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What I Learnt From 90 Days of Keeping a Journal - Eleanor Snare - featured image

What I Learnt From 90 Days of Keeping a Journal

In this article, I’ll share with you my experience of 90 days of keeping a journal. Yes, that’s 90 consecutive days, without fail.

Included in this article are the ways in which I journal, how I made it a lasting habit, and a few of the things I learnt. All these are things you can do – and if you’re thinking keeping a journal might be something you’d like to explore, I hope this will give you the encouragement you need.

Through the article are pictures of my organisational journal I share regularly on Instagram – follow me here.
 
What I Learnt From 90 Days of Keeping a Journal - Eleanor Snare
 

WHAT IS JOURNALLING?

Journalling is a simple process; writing (or drawing, or whatever) about your experiences. It’s a bit like a diary, except the emphasis is on examining and understanding your response to the situations of your life, rather than documenting them as if you were an observer.

If you re-read your teenage diaries, you’ll notice this; we talk about things that happened and feelings we had in quite a detached and blunt way, without really applying the necessary introspection to get anything out of the experience.

One part of contemporary journalling is the beautifying of journals, particularly organisational ones. But your journal doesn’t have to be all fancy; it’s all about the process.

There are a number of interconnected studies documenting the benefits of regularly keeping a journal. These include improved emotional intelligence, greater ability to deal with mental health challenges and deeper gratitude.

Anyone who has ever written a ‘fuck you’ email – the one you immediately delete after writing it – will know exactly how therapeutic writing can be. Just so with journalling.

For the last 90 days I’ve been practising a reflective and an organisational journal. Here, I’ll be mainly discussing my reflective journal because it’s this process which has given me the most benefits.

I am happy and willing to talk about my mental health challenges, and this is one of the reasons I’d like to share my experience of journalling with you; keeping a journal has had a profound, positive impact on this area of my life, as it has with many other people.


 

HOW I JOURNAL

I keep two journals; one organisational and one reflective.

My organisational one is the one you’ll have seen on Instagram if you follow me there; I love creating the different spreads each week and showcasing how you can make a normal working week look exciting (thanks, stickers!).

It’s a public document which combines my love of planning and organisation with an unhealthy obsession with collage, scrapbooking, cute stickers and washi tape. Originally, this journal started as a bullet journal, but over time it’s morphed into a something more art-based and imaginative.

My reflective journal is the personal, in-depth, completely private journal. In it, I explore my day, my emotions and thoughts, and my reaction to the events of my life. It is often a hard thing to write (and even less pleasant to read back). I use a number of prompts to help make the process simpler, which have developed over the 90 days I’ve been writing.

Having two separate documents is a way to manage two separate but intrinsically linked parts of my life; the outer expression of myself, both organisationally and creatively, and the inner expression of the person I am.


 

HOW I MADE IT A 90 DAY HABIT

I read somewhere it takes 90 days to form a true lifestyle change – compared to 21, 28 or 66 for a habit (depending on the source) – which is why I chose to aim for 90 days.

But it turns out 90 might be arbitrary too, and lifestyle changes are more about personality and strength of will than other factors like semi-random numbers. Who knew?

Whatever the number, it’s been difficult to make it to 90 days. Sometimes I still forget, especially when I’m busy, and end up writing the entry last thing at night rather than in the morning when I would prefer to do it. But I have used some simple techniques to make it into a habit.

Write your reflective journal in the same book each time.
I started by writing in a notebook, then forgot it and wrote on pieces of paper, then in another book – and it got confusing. Pick a nice, portable notebook and do it there.

Form a ritual around writing your journal.
This means picking a time, place and other small habit to go with the writing which will remind you to do it. Mine tends to be after breakfast, with a cup of tea, or at a mid-morning coffee break when I’m teaching.

Don’t worry about it being perfect/right/legible.
At first, I wrote very little in my journal; I was terrified of someone finding it. After a while, you stop thinking about it as a thing to be read and start thinking of it as a thing to be written. Looks, legibility, grammar and spelling don’t matter here.

Mark off the days to your goal.
Each one of my journal entries has a number from 1 to 90 marked next to it, so I could see how I was progressing. It was a small indication of my goal, but remembering that number and where I was up to helped me keep doing it.


 

WHAT I’VE LEARNT FROM 90 DAYS OF JOURNALLING

Here are some of the many things I’ve learnt over the last 90 days of keeping a journal.

Deeper understanding of my feelings and their context
By writing down my emotions alongside what was happening in my day, I’ve been better able to understand where the regular triggers are, and how to mitigate that.

For example, I noticed I’ll often feel rushed as I’m writing my journal, because I’m desperate to get the day underway – but this can make me feel stressed too. To balance, I’ve attempted to calm myself and be present as much as possible during that time.

