Goal setting when projects are over

I’m in a curious space at the moment. I have been working on project with external deadlines (like my Community Spirit and Criminal Quilts projects) for years, and finally, by the end of October, all of them come to an end. I had applied to do another big project this winter but that didn’t happen, so here I am contemplating the autumn and winter with no ongoing things with external partners. I still have my ‘own’ projects like my Maker Membership which will keep me busy and inspired, but I won’t be working with anyone else, project-managing, delivering workshops, designing print or moving exhibitions around. It’s both WONDERFUL to have a break and quite disconcerting to have the space.

I’ve been on this project-to-project rollercoaster for so many years I can’t even think about adding them up. There was a bit of a pause at the start of the pandemic when my exhibitions got cancelled and I stopped doing anything external, but I soon got stuck into Textiles in Lockdown and then other projects happened and have continued, until now.

I usually do my planning and goal setting in January but there’s no point in waiting, so here I am heading into autumn, the new academic year, thinking about my annual reflection and figuring out what I want to be doing at least for the next 6-12 months.

I’m starting this process with a week-long artist retreat with the wonderful Gillian McFarland so I can really think about my creative goals for the next while, separate from my more business-focussed plans. Because of the way I work, I find it easier to separate the two, although my long-term intention is to bring the two more closely together.

During this break I will be working on my own Gentle Goal Setting workbook, really digging into what matters to me, why I do the work I do, what my goals, hopes & dreams are and how I can be working towards them, steadily but crucially – gently – over the next year or so.

My Gentle Goal Setting process is designed to be responsive to your needs, energy, creativity and working life. I believe that goals should be more like guiding lights, directions to follow not a time-restricted set of things you must do or you have failed. I create goals which take me towards they kind of life I want to live, not goals that make me feel pressured, exhausted and risk falling behind before I’ve really got started. The self-study workbook is available here for £20

Over the next few weeks I’ll share some of my goals that I’ve been working on this year and how I’ve made progress. You can also, if you wish, look at my 2021 goals in two blog posts here and here.


If you are looking for a creative community with ongoing support and resources to challenge your thinking and take your creative practice further, have a look at my Maker Membership. It’s a monthly rolling membership that you can join any time. I create workbooks, blog posts and videos about all kinds of things including research, creative development and reflection. There’s also a lively community who share their work and their thoughts via the members chat and we meet monthly on Zoom for a group mentoring session which is always really inspiring and encouraging. Find out more here. It’s £25 per month to join with no minimum term. Find out more here or click the button below to join.

Launching and Letting Go, my review of 2021.  

I talked a little in my last full podcast episode about what I’d done over the last year and my plans for the future. I said in the podcast that I didn’t want to be one of those people listing all their successes…. there’s being inspiring and there’s being annoying. I prefer the former! I’m not sure anyone (other than my parents) would want to read a list of my achievements in 2021. But then I am not sure that a list of failures and things I didn’t get round to is any help either. Believe me, there are plenty of highs and lows over the year of running my creative business and getting on with my life. 

Last winter I created my own review process to close the year and a structure for creating doable goals for the new year, called Gentle Goal Setting. I’m running this again in January in a new format with a live session exploring why you do what you do and how to apply these values in your gentle goals. That’s alongside my workbook which I’ve revised following feedback from last year and some ongoing support for people who take part throughout January. 

For this year’s review, I thought I would reflect on the gentle goals I set for myself this time last year and see how those goals have helped me. This doesn’t involve any targets or tick lists, it’s just a reflection on how those gentle and inspiring goals worked for me. You can read about last year’s goals below.

