The week that started 12th August

What do disciplined studying, learning more about burnout, creating my own routine and wellbeing in the woods have in common? They’re all things I did this week.

Wellbeing in the woods

I finished the week at Wild in the City festival, and then my friend’s house. Met so many awesome people.

Delighted to hear about:

  • Trees! Forest ecosystems and climate change from Yadvinder Malhi, Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University
  • UN diversity priorities from Maxwell Gomera, Director of the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Branch at UN Environment
  • Botany from Tracy Commock, Director of the Natural History Museum of Jamaica and Botanist
  • Nature-allied psychotherapy from Beth Collier, nature-allied psychotherapist and founder of Wild in the City

I’ll learn more about Who Owns England? online and in Guy Shrubsole’s book.

For more about wilderness in London and the importance of woods for wellbeing, check out BBC’s Cities: Nature’s New Wild on BBC iPlayer. And, if you’re a person of colour, check out Nature Connectors and Wild in the City, and feel free to ask me about them.

➡️ Organise writing in the woods for a small group of us

Learning more about burnout

Relatedly, earlier in the week I was reading about burnout. One of my friends and former colleagues shared an article about how burnout is becoming an epidemic, which has useful references for improving my recovering from burnout workshop. So, I was working on that.

Learning & studying

I did all my Artist Way week 11 reading & a bunch of tasks on Monday. So proud of myself. Reading the paperback is much easier than reading the ebook, because I can easily see how many pages are left. I dunno, it just wasn’t such a chore. Which was great.

Studying information, advice & guidance

Studying was really hard to get done the week before last.

I planned to do it ahead of time the previous week, but I didn’t follow through. So, I had very little time what with conferencing & travelling.

In addition, after 4 weeks of waiting for feedback, I finally got told I passed everything, only to have that swiftly followed by being told I needed to redo half of the first assessment, and being told (incorrectly) that I had only 3 days to do that. Demotivating *and* stressful 😒

Still, I pushed back on the new deadline, got the rest of the studying done, and decided to try again with doing a bit every day, not leaving it all until the last minute.

And I got off to a flying start!

Monday and Tuesday I did some studying in the morning, completing the first quarter of my next assessment two weeks ahead of time. 😁

Learning how to learn

Flushed with success I started another course called Learning How to Learn. It’s on Coursera (so, also free) and I love it. Been eulogising about it on Twitter. It’s utterly fascinating, and now I have a much clearer idea about how to help myself learn better.

And, I understand & appreciate myself better too. I learned that finding it hard to stay focused is basically what it means to be creative. That is, my brain is off making connections to other things instead of focusing.

Plus, there are *loads* of things I can do to make it easier on myself and learn more effectively. Like, did you know that sleep is important for learning? Well, yes, I knew that too. But, I didn’t know that taking naps after reviewing what I’m learning will help me remember it better. Why has no teacher ever advised me to nap before this?! Dancing will help me understand stuff too, because exercise does helpful things to your brain. I forget the specifics, but basically yet another reason for me to get back to zumba classes.


So, Thursday this week was my first time in dedicated writing space.

Learning how to learn underscored the importance of the breaks in the pomodoro technique, so I actually did it properly. Which helped me get a lot done.

  • practising self-discipline for daily productivity by creating structure

Pomodoros: Making the unachievable manageable

Am I the only one who didn’t realise that the breaks inbetween pomodoros are as important as the pomodoros themselves?

I was wrong on so many counts.

I thought that having a 25 minute break was mostly to fool my brain into getting started.

And, that’s partly it – a small chunk of time is much more manageable. But, crucially, those breaks are for rewards. So that we can break the rewarding behaviour of procrastination and replace it with the pleasurable behaviour of working.

It goes like this:

  • activity you don’t want to do ➡️
  • pain experienced in the brain ➡️
  • avoid pain ➡️
  • procrastinate

So, pomodoro technique works like this:

  • activity you don’t want to do ➡️
  • tell yourself just do it for 25 mins, then you get 5 mins fun time ➡️
  • start on the activity you don’t want to do ➡️
  • pain goes away shortly after starting
  • reward self with a fun 5 min break ➡️
  • experience pleasure of achieving the thing *and* getting the fun break

The breaks are crucial for creativity and learning too, which I kinda knew but forgot. That’s how to get more ideas and embed learning, that’s when your brain can make connections and stuff.

What I achieved during my writing day

Achieved for writing:

  • reviewed feedback I got on my novel extract first draft
  • wrote more of my novel
  • made some corrections
  • made a list of tasks for continuing improvements,
    which means next time I sit down to write I know exactly what to do

Achieved for workshopping:

How I planned for my day & recorded my progress

When I talk about practical over pretty I mean it.

Messy handwritten page of a plan for Thursday, 15 August, dividing the day into half hour blocks for writing and workshop design
Yes, I give myself virtual trophies when I achieve things (an extract from my bullet journal)

Things I learned by creating a writing day

It took me half an hour to get settled. So, that’s something I want to improve for next time.

Booking stuff really takes me ages. I thought it would take 10 minutes to book on to a couple of events, a writing residency and an agile course. I’d already made my choice, and I had the links to hand. But no. It took me an hour. A whole hour. And I accidentally booked the wrong (non-refundable) train ticket because I was rushing. 🤦🏿‍♀️

Still, it’s all done now and I’m looking forward to these experiences!

15% solutions to make my next writing day more effective

  • Write this list in my bullet journal and schedule the tasks for specific time slots
  • Have the things I need packed in an easily accessible way
  • Make a list of things to take with me & leave that in the hall so I check it before I leave
  • Take with me: Chromebook, bullet journal, bare minimum of pens (2 biros, 3 felt tips, 1 black marker), lunch and snacks, commuter mug, file of writing/workshop papers
  • Leave behind: books
  • Prep Chromebook: Close everything I don’t need, open 2 windows – 1 for writing, 1 for workshops, create a new document (copy latest one) for editing / writing my novel
  • Continue with planning the day on paper using the pomodoro technique
excitedly: do it! do it! do it!