More nuanced expression of my feelings
Through reflective journalling I can now express myself more freely to myself – before I would often not write what I was thinking but a more concise, often less sweary version.

Because of this and the journalling process I think I can now express myself more effectively to others, with kindness and tact which before I might not have had.

Knowing what I do each day
Planning the day and describing the activities of the day have both contributed to learning more about what I do each day (you’d be surprised at how un-seeing you are of your day normally).

This in turn has led me to question the activities, and to consider whether that day led towards my life’s purpose – or whether it was a bit of a tangent.

Increased gratitude
My reflective journalling has a specific place which asks about gratitude, but I also record gratitude as I go along in my organisational journal. I am much, much more grateful for my life than I was when I started. This gratitude then helps me smooth over the struggles of a day, week or months and improves my quality of life.

Greater awareness of negative self-talk
Reading through previous journal entries has helped me understand the most common themes of negative self-talk I riff on. The main theme is not appreciating, or sometimes even acknowledging my successes.

Without reflecting on my life, I wouldn’t see this as clearly, and I wouldn’t understand the damage it has on my self-esteem – and I wouldn’t be able to change that.


 

CONCLUSION

Journalling, particularly reflective journalling, is an introspective process which has plenty of proven benefits for mental health and wellbeing. Making it a habit can be tricky, but by setting aside a time and place and not worrying about it being ‘perfect’, can help you on your way.

There’s lots to learn from journalling too; practising it can help you understand your emotions and reactions more, increase your gratitude, and lead you to ways you can combat negative self-talk.

You can start a journal at any time, and you’ll see the benefits almost immediately. You can do it in any form that works for you, and document any aspect of your life you like. The key is to spend time reflecting, not just describing, to get the most out of it.

Do you keep a journal? What are your tips for making it a lasting habit?

What Is Sustainable Marketing? | Eleanor Snare Sustainable Marketing for Creative Businesses

What is Sustainable Marketing?

On the front page of my website you’ll see this sentence: “Welcome to sustainable marketing for creative businesses”. I try to live a sustainable lifestyle, and that includes how I work with my marketing and copywriting clients.

In this article I’ll explain to you exactly how I came to the concept of ‘sustainable marketing’ to help you think about whether the way in which you run your business’ marketing is sustainable.

What Is Sustainable Marketing? | Eleanor Snare Sustainable Marketing for Creative Businesses

 

MARKETING IS THE DEVIL’S WORK

I’ve often heard or see people berate marketing for all that’s bad about our current consumer culture. Marketing is seen as the devil’s work; the thing which makes us all go crazy on Black Friday, perpetuates terrible messages about women and their bodies, and constantly lies.

Marketing feels like it’s ‘tricking’ us into buying. At it’s worst, it makes us angry because it’s rubbish. At it’s best, it makes us buy something – but for many people, buying things is the worst.

Even at its most creative and intelligent, marketing is about selling something – a bottle of pop, a car, a dream – and that can feel at odds with living a sustainable, reduced-consumerism lifestyle. Added to that is the incessant churn of contemporary marketing, where shiny, ‘viral’ ideas are prioritised over meaningful information, and swathes of digital content clog up our online spaces while our doormats continue to flood with junk mail.

Marketing is a necessary evil – but it’s still evil.

So how, exactly, can this ugly business process be done in a sustainable way?

 

a quick aside

There’s a difference between sustainability marketing and sustainable marketing. Sustainability marketing is when the sustainable aspect of your business, product or service is used as a marketing message. For example, the promotion of H&M’s Conscious collection is a sustainability marketing campaign; it’s a sustainable (ish) product, and it’s being marketed.

Sustainable marketing is where your marketing processes are in themselves sustainable.

The next step is to work out what being ‘sustainable’ means.

 

what does sustainability mean?

One of the most challenging things about ‘sustainability’ is it can mean very different things to different people. Here are a few ways it’s been understood before in relation to business.

Our Common Future

In 1987, a document called Our Common Future – also known as the Brundtland Report – was published by the UN World Commission on Environment and Development. This document outlined three areas of sustainable development which should be considered when understanding how to support developing nations:

  • Economic
  • Social
  • Environmental

These three areas are commonly used as a way for organisations to put into place holistic sustainability programmes through corporate social responsibility (CSR). For example, they might donate money to charity, encourage each employee to do a day’s volunteering, and make sure the business recycles as much waste as possible.

The Brundtland Report is also well-known for this definition of sustainable development:

“development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Encyclopaedia of Global Environmental Change

In 2001, the Encyclopaedia of Global Environmental Change was published. This included a new area of sustainability: human sustainability.

Human sustainability refers to:

“the private good of individuals, rather than between individuals or societies. The health, education, skills, knowledge, leadership and access to services constitute human capital.”

