Less like a Magpie: a design for 2017


Allow me to start by addressing the elephant in the room. Me being sat at my desk writing a post about the virtues of new year resolutions and proposing my own honest action plans for the start of 2017, on the 11th January. The irony is not lost on me, and perhaps this very post and its contents come into being due to the date (us rapidly approaching mid January) and me still bearing the virtues of the festive season, and being abundantly conscious of the fact.

So here this post arrives, unashamedly on the 11th January (although perhaps i could have backdated it…) proposing my agenda and programme for the year ahead.

However heartfelt and genuine the many generic new years resolutions of ‘loose weight’ and ‘more exercise’ may be, I intend to stay clear of these cliches and instead propose an alternative resolution, (like the alternative Queens Speech on Christmas day). A design, or a to-do list born out of a number of reflections and observations, that when practised, I believe will ensure a productive and content 2017, both creatively and personally. After all, both ‘art’ and ‘artist’ are indistinguishable from another

Important in any kind of plan is a combination of tangible targets and short and long term goals. A collection of  goals to achieve on a daily basis provides a means of assessing and rewarding success, whilst longer term targets provide a clear vision from which to work and are habit forming. As such the following list, (or my personalised exercise plan, to draw on the cliche) will incorporate both short and longer term targets and tangible goals of which to achieve every day.


2017 to-do list

Buzz word: Discipline

  • Daily blog posts / articles:

    Write daily. Writing is a muscle, and like any other it needs exercise. Write more blog posts / articles, write up research notes, write up research arguments, write up theories, write critical literature reviews, write…

  •  Daily Research Observations:

    Similar to the previous point. I started a series of ‘research observation’ posts. Contribute something to this every day. At the end of every day reflect on the observations I have made during that day. However mundane and obvious they may first appear they are still relevant and potentially a source of great value.

  • Deadlines:

    Generate a series of deadlines and targets. Some may be imposed upon me, others should be self imposed. These could range from having a particular mini project  concluded before I head off on a work contract, have an abstract written and the skeleton of a research paper completed by a certain date, or have a suite of works exploring a particular theme finished by a certain date.

    Realistic deadlines are important as they keep us focused, motivated and disciplined.

  • Read everyday:

    Read more. Read everyday. It could be something new, something directly associated with current particular research interests, or another area of interest, read more philosophy.

  • Daily small pleasures: Mindfulness

    Our lives are so full and busy that we sometimes fail to take note of the small things that can bring joy and pleasure. Be more mindful and observant of those happy events that naturally occur all around us.

  • Social Media: less Facebook, more Twitter

    Social media has become such a distraction with its incessant narration of one another’s lives. I often find I get distracted by the relentless chime of notifications from Facebook of things my friends have done and places they have visited. As a result, I use my Facebook and Twitter accounts very differently to each other. Where as my Facebook is geared up to connecting with friends, I use my twitter as a professional account, connecting with like minded individuals and organisations. As a result twitter provides me with a valuable stream of interesting and informative links and opportunities. More Twitter!

  • Listen to more music:

    Acting as the soundtrack as I write this post, the discovery of Brian Eno’s new ambient album ‘Reflection’ has been a revelation to me, and my productivity. Discovering and listening to more music is a priority!

  • Draw everyday:

    There is something very raw and immediate about drawing. Drawing allows an idea to be distilled down to its purest form.

  • Paint more:

    Painting offers a way of working through an idea. Especially when working through a monochromatic palette without the distraction of colour. Even mindless painting without a clear agenda or goal insight will often generate something poignant or worthy of further exploration.

    Health and Exercise

    Okay, so I realise this is in danger of submitting to one the cliches I earlier lambasted, however I use the term ‘health and exercise’ in its widest sense. Absolutely, this includes a healthy body, more exercise and less of things that are bad for us, but more importantly I mean a healthier mind. I realise a bottle of vodka a day seemed to work for Mark Rothko for a time, producing the ‘Seagram murals’ arguably his best work, but I doubt even Rothko would suggest it as a general rule of thumb for producing your magnum opus. Art and artists are indistinguishable from one another, therefore a healthy body and mind are important for creative productivity and efficiency.


  • More exercise:

    A healthy mind. Focused and disciplined, clearer with less distractions, freer to focus on what is important and not to get distracted so easily by other ideas and interests.

  • Act less like a Magpie: Write more lists

    This point arises from the previous heading. Creatives I think are much like Magpies, we see something visually interesting or read something intellectually stimulating and immediately see the possibilities within it. This is a gift but also a curse. On a daily basis I find myself reading something and getting distracted by other ideas. However valuable and justified these may be in their own right, they can be distracting from my current stream of thought, projects and goals. Writing them down in lists and notebooks to put aside to revisit later, either post PhD or when they become directly relevant will ensure a clearer more efficient mind.

    and finally…

  • More meditation:

    This point is central to health and exercise, but my wider design in general. A calmer more peaceful mind will create the environment for a productive content 2017.

    I hope some of the content of my design for 2017 will prove useful and maybe even valuable to others out there. I guess the amount of material I publish on here over the coming weeks will go a long way to determining how disciplined I have been in following it. Perhaps 2018’s design will consist of the resolutions; ‘loose more weight’ and ‘do more exercise’…




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