My 2021 review to goals

Develop and nurture connections with others

I’ve probably done less of this than I might other have done because of moving, so even in less horrendous pandemic phases I’ve not seen many in person. But I’ve made new friends this year and nurtured professional relationships and networks but also let some fall by the wayside. The work-specific element of this goal group was to create programmes to support other creatives and for that I’m going to give myself a big tick. The thing I planned when I wrote that goal hasn’t actually come to fruition yet but instead I created Maker Membership and it’s been an absolute joy. Things I have established and created myself have definitely worked better for me, rather than trying to adapt and modernise an existing group to which I eventually admitted defeat a few months ago. Management doesn’t work for me. Creating communities really does. So that’s something to remember for my 2022 goals. 

To work with coaches and mentors myself

I recognised last year that I was giving a lot to support others and not filling my own well sufficiently so this year I have made that a priority and invested time and money into supporting my own development. I have tried a membership group, several courses and one-off sessions and a 6 month coaching programme with Sarah Fox, as well as a peer-support group with two other artist-coach/mentors. I’ve got a much clearer idea now of what I need to nourish myself so I can better support others and myself!

To nurture my own creativity and set aside time for studio practice

I set a goal to work on my own stuff. It’s pretty obvious isn’t it? But I haven’t done this anything like as much as I wanted to. Instead I’ve poured my creativity into other projects and made some wonderful things happen. They just aren’t textiles. Or my new book, which was also on my goals list and hasn’t progressed at all this year. Looking back at these goals, if I had given myself the goal of creating new things that I am passionate and excited about (whatever the output) then I would have achieved this goal too. So for next year my goal will be more broad about being creative and doing things that I feel passionate about at the time, not just what I wanted to do in January!

Write more funding applications 

This is a good demonstration of my gentle goals principle. It’s specific but not target-focussed. I didn’t set myself a goal of getting XX amount of funding or even applying to a set number of funds. I just wanted to do some. I’d lost my momentum and wanted to find a way back into it. What helped in the end was collaboration. I worked with a group of other artists to do a funding application. And then another, which has also been rejected too. But I’m going to try again in the new year and hopefully we will succeed. I’ve also been persistent with others and have finally got some progress. The goal was just to try and that has paid off in the end. 

Decluttering my house

This goal I absolutely succeeded with! At the start of the year I was giving myself a couple of years to move but by February things had changed a bit and I decided to try and move as soon as possible. In the end I sold my house in April and finally moved in August, with a lot less stuff than I’d had in January (although you wouldn’t believe it looking at this photo of my stuffed studio!).

My new studio, part unpacked!

Build rest and retreat into my life

On a small scale, I haven’t really managed this. Moving house is far from restful and I’ve had a couple of 3-day holidays in the autumn as my only time off. I’ve not had a creative retreat as I’d hoped either, which is why I’ve not got very far with the goals around making / creating new work. Having said that, moving house, once done, is massively achieving this goal as my home situation is much more conducive to rest. I’m enormously lucky and grateful to have been able to move to a nicer house. Overall I’ve not been too bad at resting, other than in the moving house period. I’ve been better health wise this year than some years so I think I’m doing ok. There’s always room for improvement here and I maybe need to get more specific here for myself.

And finally I set myself a goal of doing more PR and marketing to build my profile and sell more of my work. Again I’ve not done what I thought I wanted to do with this – press releases to magazines, online shop growth and product sales, new product ranges and all kinds of things that I can’t even remember now. If I’d written the goal more gently and less specific, I would have achieved this without a doubt. The podcast has been an amazing profile-builder and connection with audiences. The other work I’ve done has all connected me with others. I haven’t sold much textile because I haven’t tried. But I have sold my other work, my memberships and courses and books and mentoring. And that’s a wonderful thing. 

The pandemic changed my priorities in work and life and continues to change how I want to work and live in the near and distant future. My goals haven’t been a stick to beat myself into working harder, they have been a guiding light for how I want to live my life and run my business.  By reviewing my goals I can see how much my thinking has moved on in the last year and how I can be more gentle with my goals this time around and adapt to the changes life keeps throwing at us. 

Next year’s goals are going to be even more holistic, reflecting the reality that work and life are not two separate states of being, especially as an artist. But I’m not choosing my goals just yet, I’m letting this review and reflection sink in. I’m spending time using my own reflection prompts from Gentle Goal Setting workbook and waiting to see what I really want for 2022. 