This element of sustainability is less frequently used, but for me it’s one of the most important.

The ‘triple bottom line’

You might often hear businesses about sustainability for the ‘triple bottom line’. Previously, the ‘bottom line’ would’ve meant profits for a company. The ‘triple bottom line’ refers to sustainable profits, community and planet – or the economic, social and environmental areas outlined in the Brundtland Report.

 

MARKETING AND SUSTAINABLE DEFINITIONS

Looking at these explanations of sustainability, it might feel like marketing is only really satisfying economic sustainability. It’s designed to help businesses sell more things and therefore increase profits.

However, there’s a type of marketing – known as societal marketing – in which “marketers must endeavour to satisfy the needs and wants of their target markets in ways that preserve and enhance the well-being of consumers and society as a whole”.

This seems like a step in the right direction; marketing which encourages economic sustainability while also taking society and individuals into consideration.

 

The problem with definitions

When I became conscious of my journey in sustainability, I researched ideas like this. I wanted to understand how the way I worked could fit into this – how the marketing I did for my clients could be completely sustainable.

What I found was that these definitions sometimes seemed to be at odds with the pursuit of a sustainable world.

Businesses believe profits have to be made and, for lots of businesses, they have to grow. Yet constant growth is not sustainable or realistic (think of the housing market or the dot com bubble).

Consumers’ needs and desires may not be in accordance with their wellbeing. My desire is to eat pancakes for every meal, but I’m pretty sure that won’t do my wellbeing any good. Similarly, fulfilling their needs and desires might damage society’s wellbeing, rather than preserving or enhancing it.

We can’t predict the future. We can’t know what the needs of future generations might be, not really. We can barely distinguish between what’s necessary and what’s desirable right now, let alone in a future which is utterly unpredictable.

We have four areas of sustainability: economic, social, environmental and human. Which one gets top priority? However much we might try to spin four plates at once, we have to choose one to start with, and one to keep coming back to. Which one will it be?

 

THE KEY COMPONENTS OF SUSTAINABLE MARKETING

With all this in mind – the ‘evils’ of marketing, the diversity of what sustainability is, the challenges the definitions present – I came up with my understanding of sustainable marketing. It is a work in progress (just like life) and as I use it with my clients and teach it to my students it will take a clearer form. For now, here are its key components.

Sustainable marketing satisfies the four areas of sustainable development.

The marketing practices I conduct must satisfy each area of sustainable development:

  • Human – through knowledge and skills
  • Social – through connection and empathy
  • Environmental – through minimal impact on the planet
  • Economic – through business maintenance

This includes prioritising sustainable methods of delivering marketing (for example, choosing recycled paper or low-energy event ideas) to limit negative impact.

Sustainable marketing challenges the idea of constant economic growth.

While the marketing practices I conduct do encourage people to buy products from my clients, they don’t do so at the cost of the other three areas of sustainable development. Through my work and client relationships I challenge the idea of constant economic growth, instead focusing on economic maintenance.

Sustainable marketing acknowledges its role and responsibility in shaping the future of a business, a customer and the four areas of sustainable development.

My marketing practices and their potential impact are carefully considered before they’re put into use. I acknowledge the responsibility I – and my practices – have in shaping my clients and their customers, and act accordingly.

Sustainable marketing challenges preconceptions of wants and needs.

The marketing practices and strategic approach I take challenges preconceptions about consumers’ and society’s wants, needs and wellbeing. It avoids relying on received wisdom and seeks to see the consumer and society as a complex whole (rather than a set of demographic data).

Sustainable marketing can be applied to unsustainable and sustainable products.

These sustainable marketing practices can be used for any product or service, no matter its inherent sustainability credentials, as long as the client wants to work in a sustainable way. Saying that…

Sustainable marketing strategically identifies the most sustainable route for a business to take and helps them achieve it.

Through the marketing practices I suggest, my clients are encouraged to take a sustainable approach to their customer and operations. This includes developing products or services which better satisfy the four areas of sustainable development, with the support of other experts.

 

CONCLUSIONS

For many people, marketing is a necessary evil which contributes to our obsessively consumerist culture. It seems to work entirely for economic benefit, despite specific types of marketing – like societal marketing – attempting to benefit individuals and society.

When thinking about doing marketing in a sustainable way, historic definitions can result in conflict between business operations, individual needs, societal wellbeing and the unpredictable needs of future consumers.

Yet I think there are ways we can create sustainable marketing. As my own practices develop, I’ll be able to give you more and more specific examples. But for now, sustainable marketing at its core is about fulfilling the four areas of sustainable development, challenging preconceptions and acknowledging its responsibilities.

