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Don’t sweat the small stuff! – making the tasks we avoid easier to do

We don’t think we’ve ever come across anyone who genuinely loved every aspect of their job. We all have some tasks to do as part of our responsibility that we would prefer to drop if we could. It may be all the emails, or some of those meetings or certain phone calls, but there’s going to be something that makes your heart sink when you think about it.
The effect of these tasks spreads beyond the task itself. When you know you have to do it, it can negatively colour your whole day:

• It brings out the most developed avoidance procedures we have
• We generally don’t do the task itself as well as we might
• It uses up a lot of our energy that could be better expended on things we get satisfaction from

This is too high a price to pay, so it’s worth re-examining our attitude towards these tasks.

What can you do about it?

1. Divide the task into smaller chunks
These tasks can easily become ‘elephants’ in our minds, so break it down into smaller parts: plan to make 1 phone call, not 5; clear 5 extra emails, not 10; avoid back-to-back meetings (at the very least make sure you’ve got 10m minutes between each one); give yourself a little space to breathe – diary in some reflection time; plan a little time each morning to plan your priorities and a little time to get back your perspective at least once a week.

2. Experiment with when in the day you do the tasks you don’t enjoy
We are all better at doing the less attractive tasks at certain points in the day. For example, you may find that first thing in the morning you can tackle something you don’t like, and then feel virtuous for the rest of the day. Or it might be that the end of the day, you’re only fit for something tedious!

3. Do something different
Look for ways to make it more enjoyable or at least interesting. What motivates you? It may be listening to some music, if appropriate, while doing it, or having a little competition with yourself – how many can you do in the next half hour? Or it may be giving yourself the added task of finding something to take away from that meeting, or something delightful about that person you don’t normally connect very well with.

4. It’s OK to avoid things sometimes
There’s nothing wrong with avoiding things if a) it’s not something that makes your priority list that day b) that actually it’s something that you don’t have to do or you’re not the best person to do it i.e.: it’s not really something that you need to do at your level. Ironically sometimes something you don’t like is something that other colleagues are happy to do – so can you delegate it to someone? Or swap it for one of their tasks that you wouldn’t mind doing?

It’s daft to continue to let a part of your job, and often a small part, bring down your mood for other things you have to do. When we let the small things disproportionately affect us, it can ruin our motivation for the entire day. Experiment with ways of making it work for you, and save your energy, creativity and drive for making a positive difference to the things that really matter.

We hope this blog has been useful to you, we think it’s about time that we began to really use the precious time that we have at work to do what needs to be done in a more effective way, working at a sustainable pace that ensures quality and creativity – we’re sharing this because we believe you can and DO make a difference to the organisations you work with, and if we can make your work day that bit easier, well, that’s what we’re in business for!

Have a great month,
In peace,

Di and Jo xxx

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Have you noticed how much of our lives tend to slip away in routine? Some of it consists of habits and customs we develop to allow us to live on automatic pilot.  Other parts are accepted norms of behaviour that we don’t question. Examples include what we eat and when we eat it, where we sit, in our home and in meetings, what we say to people as a greeting – the list goes on!

There is a usefulness to routine – it allows us to think about something else, or not think at all!  But it can also close down our creativity, our curiosity and even our consciousness of being truly alive.

We all tend to enjoy a break from routine, such as a holiday, and re-find our sense of fun, our vitality.  My question is, why wait?  Every day we have an opportunity to do something different, to take a break from routine, and re-vitalise ourselves.  Sometimes it may be on a grand scale: a friend of mine recently decided to take two of those days in lieu that often accumulate at short notice, and just got in the car and went somewhere she had never been to before, with nothing booked or planned. It was a lovely adventure that gave her back her energy. Or it may be on a small scale: yesterday I cooked a recipe I have never tried before, and it was delicious!

And what about at work? How many routine reactions do you have? What do you ignore that makes you uncomfortable? What do you accept that you really find unacceptable?

Just imagine how much better workplaces would be if only we challenged more, asked for proper explanations, as our routine, instead of simply thinking that it had to be that way. If we didn’t simply accept the status quo, we would feel better and the world would be a better place.

When we do something different, we wake ourselves up again, remind ourselves that life is an exploration, and we are here to learn, to be creative, to make things better, and to have fun.  We revitalise ourselves and tap back into our inner child, who thought life was meant to be good, and always getting better. Don’t let life slip by – do something different today!!

