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. 

Gentle Goal Setting for Myself – Part Two

Last week I shared my process of reviewing my year and then developing the Gentle Goal Setting Workshop alongside it. This week I’m sharing the goals I have come up with following my review, and a little more about how I got there. Leading up to writing the workbook, I had done quite a a lot of thinking and planning and reviewing and contemplating, partly so I could use my own examples in the workbook. Feedback from the participants in that programme included some clear examples of how I got from review to goals, so I am going to try and share that here. Welcome to the inside of my head!

My approach is to create goals that don’t have a fixed completion, necessarily. This is counter to most goal-setting advice which recommends giving yourself a schedule, a reward, a stick to beat yourself with if you fail. I think this approach of targets just sets us up to fail. I had lots of plans for 2020 and almost all of them didn’t or couldn’t happen, not through any fault of my own. Stuff happens. Even in a more normal year. So I now set goals that I can work on even if the world isn’t back to normal, that I have some element of control over.

Step 1. Reviewing the past year.

I created a number of different ways to frame my view of the previous 12 months. I did a calendar-based review of what I had done in each month / quarter of the year including work achievements, failures, visiting friends then pandemic starting, getting my cat, having a weekend away (amazing!) and employing a virtual assistant. This covers the stuff that had an impact on my life, things I got done and things that happened, as well as the things that didn’t quite happen such as interviews for things I didn’t get, funding applications turned down and work I started but didn’t get finished. I try to do this with no judgement. The point of gentle goal setting is to be kind to oneself and just see what happened in my life and work over the last year.

My Gentle Goal Setting Workbook includes exercises and journalling questions for personal and business reflection, asking questions about confidence and skills, about what you missed and what went better than expected. When working through these reflections I could see patterns emerging showing what I felt was important, what was having a big impact on me and what I needed to build in for 2021.

Step 2. Creating your own version of success.

We all come up against the feeling that there’s something we should be doing in our business. That person over there is doing public art! That person over there is curating exhibitions! That person over there is writing a book! Should I be doing all of these things too? We can too easily get stuck in what we think we ought to be doing rather than what we want to be doing. I worked out that my own criteria for success in my working life is: not getting ill, connecting with people, making work with meaning and making conscious, proactive choices not reactive to what others’ want.

Step 3. Turning all this into goals.

From these I was able to make a series of goals, most of which are open and expansive, rather than tight time-bound, achievement-focussed. My goals are feelings and ways of working that I want to achieve, things I want to build more of into my life. I have a couple which are more specific such as finishing my book, but that is actually a stepping stone or building block towards some of my broader goals about getting my work out in the world and connecting with people. I would also class “Do more funding applications” as a gentler goal, as I’ve not set myself a number, a deadline nor am I assuming success. I just have to keep trying. As long as I am working towards these things, I am making progress, and that’s what it’s all about.

I’ve created the diagram showing how I’ve made goals from the Things That Are Important To Me list.

Step 4. Building blocks towards your goals.

I am dead-set against the timetabling of tasks weeks and months ahead, setting ourselves unrealistic To Do lists and constantly feeling behind in what we are trying to get done. In working towards these broad and expansive goals, I have created a set of building blocks or steps towards the goals and do one, some or a bit of each every week or month when I can and pick up later if I can’t. There’s no judgement or self-flagellation if I don’t ‘achieve’ my goals when something else happens or I just don’t feel like working on that thing this week. Of course there are deadlines and dates when things have to be done because other people are waiting for them but my goals are things to be working on, steadily all year.

Some examples of building blocks towards my goals:

Goal: Decluttering and selling more of my work. Building blocks for this include creating a photo area in my house, setting myself a reminder to take photos when the weather is suitable and upgrading my online shop. Some of those are short-term goals such as setting up a photo space and some are ongoing like taking photos. I have a lot of lists of all the things I want to deal with, photograph, share and sell. I might set myself a challenge or focus for each month, but whatever I do, every small step is progress.

Goal: Connecting with others. This covers so much of my work and what I want to do more of. It links to many of my other goals. The overall purpose of this goal is to feel more connected at the end of the year than I did at the start. There’s no assessment or criteria for this, it is a feeling and I’ll know if I am making progress. Some of the building blocks for this are to create more workshops for other creative people, to launch a podcast where I talk to other artists who I admire, to do some more Instagram live chats, to revamp and develop my Patreon membership group… there are so many ways I will build connection into my working and personal life. Within each of these broader building blocks are smaller steps and specific tasks which I build into my work plan every week. My other goal of mentoring programmes is very closely linked in with this, as is my creativity goal as talking to others inspires me.

Goal: Integrating social justice into my work. I have struggled to know how to do this for the last year or so, but volunteering for the foodbank and working right in the midst of community activism has helped clarify things for me. My building blocks are : talking more about this in everything I do (such as mentioning it here!), look for funding sources, continue to make work based on the foodbank, work with others to create projects, talk and write more. Again, many of these overlap with my other goals, which is why I think this approach will work for me this year.

Step 5. Motivation and keeping moving towards your goals.

This one can be hard. It is all too easy to write a load of challenging and exciting goals in January and then close the notebook and never look at it again. This year I am trying the Goals Planner diary to help me keep track. This has a section at the front with short and long term goals and then space to review and plan each month referring back to the bigger goals. A visual and practical reminder which seems to work for me. The goal-setting advice in the planner is not my approach (obviously!) and I don’t use the milestones and targets bit, I just make lists. Then each month I review and plan what I am going to do next month. If I don’t get all the things done that’s ok. As long as I am making a little progress I am happy. That’s why my goal setting is gentle.

Would you like to try Gentle Goal Setting yourself?

If you would like to try out my review and goal setting journey, the workbook is now available as a stand alone download. It also includes a bonus section on exploring your values and purpose, using my own template around creative business. This will help guide you through everything you do in work and life, hopefully! I’m also working on some new plans including a monthly creative business reflection and journalling ‘club’, group mentoring programmes and more workshops on specific creative business topics like project planning and refining your practice, all part of my connecting and mentoring goals! Please do feel free to share your thoughts about this and your gentle goals for 2021 in the comments.