Take a look at the way in which you run your own (or your clients’) marketing. Try applying the key components I’ve outlined above and see whether it makes your job easier, more enjoyable and more successful.

 

FIND OUT HOW WE CAN WORK ON MARKETING YOUR BUSINESS SUSTAINABLY RIGHT HERE.
Seven Tips for Surviving a Clothes Shopping Ban - Eleanor Snare - Featured Image

Seven Tips for Surviving a Clothes Shopping Ban

Last year I successfully changed my consumption habits, cutting my clothing buying down to just two new items and six items of second-hand clothing in a whole year. The experience changed how I interact with fashion in a positive, exciting way. In this article I’ll give you some tips on how to manage if you’re thinking of cutting down on your clothes shopping.

Seven Tips For Surviving a Clothes Shopping Ban - Eleanor Snare 2

1. Improve your wardrobe

As you won’t be buying any new gear for at least a couple of months, it’s important to start with good foundations. Clear out any old or unworn clothing and set aside a pile for cleaning or repairing. If you’re missing an essential item – like a white t-shirt or jeans – then get a high quality option before you begin your shopping ban.

A good basic wardrobe will help you make better choices because it’ll have all the foundations you need, and will mean you’re less likely to ‘buy to solve’ a fashion problem during your period of shopping abstinence.

2. Tidy up your clothing space

A messy wardrobe or drawers will make it difficult to see what you own and therefore you’re more likely to buy items you think you need when secretly they’re hiding in the back of a cupboard. Give your clothing space a good clean inside and out. Arrange hangers properly, fold jumpers, and sort your shoes so you can see them.

WRAP’s 2012 report shows an embarrassing number of the clothes in our wardrobe – about 30% – haven’t been worn in the last six months; have a clear out and you might find something you’d completely forgotten about.

3. Put together example outfits

This is a fun activity but also very useful. After you’ve improved and tidied your wardrobe, spend time laying out outfits of different clothing combinations. Photograph or document the outfits, and keep the information handy; it’ll prevent you from thinking “I have nothing to wear with X” which can lead you down a path to purchase.

It’ll also start to focus your personal aesthetic and identify which items of clothing are going to do the most work during your shopping ban.

4. Unsubscribe

After tackling your physical possessions, it’s time to look at those less tangible things which influence our buying behaviours. Unsubscribe from all marketing communications from fashion brands. You have to go cold turkey here; those brands will send you sales materials and they will tempt you into buying.

Sales-related marketing often comes via email newsletters – but you might have to cut yourself off from Instagram too, and ignore those tiny Facebook ads tempting you from the sidebar.

5. Avoid shops and fashion magazines (to start with)

This seems extreme but if you’re taking your shopping ban seriously, you only need to avoid clothing stores and fashion magazines for a couple of months. Like any marketing, store layout is designed to encourage you to buy, and magazine editorial is designed to engage you (often leading to purchase).

My biggest blip last year happened when I started reading fashion magazines again, because it inspired me – and made my current wardrobe look boring. Build up your willpower, then pick up Vogue.

6. Spend time with your clothes

During your shopping ban, you’ll be spending a lot more time with your current clothes than you probably ever have before. Look closely at your garments: where were they made, when and by who? How does it feel when you wear them? Take time to appreciate each piece of clothing as fully as possible and you’ll want to wear them again and again.

If you’re keen to change your relationship to fashion, this quality time is a good place to start. Stop looking at your clothes like they’re disposable, and start seeing them as indispensable.

7. Don’t panic if you do buy

When I bought a second hand item last year, I freaked out a bit – I thought I had failed. But this is your personal challenge; if you renege and end up buying something, that’s ok. Think about why you did it, and if you can avoid doing the same thing in the future.

There’s no shame in buying things, and there’s no shame in enjoying it. The idea of a shopping ban is to shock yourself into new habits, but don’t punish yourself if you don’t quite make it.

CONCLUSIONS

At the start of last year, I would’ve found the idea of spending only £80 on pre-made clothing over the next 12 months laughable. But my experience showed me you can change your consumption habits, spend less and enjoy fashion even more than when you’re buying tons of stuff.

Try out these seven tips if you’re thinking of taking a break from shopping, and let me know how you get on.


Read my experience of 2016’s shopping ban: What’s It Like Not Buying Clothes for A Year?

References

WRAP. 2012. Cited in Breyer, M. 2012. Unused Clothing in UK Closets Worth $46.7 Billion, Report Finds. Treehugger. Available on: http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-fashion/unused-clothing-worth-46-billion-report-finds.html

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What’s It Like Not Buying Clothes For A Year?

Last year I set myself a goal: to only make the clothes I wanted to wear, not buy them, for the entire year. In this article I’ll share the experience with you to help you see that changing your fashion buying habits is possible – and it can even be rewarding.

