of the least thoughtful people in the world. Harry hasn't received a birthday present from me for the last three years because, as soon as his birthday approaches, I can't come up with a single idea. It's possibly my least favourite trait and something entirely within my power to change. I am terrible at remembering things happening in my friends' lives, finding presents they will like, or booking activities to do with them. While all my friends are incredibly forgiving of this trait, it's something I wish they didn't have to forgive. So, I want to make an effort to change it, and maybe then, in a few years, it will start feeling intuitive.
Becoming 'more thoughtful' is a rather sweeping statement; therefore, this resolution is the hardest to track and hold myself accountable for, or to break down into bite-size chunks that I can actually stick to. For a start, I have set up a folder of notes on my phone to write down when friends or family mention important things happening in their lives, activities they are interested in doing, or potential gift ideas. I then will set reminders to ensure I check in with them. For years, I have wanted to be more thoughtful but haven't taken any action to make it happen, so unsurprisingly, nothing has changed. While I am somewhat ashamed to admit this resolution (it all sounds so horribly robotic and formalized), I know that if I don't give myself a structure, I won't change.
There you go, those are my 5 resolutions - I would say "wish me luck", but its probably more "wish me perserverence". Incase you haven't come across the idea of SMART goals I have included a little explanation of the concept below!
Having spent many years in a corporate and learning all sorts of silly acroymns for how to think through things, from your SWOT to your PESTLE to The 5 P's to Porter's Five Forces... I am quite a sceptic. However for goal setting I do think the idea of SMART goals is a very useful way of thinking through a goal fully to make it something actually achieveable. Therefore, if you haven't come across it before, I have just included a little explanation of what it all stands for below.
Specific: The goal should specify what you are trying to accomplish, why it's important, and how you'll achieve it.
Measurable: There should be a clear way of measuring your progress against the goal to help stay motivated and check you are sticking to the goal.
Achievable: Whilst its good to set ambitious goals, if they are too challenging or hard to stick to, it can be frustrating and demotivating. You are setting yourself up to fail.
Relevant: The goals should align to the overall objective of what you are trying to achieve and be relevant to long-term aims. To be honest, this it the one part of SMART goals that I don't totally understand so I think my goals are really more like SMAT goals haha.
Time-bound: Set a timeline to achieve the goal to help prevent procrastinating or giving yourself wiggle room to put it off or delay. New Years Resolutions all handily are already time-bound given there is 12 months to make the change!