  1. Suggest a better way of doing something at work today
  2. Make one change in your routine today and notice what effect it has on you.
  3. Do something different in one of your ‘routine’ interactions – smile at someone you usually frown at, talk to someone you usually ignore, give a different response next time someone says, “how are you?” – and notice the effect on you and the other person.
  4. Plan to do something really different – go somewhere you’ve never been, experience something you’ve never tried.


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There are many theories about how our brains work and how we learn!

Have you ever heard anyone say – “I’m a ‘left brain’ learner because I tend to learn best by using words, logic, numbers and systems”.  Others might say “I’m a ‘right brain’ learner because I use colour, imagination, rhythm and view things holistically when I learn”.

Without wanting to get bogged down in theoretical detail (and I know this is very much simplified), considering the brain in this way, divides it into two exclusive boxes with connectivity in the middle.

However, the other day I came across the most wonderful description of the human brain, which I wanted to share with you:

“The human brain is an enchanted loom, where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern, though never an abiding one, a shifting harmony of sub patterns.  It is as if the Milky Way entered upon some cosmic dance”.

Sir Charles Sherrington

I began to imagine my brain as a huge room, filled with millions of brightly coloured looms some silently weaving the most wonderful patterns and textures into carpets and rugs and jumpers, some making music as they created……….

Can you imagine looking through a telescope and seeing all of the billions of stars in the Milky Way dancing with each other?

For me, considering how our minds might work in this way, made me realise the infinite possibilities and amazing creative potential that we have.


Consider your brain/mind as an enchanted loom.

What would your loom look like?
How would your enchanted loom work for you when you learn?

For example, could you ask your loom a question and see what it produces?

Play with the enchanted loom.  See what it produces for you.


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This month’s workshop was inspired by the balmy weather this April. Nature has gone wild this month – trees are in blossom, fresh green leaves are emerging from the hedgerows, flowers cover banks and woodland floors, bluebells, anemones, and fritillaries. Spring lambs bounce around in fields, and the air is thick with the songs of courting birds. This truly has been a wonderful month – it feels as if the whole world has come alive!

It is drummed into us that spring is a time for regeneration, to welcome the new year and the new life it will give us. We spring clean our houses, and watch the world around us spring into life. But why don’t we revitalise our creativity too?

There is so much around us to inspire us. Literally the whole natural world is screaming out, “Look at me! Look at me!” there is the miracle of creation happening all around us – right now! All we have to do is to stop our madcap lives and notice.

I went to Dudmaston, a National Trust House near Bridgnorth, and was amazed at the colour and sounds of its stunning grounds. A great crested grebe on the lake crying out for a partner, birds in the woods trying to impress with their vocal dexterity, an ornithological chorus of Wagnerian proportions! Grass on banks appeared to grow beneath your feet, trees sprouting with green tips and evergreen leaves, borders awash with colour, flowers of every hue vying for your attention. The sun played hide and seek behind the clouds, and all this for me, all out there just a short distance away.

The truth is that inspiration is waiting for us everywhere we look at this time of year, so get out there and be inspired!

Allow yourself to ‘Spring into Creativity’ and follow these hot tips to ensure your creativity gets some regeneration and feeding this month:

1. Get out into the natural world –  Go visit the countryside, have at least one trip out this month, have a picnic, visit your local woods (the bluebells will be out!), spend some time in your garden. Wherever you go take a notepad with you and record the impact Spring has upon you and your surroundings.

2. Visit a place of beauty- Dudmaston inspired me, and there are many National Trust places with beautiful grounds, go visit one!

3. Try something new – With the new life we see in Spring, why not try something you’ve never tried before in your artistic endeavours?

4. Get rid of something old – Spring clean your art! If it doesn’t work for you no more, chuck it out and move on!

5. Choose one thing to take forward this year – Decide on one aspect of creativity that you would like to concentrate on/develop in this coming year. Find out what you can about it, and allow yourself the joy of exploring it!

6. Stop and notice for one hour a week – Stop the ride of your everyday life and notice what is around you, at least for one hour a week. Find somewhere quiet and peaceful, and allow yourself to be inspired!