What's It Like Not Buying Clothes for A Year - Eleanor Snare - Image of wardrobe and post title

 

 

FASHION IS BIG BUCKS, BIG WASTE

If you’re interested in changing your buying habits, you might already know some of the statistics surrounding our current rate of production and consumption of clothing. Zara produces around 450 million items of apparel per year (Berfield and Baigorri, 2013) – that’s seven items of clothing for every person in the UK.

We spend phenomenal amounts of cash on clothing; Asos’ 2014-15 accounts show they had more than 29 million orders with an average spend of just under £70.00 each (Asos, 2015). Their gross profit was over £574 million.

And yet many of our clothes go to waste, either as part of the 350,000 tonnes decaying in landfill, or as some of the 30% of clothing in our wardrobes which hasn’t been worn for the last six months (WRAP, 2012).

My history of buying clothing has reflected this pattern. I would buy items every couple of weeks, mostly from charity shops, ending up with a huge wardrobe where many pieces weren’t worn for months – or even a year – at a time.

 

SOMETHING SHIFTING IN 2016

Last year, it seemed more people than ever were interested in reducing their participation in mass clothing consumption.

I’d read about women who had cut out new clothing completely (Hall, 2016), or cut out spending on anything (McGagh, 2016). Livia Firth’s #30wears concept gained traction, partly through the efforts of Fashion Revolution; Jen on the Tartan Brunette explains the idea very well. And the blogger-devised capsule wardrobe ‘33 for 3’ hit six years and widespread uptake (Carver, 2010).

My significant spending on clothing had reduced by the end of 2015 as I aged and my priorities changed. It seemed like an ideal time to challenge my habits and find a new way of interacting with fashion.

 

THE CHALLENGE

For 2016 I set a self-imposed ban on buying any clothing, new or second hand. Instead I would make anything I wanted to wear. The goal was to reduce my consumption habits and increase my dressmaking skill level.

 

THE RESULTS

It was a tough year.

If you think fashion is a load of superficial nonsense, not taking part by consuming clothing is probably easier than if you think fashion is expressive, creative, culturally-situated, radical, exhilarating and all round wonderful.

I am in the second camp.

I found, to start with, not buying clothes was an unnatural experience. I felt like I was punishing myself and that I couldn’t take part in what everyone else was doing – the fun and excitement, the new shapes and colours, the joy of expressing yourself in a new way. It was rubbish.

But after the first few months, I started to enjoy the new ways of experiencing fashion that I’d found. I could visit a clothing store in the same way as an art gallery or museum; not expecting to buy anything, but to take in the visual feast on display. Stepping back from consuming meant I could see fashion as entertainment – and some clothing really is entertaining – and enjoy it without owning it.

I was enthralled with developing my skills in sewing. I drafted new patterns, came up with design ideas, collected swatches and clippings from magazines. I was a fair seamstress before, but through 2016 I became a good seamstress, confident and happy in my own skills. Not every piece worked, and not every piece was worn, but the making became the most enjoyable process.

A result I didn’t anticipate was the refinement of my fashion aesthetic. With a buying ban, I couldn’t take part in new trends quickly; I had to carefully consider whether it was worth my time and effort making a hyper-fashionable garment (spoiler: it wasn’t). My core aesthetic became clearer because I had fewer choices, and I wanted my skills to contribute to a garment I would regularly wear and love.

 

CLOTHING BY NUMBERS

In 2016 I made 11 items of clothing which I kept:

  • 1 long-sleeved wraparound lace jersey top
  • 1 grey wool cropped sleeveless swing top
  • 1 grey and white slubby racerback vest
  • 1 pair mottled leopard print satin wide-leg trousers
  • 1 black and white sleeveless wraparound jersey top
  • 1 pair denim culottes
  • 1 pair black cropped trousers
  • 1 pair black and white checked cropped trousers
  • 1 grey short sleeved t-shirt
  • 1 white V-neck twist-front t-shirt
  • 1 black wool funnel neck sweater

I made three items which I ditched because they were too small, too ugly or too complicated.

Total spend: I didn’t keep track because I owned lots of fabrics and patterns from before I started the challenge.

 

I did end up buying six items of second hand clothing:

  • 1 grey jersey sleeveless tshirt
  • 1 black padded cotton bomber jacket (for my trip to chilly Stockholm)
  • 1 black men’s tuxedo jacket
  • 1 black sequin and velvet collarless jacket
  • 1 pair men’s camo trousers
  • 1 racerback black jersey tshirt

Total spend: £42.00

 

Despite my efforts I also bought two brand new items of clothing:

  • 1 pair black thermal leggings (M&S) bought in November 2016 because it was cold
  • 1 pair black satin high heeled mules (M&S) bought in December 2016 as a Christmas present to myself

Total spend: £41.00

 

During 2016 I bought eight pieces of pre-made clothing, with a total spend of £83.00.

