Posts tagged ‘planning’

March 24, 2014

The Latte Factor.

I first read about David Bach’s ‘The Latte Factor‘ through Guy Kawasaki on Twitter (who, incidentally, you should follow, he shares great stuff) and I’ve spent the weekend thinking it over.

The Latte Factor, for those of you who don’t know, is a financial theory that basically says we’re all spending money on lattes or other small, daily things, without them really adding value to our lives and if we put that money into a savings account instead, over time it would make us rich.  Whilst I’m not sure of the whole ‘Finish Rich’ element of this (does it just mean I get the fanciest coffin in the graveyard?) I am pretty convinced that I do spend money on small things without really thinking about them. Perhaps at the expense of my real financial or life goals.

In the past couple of months, because of big changes that are happening around here, I’ve been using YNAB to track all my expenses and pretty soon I shall have a really clear record of where my money is going each month. I already know that there will be a few areas that I need to focus on, and cut down, in order to achieve what I really want for the year. I’ve really enjoyed using YNAB, and genuinely think it’s worth the financial investment as it’s making me focus on my spending and saving far more than all my other methods have ever done. I can reconcile it against my current account and the smug feeling of knowing where every last penny is makes me feel so much more in control. It’s a good feeling. They do a month’s free trial if you fancy giving it a go.

Anyway, back to those lattes…

For me, it really boils down to mindful expenditure. Often, a cup of coffee represents time spent with friends and in that case, it’s absolutely worth the money, and a lot more besides. But the coffee I buy every time I wait for my daughter to finish ballet class is purely bought out of habit. I could wait for an hour without one and it would be just the same. So those are the times I could put £2.50 towards my real financial goals for the year. It may not be much, but it will all add up.

To note, and so I don’t back out of them, this year’s plans include: spoon making workshop, circus trip, Amsterdam, floristry, a new DSLR, taking the kids to the seaside in the summer, a myriad of short trips and a horticultural course at college. And that’s before I start on the blog plans and worrying about my ancient little car breaking down! So, those lattes could pay for a lot more than an hour’s wait at ballet class…

February 10, 2014

How to be an expert.

I’ve been mulling this subject over in my mind for a while now. On the cusp of changes at work, and possibly to my career, I’ve been trying to work out what, if anything, I’m expert in.

Being expert doesn’t come naturally to a scanner—we’re generalists. But naturally there are some subjects, through passion, experience or damn hard work, in which I’m more expert than others. Horses, through a degree course and years of practical experience, is one area I used to be confident about. I’ve not even sat on a horse in the past four years though, so does that mean I’m no longer expert? I’ve worked on a community and environmental grants scheme since 2007, so I think that’s something I’m quite good at. Eight years of being an allotment holder makes me relatively confident about growing vegetables and fruit—but not in horticulture generally, in which I am very novice. I don’t consider my three years of blogging to make me anything other than a novice blogger; I wonder how other bloggers feel?

In an age where anyone can declare themselves an expert merely by writing the word in their Twitter biography, how much value does it hold? (and how many Social Media Experts does one society need?) Who decides what makes that person an expert anyway? Where does the burden of proof lie?

When everyone has been given a voice, through blogs such as mine, or other online platforms, is opinion being mixed up with being expert? Just because I think something doesn’t make me an expert; in that case, my opinion should rightly be of less value than that of someone else who has had decades of practice or study in a subject area. During an evening spent with a friend recently, we discussed his passion for anthropology, and Native American culture in particular. Only after decades’ worth of study and travel is he finally feeling confident enough to write papers for publication.  He has the authority now to have opinions of his own, and not to parrot those of other people—and yet he still doesn’t consider himself to be an expert in the subject.

They say the path to career happiness lies in working out what you’re good at, what you enjoy and where the crossovers are. So I need to work out first what I’m good at. What I’m expert in. But how do I go about finding out and being sure? Is it all a matter of acquiring some more self belief? Or is everyone else just bluffing?

Do you know?

February 5, 2014

Three Good Things: another paper-based edition!

