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The deliciousness of re-imagining work and play

The past few weeks have been flurry of activity—with travel, speaking at a conference, meetings with colleagues from around the world, a summit, and a wee bit of vacation too. The experience of doing something different every day was exhilarating.

Now that I’m back home, it’s time to dive into the work and play of crafting new aspects of my professional and personal lives. I feel a desire to find my way back into the comfort of a routine to support the changes I want to make. I wonder a bit about that feeling, though I realize that a routine can facilitate processes for me.

How are you experiencing your life right now? 

Have you had some time away from work? What did it feel like to step away? And to return?

The Visual Thinking Global Summit in Bilbao, Spain, SHAKE it to SHAPE it!, gave me the time and space to explore my world—where am I now, what will nourish, challenge, and support me going forward?

What existing and new knowledge, processes, tools, resources, and relationships can I tap into, explore, leverage, or amplify to move in the slightly new direction I am envisioning? I have ideas grounded in my reflections and insights from the summit. These questions  loom large for me:

  • What do I dream about?
  • What experiments will I design to discover the path I want to take?
  • What will I let go of?
  • What I will commit to?
  • What timeline I will create for developing these ideas, the pieces of the mosaic of my life?

Related to all this imagining is the practical piece… How will I carve out the time for this work and play of altering the course of my practice? As a maker, I need large blocks of time to work on projects — to dream, imagine, design, question, play, create, revise, and complete. As a solopreneur, I have to ”manage”/guide my business and the various projects that comprise my work.

A recent article in Upworthy on Paul Graham’s work, by Annie Reneau, describes how makers and managers perceive time (and meetings) made me pause. I felt that it explained a lot about my scheduling of myself. I am both a maker (for work and play) and a “manager” of my practice and my life.

I loved this visual by Reese Jones, it feels spot on to me. It made it so clear that I need to create blocks of time and then be certain to use them in the way I intend. It’s also critical to have those smaller chunks of time for smaller tasks. 

What’s your understanding of how you use time? Is it serving you?

I am going to recalibrate my schedule and keep an eye on whether I am using it in alignment with my intentions. A new routine seems in order for the present. When I have a new plan, I will need to assess my calendaring again—that feels right to me!

I’d be curious to hear your experiences with making the time to reflect on your business/work, how you plan for and make changes and what supports you in the process. I hope you will be in touch!

It’s about the how as much as the what, and definitely the why!

In my travels over the past few weeks, I’ve met folks who didn’t know me or my work. Answering the question of what I do, sometimes feels challenging!

Have you had that experience? What do you say? How has your response changed over time?

In the (recent) past I would briefly answer, “I teach people to think and draw so they can communicate more effectively” without getting into the details of visualization or bikablo.

My new answer is, “I help people visualize… (Wait, what does that mean?) to express, share, and capture ideas through combining drawings and words, to more effectively communicate.”

When sharing about visualization/Bikablo

It’s about the how…how to

  • hold the marker
  • draw the various types of lines
  • attend to the details
  • create layouts 
  • use color 
  • understand and use the methodology

and the what

Simple planning for the weekend.

Whether we are “talking” to ourselves (planning, strategizing, remembering, creating) or working with others (graphically recording a meeting, event or training, graphically facilitating an experience, coaching, or training) we are clear about our purpose—it is not art. We consciously do it all in service of clear communication.

When talking about Zentangle 

I share with people, “I teach a meditative art form.” (Wait, what does that mean?)

My new answer is, “I help students create beautiful designs through drawing simple, structured patterns. In the process of learning, they gain perspective about their capabilities and a new understanding of themselves.”

By learning the Zentangle method, its philosophy, and drawing techniques, I guide people in discovering their inner artists.

It’s about the how…how to 

  • use the five marks of Zentangle in a variety of combinations 
  • work within guidelines for drawing
  • integrate the philosophy so that it becomes a practice
  • become more mindful, relax and focus
  • breathe and let go when we make mistakes (as we will inevitably do… we are human)

It is an easy shift, for everyone I work with, to understand that we are the artists, the creators of our work and our lives.

As artists/people, we all face challenges— interacting with others, with materials, living within systems, learning and failing, and more. 

 

 

Why do you do what you do? What have you noticed about why you have chosen your work?

I’ve noticed patterns in my life. I have always gravitated toward transformational work—whether it is my personal growth or the needs and desires of those I want to work with or the systems that I believe need to change.

My work continues to evolve—now I seek to be more aware of the inner struggles, learning and growth of individuals… discovering and shining a light on people’s strengths, values, and capabilities, and asking people what supports them through challenges. I find that I can ask these questions no matter the content that I am sharing (or the hat I am wearing).

What is your thinking about your work… the what, the how, and the why?

If I asked you for a brief and rich description of your work and why you do it—what would you say? I’d like to know.

Reflecting on the Shape of Our Lives

Two weeks ago, I posed these questions…

🌀 What experiences have nurtured and shaped you throughout your life?

🌀 Who has inspired and supported you over the years? Who might do so in the future?

🌀 As you view and reflect on all these answers, how have these “nutrients” formed your essence? (Another metaphor may be, “What is the foundation you are standing on?“)

🌀 What more do you want to bring into your life? And, conversely, what will you let go of or re-shape to better serve who you are now and want to be in the future?