 

CONCLUSIONS

Setting this challenge for myself wasn’t a quick decision, but my interest in developing a sustainable life and my shopping habits didn’t match up. Fashion industry statistics tell a story of over-consumption and under-use, and my personal practices reflected that.

I chose to do something dramatic as a test, and although I didn’t survive the whole year without buying pre-made, I was much more aware and attuned to my consumption patterns.

Changing my habits like this brought multiple rewards. I spent less and enjoyed fashion more because I saw it as entertainment and art, not a way to practice ownership. My dressmaking and pattern making skills improved significantly. I clearly defined my core aesthetic and enjoyed experimenting with its limits.

When I did buy items, it was a considered experience. I bought only what I knew I would love, would use and had been searching for – like the proper camouflage trousers or the satin mules (the style was the same as a magazine clipping of a designer shoe I’d stored in my scrapbook for about a year). Buying became a special experience.

Most importantly, I continued to deepen the relationship I have with my clothes, which I believe is a key factor in changing fashion purchase, wear and disposal habits.

If you have been toying with the idea of making some changes to your relationship with fashion, try it. It’s tricky, but it can be done – and the rewards are completely worthwhile. Let me know how you get on on Twitter.


Try your own consumption challenge: Seven Tips for Surviving a Clothes Shopping Ban

References

ASOS, 2015. Annual Report and Accounts 2015. ASOS.com. Available on: http://www.asosplc.com/~/media/Files/A/ASOS/results-archive/pdf/2015-annual-report.pdf

Berfield, S. and Baigorri, M. 2013. Zara’s Fast Fashion Edge. Bloomberg. Available on:  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-11-14/2014-outlook-zaras-fashion-supply-chain-edge

Carver, C. 2010. Project 333. Be More With Less. Available on: http://bemorewithless.com/project-333/

Hall, S. 2016. Sally Hall: My year without clothes shopping. Yorkshire Post. Available on: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/analysis/sally-hall-my-year-without-clothes-shopping-1-8298444

McGagh, M. 2016. My year of no spending is over – here’s how I got through it. The Guardian. Available on: https://www.theguardian.com/money/blog/2016/nov/26/no-spending-year-over-new-way-living-wealthier-wiser

The Tartan Brunette, 2016. The 30 Wears Campaign. Tartan Brunette. Available on: http://tartanbrunette.co.uk/2016/07/the-30-wears-campaign.html/

WRAP. 2012. Cited in Breyer, M. 2012. Unused Clothing in UK Closets Worth $46.7 Billion, Report Finds. Treehugger. Available on: http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-fashion/unused-clothing-worth-46-billion-report-finds.html

how-the-research-behind-keeping-new-years-resolutions-can-help-you-set-better-goals

How The Research Behind Keeping New Year’s Resolutions Can Help You Set Better Goals

It’s been nearly two weeks since the first day of 2017. How have you done with your New Year’s resolutions?

It’s likely after a week you’ll still be on track – 75% of us who make resolutions are successful seven days in. But by six months, this has dropped to around 40% (Norcross, 2012). Not sticking to your goals can make you feel disappointed, ashamed and unhappy, which has an effect the next time you make – or attempt to achieve – goals.

Goal-setting and success is much more complex than it looks; much more complex even than the SMART method you might’ve been taught. But by understanding this you can set more effective goals and enjoy achieving them. In this article I’ll show you the research behind goal-setting and the ways my own experience changed how I’ve set goals for 2017.

 

research-behind-keeping-new-years-resolutions

 

To illustrate the complexity of goal-setting, take two pieces of research, around 15 years apart involving some of the same team. In 1981, Locke and colleagues saw better performance in 90% of their studies where participants had specific and challenging goals, compared to easy or no goals. So challenging goals can help encourage high performance.

Conversely, in 2006, a culmination of Locke and Latham’s research showed significant levels of poor performance in studies involving participants who had a challenging goal, but were intimidated by its level. So if the goal is too difficult, it can result in poor performance.

The question is: how do you know what’s a challenging goal, and what’s a too-challenging goal?

How do you know what you can achieve before you’ve achieved it?


Lots of us will feel passionately that setting goals is ‘a good thing’. I’ve always been a firm believer in goals, plans, and anything that can fill up a nice chart. And by setting goals, you can change what happens through narrowing the activities you focus on, encouraging persistence and effort, and modifying behaviour (Locke and Budworth, 2007).

Yet the success of your goal depends on a complex array of factors. For example, the commitment you make to others regarding your goal can be a deciding factor in whether it’s achieved or not (Locke and Latham, 2002). That’s why many goal-setting guides will tell you to tell other people about what you’re doing, or why ‘check in’ weight-loss groups are often effective.

