Be Smart About Art

How to reflect upon how far you've come without even trying

written by: Susan Mumford Jan. 8, 2017 Sunday blog - The art world in bite-sized stories 1517 views

How to reflect upon how far you've come without even trying

from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here

The beginning of a year represents an opportunity to start afresh. And in my own case, I’ve implemented something that I want to share with all readers: the use of a 5-year diary.  While this exact tool may not be up your street, the ideas behind it are will be helpful for you to make progress in your professional and personal life.

A bit of background is that as a teenager, I kept a weekly diary. Each page had a week, with distinctive delineation for each day. I would record who I’d seen and what we’d done, for example exploring parks, seeing movies and other such teenager activities. I happened across a number of years’ worth of such diaries a couple of Christmas breaks ago, and discovered that the writing brought back memories that wouldn’t have resurfaced otherwise.

Combine this with the importance of having a way to see how far you’ve come in your career, as outlined in the previous Sunday reading post, How do you know if you’re making progress in your career? Many a time I’ve made the point that keeping track of achievements is important, for it’s very easy to view where you are now as a starting point, without proper acknowledgement of what you’ve accomplished and overcome to arrive at this place.

So the discovery of a 5-year diary was an eye opener. Not only is it a brilliant way to record in simple terms (owing to space limitation) activities and achievements - professional and personal alike, it enables you to honour developments and remember where you were one, two, three and four years ago. And this is done without any more effort than opening the diary page to record the current day’s activities.

Here’s how it works (see image below):

The top of each page states a date. Below that are five sections, which represent five years. Looking in the below example, you see “January 8” at the top of the page. You’ll then spot in my own handwriting, “2017/Sunday”. Fast forward a year from today, and I’ll be entering the activities of Monday 8th January with “2018/Monday” in the next section on the same page. When I open the diary to jot down what’s happened, I’ll simultaneously reflect upon what I was doing a year ago to the day. Fast forward to the following year, I’ll have two years on which to reflect. Needless to say, this will capture a total of five years. Just think of where you’ll be five years from today – say the date and year aloud!

5-year diary (interior page spread)

I’m always on the look-out for solutions that work for small business owners who are often time poor to boot. Whether you invest two minutes at the end of the day, at the beginning of the next day, or spend half an hour recording a full week at a time (which I often did as a teenager, and find myself doing over twenty years later), doing a little bit at a time adds up to providing a lot of perspective in the long-term.  

What will you do to record what you’ve done and accomplished that you can later reflect upon? Like the 5-year diary in my case, choose something that works for your style and is realistic to manage during the quiet and busy times alike. 


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Keen to share your own thoughts on this post? Share your own insight below - and provide a link to your own website / blog if you fancy.

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Posted by : Janet Wynne-Edwards 09/01/2017 00:05

Super idea, Susan. Like Poppy, I use notebooks and I keep track of comments made by my riding teacher during dressage lessons. I write the notes right away, otherwise I don't remember and I often go over them at the end of a month; it's amazing what one has forgotten!
My writing is so "sprawly" that I'm not sure a five-year diary would work. However, keeping some sort of diary or notebook is helpful. I really like the Moleskin diaries and you can get ones that are not lined if you happen to like drawing diagrams or quick sketches!

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What a fantastic idea. I love the idea of a page for each day over five years.The accounts give me one view of business change, but this will allow me to record the more anecdotal and light-bulb moments. Thanks again for a great share.

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Great idea, and I know this works because I use a practice log/diary to track my progression in learning bass guitar. I plan what to learn, write what I've done and comments as I go. I also give my self gold stars on the days I practice ;) I can review what I've been doing over the past years really easily. Why I haven't clicked this would be a good thing to transfer to my artistic practice is anyone's guess! I don't know how I'd function without my bass practice log - perhaps I'm not functioning as well as I can in my artistic practice without one?!