Quite by accident, this week’s Three Good Things has a paper-based theme again. I think it’s because I seem to spend so much of the winter huddled inside, awaiting Spring! Here are the things that have been making me smile this week…

One: Frankie magazine

Thanks to my lovely friend Kay, I have issue 56 of Frankie to read. Even though it’s their December edition, they’re Antipodean, so there’s plenty of sunshine between the pages, as well as beautiful arts, crafts, photography. There is also a iguana, which I initially thought it was a pet. Until half of  it appeared, cooked and nestled on a plate between rice and beans. But I have decided to gloss over that page, with a shudder…

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Two: The Night Circus

I’ve just finished this novel by Erin Morgenstern and so I’m officially in mourning; a slightly empty ‘what will I do with my life now?’ feeling that appears at the end of a great book. Unfortunately, I passed it along to a friend before I remembered to photograph it for the blog.  Highly recommended.

Three: Zebra Notepaper from Rifle Paper Co. 

Because no matter how many productivity apps I have on my iPhone, I’ll always turn to pen and paper. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as crossing things off a To-Do list, and this pretty note paper from Rifle Paper Co. (bought in Waterstone’s) actually makes me want to get organised!

What are your Three Good Things this week? I’d love you to share them with me!  I will link to any Three Good Things posts you write, in next week’s edition of this series. 

February 2, 2014

Photo of my week #3

This week has been all about planning. I’ve made blogging plans, travel plans, business plans, life plans.

Here’s to a week of putting those plans into action…

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October 10, 2012

Making things happen.

I’ve been feeling a bit glum recently. Nothing major, but just a bit unsettled. Partly it’s because I’ve realised it’s October and so 2012, a year I had high hopes for, is almost at an end. I’m not exactly sure how we’re in October already. With that comes the realisation that I’ve not managed to do many of the things I had planned for this year. In some cases, that’s because I’ve done different things instead, which is fine, and in some cases there are reasons beyond my control. But in some cases it’s because of nothing more complicated than my own behaviour.

I’ve talked on here before about my top time wasters – the things I do instead of the things I should be doing. I’m still battling with them, although I’m relieved to report that my Moshi Monsters obsession has abated. To be replaced with a Blythe obsession, naturally. Honestly, sometimes I don’t quite understand myself, so I really don’t expect anyone else to…

The other night I had a bit of a revelation though. Mildly inebriated (which is when I’m the most honest with myself) I wrote a list of things I wanted to do before I reach forty. Now, I’m a bit scared of forty. With apologies to those of you who are there already, but it feels incredibly grown up to me, and if there is one thing I don’t feel, it’s grown up. I have dolls! I also have a mortgage and two children, but I sometimes still wonder how I got to be thirty six in the blink of an eye. What I began to realise as I looked at my list and thought about the reasons why I’ve still got to make some of these things happen,  is that often the things I consider to be helping me achieve my goals are in fact, hindering them.

Take, for example, my magazine habit. I buy a lot of magazines. I love them. Many of those are travel magazines. I have a list of places I want to visit as long as my arm. Yet many of these places have been nothing more than a pipe dream for years and years. Imagine if, instead of buying a forest’s worth of travel magazines, I saved up the equivalent amount of money. Where might that have taken me?

Another thing I do is look at design magazines, books and blogs. I spend hours and hours of time reading, and  thinking about decorating our house. At the moment, I’m focussed on the bathroom. I’ve even had the stuff I need to do it (sander, paint, willing accomplice) ready and waiting to go for weeks. And yet, the bathroom remains undecorated, because of all the time I’ve spent being inspired to do it, by reading about other people and their perfect bathrooms. If, instead of reading about all those perfect houses, I picked up a damn paintbrush and started work, it would have been finished by now.

My tiny front garden is another thing. I’ve got a plan to re-design the whole thing with bee-friendly plants. I’ve had that plan for ages. But instead of picking up my trowel and getting on with making it happen, I spend ages looking at beautifully designed huge gardens in old copies of Gardens Illustrated.

I’m not saying for a moment that seeking inspiration is a bad thing. I’m not saving that I’ll stop buying the odd travel magazine. But the proportions are all wrong. I need less time spent researching, or reading about other people having adventures (or perfect bathrooms!) and more time doing, whether that is saving up harder (by wasting less money on dolls or on food that gets thrown away – more on that subject in another post) or picking up that trowel or that paintbrush.