Goal difficulty and goal proximity also have a strong effect on goal setting and achievement (Steel and Konig, 2006). Goal proximity could also be known as ‘the deadline effect’. Set a goal for a year in advance and you might plan carefully and stick with it – or you might lose momentum because it’s too far away to be of concern. Set a deadline of something very difficult for next week and you could be pushed into action, or overwhelmed with the challenge.

GOAL SETTING EXPERIENCES

So the research shows setting goals is not a simple task, and achieving them is even harder. As an avid goal setter and achievement queen, I found this out first hand.

In the middle of last year I set myself 12 individual goals to achieve by the end of the year, ranging from specific and timely (“Throw myself into researching for the Global Fashion conference”) to general and a bit more exciting (“Book a really good holiday”). I used Lisa Jacobs’ mid-year review to help me, and for any goal-setting nerds like me it’s a refreshing way to put your goals together.

Out of my 12 goals, by the end of the year I’d been completely successful with 50% of them. Five others I did partially, and one I sacked off completely. Can the research into goal-setting help explain why some of my goals were successful, and others weren’t?

To a greater extent, yes.


The goals I achieved most successfully were specific and challenging, but most importantly they had proximity; they were events I needed to attend, or things which had a deadline. They were also the goals where I was committed to others – either explicitly, like presenting at a conference, or implicitly, like writing articles for blog readers.

The least successful goals were vague and too challenging – too much for me to achieve in the allotted time. Importantly, they were also goals where there was no feedback system in place; no-one to talk to about my progress or my “improvement in time management” or whatever goal it was.

The most radical difference between my successful and unsuccessful goals was whether or not I was learning something. Goal-setting research distinguishes between learning goals – where one is exploring and developing knowledge – and performance goals, where something definitive must be achieved.

Where I had learning goals, I succeeded to some extent – even if they were vague, like “Do more interesting research”. Where I had performance goals, I was much more likely to fail.

One of the reasons for this is clear: 

For complex tasks, goal-setting may actually impair performance (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997)

We’re so focused on ticking the box of a performance task that we end up doing anything we can to get there, which might bypass the learning opportunities available with complex tasks. I love learning, so I instinctively strayed from those goals where learning wasn’t a key factor.

Something to consider is our contemporary culture of setting #goals, openly or subconsciously, for every area of your life, from breakfast to relationships. And yet, I can’t think of a more “complex task” than life itself. What’s the effect of this consistent reduction of the complex task performance of life into a series of performance goals? What are we missing out on learning by prioritising tick-box achievements?

My yoga teacher often talks about ‘making the shape’ of the posture, but not really embodying the posture fully. I see the #goals culture in the same way; we are ‘making the shape’ of the achievement, helping it be visible to others, but not embodying achievement as it applies to our idiosyncratic and very complex lives.


In practice

The result from my investigations and my personal experience is to rethink what goals mean to me, and to work with the proven flows of my mind, rather than against it.

First, I’ve significantly reduced the number of goals I have for this year; in the last six months of 2016 it was 12; for 2017 I have just four. My criteria for this year is ‘experimentation’, helping me put learning at the heart of what I’m doing, and my goals are all oriented to learning, which means I much more likely to commit to and therefore achieve them.

I’ve built in clear sharing and feedback mechanisms, not only so I have committed to others but so my goals aren’t lonely. Plus, I’ve made them much more diverse; last year I focused predominantly on work, but this year they cover much broader areas of my life.

Conclusion

Understanding how the process of goal-setting can affect your success in achieving goals is key to making them enjoyable and meaningful, rather than binding rules or likely failures which knock your confidence.

I hope this research and my experience has helped you look with fresh eyes at your New Year’s resolutions. If you’d like some further support read Five Clear Ways to Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions.


References

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1997). Finding flow: the psychology of engagement with everyday life. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0465045138. OCLC 36315862.

Latham, Gary P.; Budworth, Marie-Hélène (2007). “The study of work motivation in the 20th century”. In Koppes, Laura L.; Thayer, Paul W.; Vinchur, Andrew J.; Salas, Eduardo. Historical perspectives in industrial and organizational psychology. Series in applied psychology. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. pp. 353–382 (366). ISBN 0805844406. OCLC 71725282.

Locke, Edwin A.; Latham, Gary P. (September 2002). “Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: a 35-year odyssey” (PDF). American Psychologist. 57 (9): 705–717. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.57.9.705. PMID 12237980.

Locke, Edwin A.; Latham, Gary P. (October 2006). “New directions in goal-setting theory” (PDF). Current Directions in Psychological Science. 15 (5): 265–268. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2006.00449.x.