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When I was at University, doing my Contemporary Arts BA Degree, we were exposed to many different ways of expressing yourself. We were shown many different ways to access our creativity. One such tool we were given was freeform writing. Freeform writing has many names; Creative Writing, Free Writing, Spontaneous Writing, Speed Writing. Its name has many variations, but it is essentially the same – writing without thinking about it.

The idea is that you just put pen to paper and begin to write, not editing any of what you put down, just allowing to flow and ebb as your thoughts flow and ebb. It is a great way to get stuff out of your head and a great way to brainstorm ideas, by allowing them free expression. To further the brainstorming idea, why not select a topic and Freeform write on that topic?

When you have a creative block, sometimes this can be a useful tool to help vent some of the frustration and work past the block, by accessing not only your conscious but unconscious creativity too. Freeform writing every morning as soon as you wake up can be a good way to access the creative visions of your dreams..

Not only is freeform writing useful for creativity, but I find it incredibly useful for emptying the mind of unwanted thoughts. In fact this is where I use this process most! When you are having difficulty sleeping or you have many negative thoughts in your head that are getting you down, just let rip on a piece of paper, just get all the nasty stuff out! Once you feel that you have emptied your brain of all the ‘stuff’ then throw the paper away, and hopefully you’ll feel a little better and sleep more peacefully!


Try your hand at freeform writing

  1. Always have a little notepad with you – to capture starting points for freeform writing
  2. Using these starting topics spend two full minutes writing everything you can about the topic – don’t edit anything, if your hand stops writing, stop and try another topic
  3. Keep a notepad by your bed – to capture the weird and wild creativity of your dreams, just 3 minutes as you wake up each day
  4. Spend 10 minutes a week just writing anything down that comes into your head – don’t edit it! Just allow it to flow, it may well look like nonsense but in it could be some gems of creative wisdom!
  5. When you are experiencing a creative block – use freeform writing to write out all the angst and maybe tap into some unconscious creativity!
  6. When you are emotionally low, or your head is just full of ‘stuff’, maybe you have difficulty sleeping – use freeform writing to clear your head, write it all down, then throw it away, don’t re-read it or it will start you off thinking again!


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This is a story from my childhood, and since my mum tells it best I’ll allow her to tell you it:

“Jo came home from school one day rather upset because he had got a bad mark for his drawing. I asked him what he had been drawing, and he pulled out his picture to show me. It was a banana. He looked at it and at me and said tearfully, “My teacher said that I should have coloured it yellow – but that’s not really true is it mum?” Jo had coloured his banana green, yellow, orange, brown and black. I agreed with him that bananas could be all these colours and tried to explain to him that adults forget to look properly. I eventually worked out how to make it right: We gave him A+ for his picture and his teacher, D- for her mark! “

This month’s workshop is about children’s creativity, and how we, as grown-ups can play with it!

I had no doubt that that banana was all those colours, and I drew what I saw – green, black, brown, orange and yellow – but narrow-minded, non-imaginative teachers teach us that bananas are yellow, oranges, orange apples, green etc. We are taught not to believe what our imaginations tell us we see – we are taught an adult view of the world. Incidentally, adult literally means to spoil, and has the same root as adulterate and adultery, hence our preferred word here at Meta – grown-ups.

As a child, our imagination is absolutely as real as the ‘real world’ we see with our eyes. I remember being at a house where my then girlfriend was an au-pair to two young kids. They were playing – with absolutely no toys or props, simply their imaginations.

‘What are you doing?’ I asked naively,

‘What does it look like?’ answered the boy somewhat incredulously. ‘I’m selling plums from my market stall!!’

Kids’ imaginations fill their drawings and creations. I don’t know about you, but my imagination has been somewhat dulled by an education that severely lacked any! And  by the ‘real world’ of being an adult and all the responsibilities that entails. Wouldn’t it be nice to dream and create like children again – allow ourselves the time to play and daydream!

This month’s workshop challenges you to play like children, no real fancy props needed, just your imagination and whatever you find around you. After all, kids can create with virtually anything – Blue Peter is a testament to that!

Homework – (or PLAY..or FUN..)

Here are a few suggestions for helping you to regress to childhood and enjoy some child-like play and creation..

It is important to remember that when a child creates, everything it does is perfect, there’s no such thing as a bad drawing or a ‘I can’t do this’..