So, that’s my goal. I’ve got dates booked in with my willing accomplice to get the bathroom finished, and I’ve got myself a savings account (and home designed money pot for loose change!) to make some of those travel plans less of a pipe dream. I’m going to change the proportions of my behaviour and make the things I want to do before I reach the grand old age of forty a reality, instead of something I read about someone else doing.

Oh, and one last thing. Never, never, introduce me to Pinterest. Because  that seems like the ultimate way in which I could lose hours, days even, just thinking, planning, dreaming and researching. I need to act

June 27, 2012

Finding Time

I had a really busy week last week. So much so, that I missed two blog posts. It doesn’t take much for my ‘carefully planned’ schedule to go completely to pot. In some attempt to regain control of my time, I made a little table and populated it on hourly basis with what I was doing. I thought it would be a useful way of seeing where there was time I wasn’t making the most of.

Of course, there are huge chunks of time that are given over to work or parenting so they’re easily written off, as they are non-negotiable, obviously. But what I’ve discovered is that I claim to be busy, when actually what I’m doing is:

1) Playing Moshi Monsters. I set myself an account up so I could play with Eve, and now I’m playing it all the time. Even when she’s in bed. What’s wrong with me? I just need to complete my Moshling zoo and then I’ll be sane again. Honest. So much for not liking computer games…

2) Compiling the Net-A-Porter wishlist of my dreams, complete with evening dresses costing as much as a round-the-world cruise. For when I win the Lottery, obviously. And then get invited to the Met Ball. Which is a fairly improbable set of possibilities. It’s good to be prepared for all eventualities though, and it’s a bit like shopping without spending anything.

3) Searching for Antarctic voyages. Which, if you sail from Australia like Scott, are roughly 25 thousand pounds per head. It’s the travel equivalent of my Net-A-Porter wish-list.

4) Reading Grazia. Every Tuesday, I spent a couple of hours with this little addiction.

5) Spending time on Twitter. Ah, Twitter. I love Twitter, really I do. It changed my life. The eclectic group of people I follow means that I can be simultaneously immersed in conversations about politics, shoes, zombies and allotment gardening at any given moment. It’s utterly and completely amazing, but it steals time like nothing else.

There is obviously nothing wrong with any of these things. After all, time spent enjoying yourself isn’t time wasted, and after a day of working and parenting, it’s necessary for my brain to decompress a bit with something light and fun. The problem only comes when I think I’m too busy to work on any of the bigger things I want to do. If I fail to make some of them happen, because I’ve spent the whole year building a Moshling zoo and an imaginary wardrobe, how am I going to feel? Recording how I’m spending my time has been a bit of an eye opener. Although there is also the possibility that I need to get up earlier in the morning (like my writer friend who starts writing at 5.20am) if I reduce the amount of time I spend on these things, I might actually make progress on the things I really want to do!

So, I plan to spend no more than fifteen minutes on any of my ‘timewasters’ for every spare hour I’ve got, before putting them to one side and using that time more productively. We’ll see if it makes any difference in a month or so. For really good time-management-ninja help, I recommend you spend some time with the fabulous Marie Forleo. I’ve learnt a lot from her site.

How do you like to ‘waste’ time? And how do you stop yourself from letting those things take over? I’d love to know…

December 12, 2011

A Scanner’s Resolutions

I’ve written in the past about my Scanner Daybook, although I recently realised how little I’d been using it since starting this blog. It seems that recording life here is enough for me!

For as long as I can remember, I have written a plan for each year. During December, I spend some time planning the next year and reviewing the past one. I am loathe to call my plans ‘resolutions’, as they rarely fall into the ‘lose weight, stop smoking’ type of plan – although I am going to make more time for the gym next year, if only so I am fit enough for everything else! So, I suppose they are, really. A scanner never really stops making plans, but writing them in time for the New Year is a convenient way for me to organise them.