Locke, Edwin A.; Shaw, Karyll N.; Saari, Lise M..; Latham, Gary P. (July 1981), “Goal setting and task performance: 1969–1980” (PDF), Psychological Bulletin, 90 (1): 125–152, doi:10.1037/0033-2909.90.1.125, retrieved 2010-06-01

Steel, Piers; König, Cornelius J. (October 2006). “Integrating theories of motivation” (PDF). Academy of Management Review. 31 (4): 889–913. doi:10.5465/AMR.2006.22527462.

five-clear-ways-to-help-you-keep-your-new-years-resolutions

Five Clear Ways to Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Despite January being a terrible month for positive vibes, weather and cash flow, many of us are still riding high on the continuing success of our New Year’s resolutions. Whether it’s exercising more, going on Facebook less or simply letting things be, there’s plenty of research behind why setting goals can be effective in helping us succeed.

But there are also many studies which show goals which are too challenging or limiting can significantly impair our behaviour.

From investigating some of the theory behind goal-setting, and my own experiences from 2016, here are five tips to help you keep your New Year’s resolutions – and avoid being one of the 60% who fail after six months (Norcross, 2012).

5-clear-ways-to keep your new year's resolutions


Choose fewer, clearer goals

Last year I decided to write down 12 goals halfway through the year, which I wanted to achieve by the end of 2016. That was an overwhelming number, and my attention was spread too thinly.

One of the strongest reasons for setting goals is to help us focus our attention on what really matters (Latham and Budworth, 2007), so if you have a list of more than five goals for 2017, I suggest stopping right there. And maybe cutting it down a little.


Focus on learning rather than performance goals

My experience from last year showed I was most likely to achieve a goal where I had to learn things (like “Write more blog posts”) rather than one which was focused on performance (like “Be more disciplined about my time”). This is reflected in goal-setting literature, which suggests goal-setting for complex tasks where learning is required can have a negative impact on performance.

Try focusing on learning goals for this year, where you get to explore new topics and develop knowledge; you might find them more enjoyable, as well as giving you a greater chance of success.


Be clear on difficulty and proximity

The difficulty of your chosen goal and its proximity – the amount of time you have to achieve it – are very important, particularly if you do decide to set performance goals like “Lift the biggest weights in the gym” (Steel and Konig, 2006). A distant deadline may give you a false sense of security; regular check-ins are much more likely to keep you on track. Don’t just set a final deadline – set mini-deadlines to help you.

Difficulty is hard to measure yourself – how do you know what you can achieve before you’ve achieved it? – so take time to speak to others who have been successful in their goals, or who are experts in their field. I don’t think you should be too realistic because ambition can be encouraging, but don’t make it so difficult it becomes killer to try and achieve a single goal.


Build in feedback and sharing mechanisms

The success of your goal depends partly on the commitment you make to other people regarding the goal – either by telling them, or by including them in your goal (Locke and Latham, 2012). By sharing your goal with others, it can encourage accountability and realism. More importantly it reduces the loneliness of goal-achieving.

Feedback is also key. Another element which contributes to the success of goal-setting is self-efficacy – the belief you have that you can achieve that goal. Positive and critical feedback from others can help you develop self-efficacy and keep you on the path to success.


Make your goals diverse

The old saying of “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” applies to goals. Last year, nine of my 12 goals related to work. I did well at work, but other parts of my life suffered. This year, I have four goals spread evenly across essential areas of my life.

Take time to make your goals diverse, ensuring you are focusing attention and caring for a rich variety of things in your life. You’ll gain greater pleasure from feeling your whole life being enlivened by your goal-achieving activities, and you’ll make a more interesting dinner party guest.


Having goals is something many of us consider ‘a good thing’, so try making 2017 a year where you set – and achieve – goals you can be really proud of by following these five tips.

If you want to find out more about the science of goal-setting, and my own experience, read How the Research Behind Keeping New Year’s Resolutions Can Help You Set Better Goals.

What are your goals for this year?


References

Latham, Gary P.; Budworth, Marie-Hélène (2007). “The study of work motivation in the 20th century”. In Koppes, Laura L.; Thayer, Paul W.; Vinchur, Andrew J.; Salas, Eduardo. Historical perspectives in industrial and organizational psychology. Series in applied psychology. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. pp. 353–382 (366). ISBN 0805844406. OCLC 71725282.

Locke, Edwin A.; Latham, Gary P. (September 2002). “Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: a 35-year odyssey” (PDF). American Psychologist. 57 (9): 705–717. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.57.9.705. PMID 12237980.

Steel, Piers; König, Cornelius J. (October 2006). “Integrating theories of motivation” (PDF). Academy of Management Review. 31 (4): 889–913. doi:10.5465/AMR.2006.22527462.