Once that’s settled and feeling good, I can then look at the building blocks of making my goals a reality – the planning, the structure. My goals will help me evaluate projects and ideas to see if they really fit in with my wider ambitions and the way of working that suits me and my life. And then I can happily plan, schedule and make lists in my new notebooks, diaries, journals and Trello boards and fulfil all my planning nerd dreams. 

If you would like to work with me on finding your gentle goals by reviewing your year, your needs and creating your own criteria for success, join me in Gentle Goal Setting in January. Find out more here or book now below if you are ready.

I’m running two live sessions: Monday 10th January 5pm-7pm GMT

Monday 17th January 12-2pm GMT

These live Zoom sessions will focus on your creative values and introduce the review and goal setting workbook. 

All participants will also have access to 1:1 support via email or message chat at set times throughout January. 

Gentle Goal Setting Course for creatives

Reviewing the year and gentle planning for creative practice in 2022

It’s hard to see the wood for the trees at the moment. It’s hard to focus on keeping your creative practice thriving when the world is chaos. The last couple of years have been really rough for small businesses and creatives. I truly believe that it’s much easier when you can by find and focus on what matters to you and create goals that are gentle, manageable and nurturing to your creative spirit, whether you run a business or not.

Last year I shared my ways of gently reviewing the past year and making plans for this year. You can read my posts about my own goal setting here and here. I’m doing this again for 2022 and invite you to give yourself the space and time to reflect and plan with gentleness too.

My approach is built around self-compassion and taking your energy into account, not just focussing on finances and big leaps. Tiny steps are enough.

This winter’s Gentle Goal Setting comprises a self-study workbook full of supportive thinking exercises about celebrating your achievements (however small they may seem), looking at your values and what is most important to you. Through working through my exercises, you will be able to create create realistic and meaningful goals for the new year. It’s suitable for for artists / makers / writers / creative businesses / freelancers (and anyone aspiring to be one of those in 2022) who want to take a reflective look back over what you have learned and how you can grow and develop in a gentle and mindful way.

This is Kate’s feedback from last year’s Gentle Goal Setting

I have worked for myself for over twenty years and have been stuck in the trap of setting myself ridiculous goals, having unrealistic expectations of what I can achieve  “when I set my mind to it” and being hard on myself when I don’t tick everything off my list or have unproductive days. Working with Ruth on the Gentle Goals Setting course has really helped me to look at what I’m doing from the point of view of an observer, accept and celebrate how much I actually achieve and realise that setting more realistic goals and factoring in time for longer breaks, more time off and room for days when I just don’t feel like working has actually made me more productive and happier. I now have the workbook and tools to help me re-assess in the future when I am feeling unbalanced and make changes that will nurture me as a creative person and feel happier and healthier with space for things other than work. I can highly recommend it.

Kate Unwin, The Moon and The Furrow, 2021 Gentle Goals Participant

I’m revising Gentle Goal Setting for this year, with new exercises and adaptations following feedback from last years participants. Firstly I am running this in January instead of December so you can get this year out of the way first! The workbook is now suitable for anyone who wants to set goals for their creative practice / business and / or life, not just those running a business. There’s a live session at 5pm GMT Monday 10th January for two hours and a repeat on Monday 17th January at 12pm. These sessions will be recorded so you can catch up afterwards. There will also be a community chat space for you to share with other participants about your own gentle goals work.

The course is open for the whole of January too if you prefer self-study without taking part in the live session. If there’s interest from participants, we will also book in a follow up later in the year to see how we are all getting on with our own goals.

I’m also adding in ongoing 1:1 email support from me during set hours throughout January.

I will guide you through my review process in a live online workshop, then give you a workbook for quiet, slow reflection on your own creative journey. This will take you from reviewing the year to working out some goals about how you want to feel about your business / practice.