Generally, I write enough plans to keep me occupied full time and I am pretty bad at being rational about how much time I have to spend on them – but given how many new things I have already managed to do this year (see my 35:35 Challenge page) I am pretty confident that I might manage at least some of them. My usual method of managing everything is to have a monthly check on progress and to be flexible. They always say that life is what happens when you are busy making plans, and so I always allow for that, which basically means being kind to myself and not beating myself up if something doesn’t happen. After all, anyone with small children knows just how much time we spend each week on the routine of school, laundry, homework, cooking, tidying-up, etc. and that is the most important part of my life. Wanting to still be ‘me’ as well as ‘Mummy’ means fitting all of my plans around the family as well as my full-time job, and generally, I do quite well.

So, here are my (flexible) plans for 2012:

Physical:

  • Make time for the gym each week
  • Return to horse-riding, starting with a lunge lesson to work on my seat.
  • Undertake a physical challenge (akin to previous ones: Lyke Wake Walk, Three Peaks, Cycletta) The exact challenge is still to be decided, but I can rely on my dear family to come up with something that will at some point make me cry but ultimately be a brilliant experience. (35:35)
  • Have a go at some off road mountain biking
  • Have a beginner’s canoe session with my lovely friend Hillary (35:35)
  • Complete Cycletta again, and beat my 2011 finish time.

Travel

  • A week in Rome in the Spring (35:35)
  • A family holiday with the kids, hopefully on the Isle of Wight, where my Mum is from and where we have spent many a happy summer.
  • Paris in the winter, for a couple of days before Christmas ( this is pretty ambitious, given our budget, but I might as well add it in!)

Clothing

  • Keep a record of my monthly expenditure on clothing, accessories, beauty, skincare, magazines etc, so I can see exactly what I am spending on what (inspired by my lovely  friend’s plan to do this) I’m quite interested to see if my behaviour changes because of the act of recording it, as it is assumed  – and to a certain extent, I hope it will anyway because of the next plan.
  • Buy (or save up for) a piece of clothing each month. This seems like an indulgence but really, most of my clothes are falling apart. I seem to have drifted to a place where ‘fashion’ is something that exists in another world, not linked to my real life. Which means I barely own a pair of socks, and at the age of 35 I feel like I should be able to go to work in something that makes me look like a grown up, even if I rarely feel like one! I’m not talking about spending lots of money, but if there are pieces of clothing that I really like, I will save each monthly (still to be decided) budget to buy something really worth having. I always prefer quality over quantity when it comes to clothes, but this seems to have resulted in me genuinely struggling to find anything in my wardrobe to wear!

Allotment

  • Aim for four productive raised beds. These are all built, manured, and were in production last year, so it shouldn’t be too hard. I need to spend some time planning what to grow and working out the crop rotation in January.
  • Build the children their own small raised bed each for planting their choice of flowers, fruit and vegetables, or just for driving toy tractors on!
  • Dig over the area where we plan to put the poly-tunnel and mark it all out.
  • Sort out the supports for the cordoned apple trees

Learning

  • A one to one sewing session with Sew You in January (35:35)
  • Some time learning the basics of silver-smithing with my lovely sister in law (35:35)
  • Return to learning Italian in preparation for Rome, and try to find some structured time for this each week. (35:35)

Happiness

  • Make sure there is lots of time for just being in the moment, playing with the kids. As you can probably tell from this, and previous posts, I am not very good at slowing down and being present, instead of planning for the future or dwelling on the past, so I need to be careful of this.
  • Try to have a regular massage and try Lomi Lomi massage (35:35)
  • Eat at Create, Leeds, which, judging by the reviews I’ve seen may well be the best restaurant in the city! (35:35)
  • Hot Air Balloon trip (as per the survey I did here earlier, 35:35)
  • Have a falconry session.(35:35)
  • Continue with Operation: Bedroom Sanctuary and then when I am happy with that, move onto the other rooms.
  • Put together some photograph albums and get some more photos framed and put up on the walls.
  • Try to buy a second hand DSLR to take better photos for this blog, and learn more about IT so I can continue to improve it.

Now I’ve shared my plans with you all, I feel as though I am more likely to complete them, so I’ve added a new page to the blog to record my progress.

So next year is all organised. Now I can relax and enjoy Christmas…