I am wondering if you made the time to answer them. I hope so! Here’s the overview of my thoughts:

As promised, I devoted time to reflecting on the people in my life—past and present—who have helped me grow intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. While my drawing identifies few folks by name, I took a walk through my memories, from childhood through to the present. The revisiting of my life experiences—from relationships to schooling, travel, work, and more has led me to appreciate the successes and challenges that have, in part, formed who I am at this moment in time.

Happily, I have an ever-widening circle of friends and colleagues who continue to inspire me. Interestingly, I am letting go of just a few of my projects (though I love them) to make more time for what I am deciding matters most to me.

I hope that you have savored your journey from the past to the present too.

Opportunities for learning and growing—oh my!

Gosh, it’s been an amazing couple of weeks! I’m stretching in new and unexpected ways!

What’s your spring been like?

  • In March, I began a course of study that requires me to use new processes and formats. Part of the work is writing/drafting, submitting, revising, submitting, revising, and sending off finished papers about all of our courses. It’s a rigorous (and lengthy) process! 
  • I’ve started working with a mentor. Deciding on the shape of that experience with a person completely new to me is both exciting and challenging. I am at the beginning of a two-year journey and there is much to consider… my background, interests and goals, her expertise, our styles of interaction, the nature of such a relationship—it’s complex!

  • Just last week, I offered a joint coaching session to the two participants who had most successfully followed the guidelines I created for assessing graphic recording work, (from my session for the Visual Jam). It was such a delight working with these women who came in with high-quality visuals and helping them to make their pieces even better. Another set of eyes, a different perspective, it’s a gift.
  • I’m developing a visual storytelling piece to present at a conference in July. While the concept is really clear in my mind, how it comes together on paper/my iPad is still a work in progress. I decided that I needed support and so reached out for an accountability buddy—to get the work and play of it done—and to offer me feedback. It’s been awesome! My colleague, who is an accomplished author, shares ideas that would never have occurred to me. Happily, I do the same for her current project.
  • One of my clients is seeking to dramatically change her approach to digital recording. Each coaching session we review recent pieces together, identifying what’s working and why, then we discuss alternatives to the options chosen re: layout, use of color, lettering hierarchy, iconography, and the harmony of text and drawings. (This is the type of work I do for myself too. At the end of almost every project, I look at what I have created and think of at least one other way to do it completely differently! It is both a blessing and a curse to have those insights.)

What projects are on your plate?

How are you gaining perspective about your work? 

Who are your mentors, guides, or coaches as you continue to learn and grow? 

How is the “feedforward” you’re receiving supporting your goals?

As you can tell, I always believe that it’s possible to do things just a bit better! Old dog, new tricks!

Reach out to me if you want to explore your next best steps.

 

Postscript: In honor of  May as Mental Health Awareness Month, I am going to post again tomorrow with my visual from two weeks ago and one of my favorite resources for taking good care of myself. 

What are your criteria for assessing your work?

As I review my notes in anticipation of hosting my follow-up coaching session with Visual Binge attendees tomorrow, I am struck by the two quotes I found this morning as I was reading.

Bashõ (Japanese poet, 17th century)

“Do not seek after the sages of the past. Seek what they sought.”

Neal Allen (Vipassana practitioner)

“I admire the capacity of any human being to come into wisdom on their own by questioning the assumptions that are around them.”

The preparatory work for our session is to bring and share any sketchnoting or graphic recording completed since the UnConference last month. My second, and perhaps more important request was that participants bring a short list of criteria for assessing their own work and the work of others.

I am all about leaving one’s inner critic ”at the door” AND I see the value in appreciating what is working in a piece and what can be made even better next time. 

What would be your criteria?

What matters to you?

What is important to your audience? (Perhaps there are varying answers based on the different audiences…)

My top 10 criteria are straightforward though not separate—they exist in combination. This task of assessing one’s (or others’) work is both art and science. I believe that the visual I have quickly created is a better representation of these criteria, as the list below seems more mechanical, like a checklist. This (assessing our work) is not that (a checklist to determine quality—from spectacular to inept, or some other continuum). To me, these elements work in concert, and perhaps not enough of something (maybe white space?) is compensated for by something else (the vitality of the colors used or movement through the piece).

What do you think?

1. Layout

    Conceptual fit with the content 

   Title—what percentage of the visual?

   Placement of title on the page

2. Use of white space

3. Use of color

   Literal, strategic, figurative/metaphorical

   Color palette chosen

 Number of colors used and for what purpose (i.e., all the colors of the rainbow are important if there is a rainbow… if not, then I would suggest, two or three colors beyond the foundational black and the color chosen for shading {which might grey, periwinkle blue, yellow, orange… the list goes on!})

4. Logic flow

Can I understand how information moves across or around the chart or “page”?

5. Lettering

Is a hierarchy use and used well/in an easily comprehensible way?

How legible is the handwriting?

6. Interplay/balance of words and drawings

Some subjects require a lot of text—precise terminology, quoting people, etc., in other instances, icons, figures, and containers can be supported more minimally with text

7. Containers

Which ones are used and how?

8. Iconography and graphic elements

Are they a fit for the subject matter?

9. Execution

Neatness,  recognizable/well-drawn icons (Is it a lightbulb or an ice cream cone?)

10. Clear communication through style used (perhaps a more personal taste criteria)

What do you notice when you look at your sketchnotes orographic recordings (yours or other people’s)?

I hope that you will consider these criteria and be in touch with me with your thoughts. I am always (okay, almost always/often…) ready to expand my thinking.