  1. Paper and pens and squiggly lines (You know what I mean – and if anyone asks, just tell them it’s a banana or something equally obscure..)
  2. Crayons – go play with crayons: houses with smoke coming out the chimney, I can see it now.
  3. Tissue paper – remember those Easter cards you made at school?
  4. Glitter and glue and pasta shapes
  5. Making cards for people – let your imagination run wild
  6. Drawing people – draw your friends’ portraits, capture their essence, like a child would – accuracy not required
  7. Finger painting – go on, get dirty!
  8. Face painting – what a perfect party ice-breaker!
  9. Paper mache – balloons out, wallpaper paste at the ready!
  10. Spray painting – straws and lots of watery paints and of course, some puff!


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We forget just how important our own creativity is to us. We walk around with this ‘art shaped hole’ and try to fill it with other things. The fact is we need art and creativity in our lives, it is a natural way of expressing the way we feel and helps us to shape our own identity, and define our own space in the world.

We are very good at making excuses for why we have not done our art – ‘I haven’t got the time, I haven’t got the right materials/tools, If only I had X I’d be doing it, I’m too happy right now to do my art- I need to be depressed, I don’t feel inspired, I was never that good at it anyway, that was something I did when I was younger, but I don’t have space for it in my life anymore, and the classic – I don’t have anywhere to do it.

Sound familiar?

I know, because I am guilty of avoiding my own creativity too. I play guitar. I have a very good guitar and a very good set-up, and I’m not too shabby at playing it either, but for 7 years now I’ve been making the excuse that I didn’t have a space to play it. Now I’ve moved into a much bigger place – I still haven’t played it! But I have at least set it up in its own space.

And that is what I want to talk to you about this month. Space.

That is, having a space where you go to create. I’m fortunate that I have the luxury in my new house of being able to have a room set aside for inspiration – my spirit and creation room. But it doesn’t have to be that grand. It can be a corner of a room, a fold down table, an outside garage, or the kitchen floor on a Sunday afternoon. The important thing is that you and your household know that that is your space for creating on a set day or time.

Once you know you have that space it is easier to create, and indeed for many artists, their studios have been a means to escape the outside world and be inspired.

So try and find your own space for creation. Start your own ‘Creating space’ – and above all, love what you do in it and make it as enjoyable and fun as possible!


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This month’s workshop is all about Creative Cooking. ‘Creative what?’ I hear you cry, well, just hear me out. I love cooking, especially when it’s for other people. I’ve always been creative with my cooking, I enjoy being different and I believe that my artistic drive often is reflected in the food I present to my friends. If we are to look at the finished dish on the plate as a finished piece of artwork, you can quickly begin to see the similarities. There is of course a need for a contrast and mixing of colours, textures and the ‘composition’ and placing of the food is paramount as so much of our ‘enjoyment’ of the food we eat is in its presentation.

The way I keep my cooking creative is to always try to mix colours, tastes and textures in new ways. I find that new cookery books infuse new life into my cooking but so does an almost empty fridge! I find I am at my most creative with dishes that are composed of whatever is left in the cupboards!

So, a few things for you to try this month…

1. Go buy a new easy to use cook book – infuse new life into your normal eating regime with the help of a well known chef!

2. Colour – Get funky and experiment with colour in your dishes, stir fry’s are great dishes for going wild with colours! – try yellow and orange peppers, yellow oyster mushrooms, white beansprouts, brown chestnut mushrooms..

3. Presentation – When you put the food on the plate, think of it as piece of art and make it look ‘too good to eat!’

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This workshop is meant to be light-hearted and fun because there seems to be this misconception that to be an ‘Artist’ one must be in angst and constant turmoil. However, wouldn’t it be great to have the same inspiration without all the hard work and emotional strife!

Well the key lies in children… When you were 3 or 4 you had the wonderful ability of singing like no one’s listening. Remember bathtime? Or watching that Disney film? There was no-one telling you to shut-up, or criticising your atonal rendition of ‘the bare necessities’ you just sang absolutely from the heart and loved every minute of it! The words and melody were of absolutely no consequence; the most important thing was to sing as loudly and as proudly as possible. Take the wonderful Bohemian Rhapsody scene from Wayne’s World – Wayne, Garth and the Wayne’s world team are in the car when on comes Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen and as one they mime, rock-out and sing a long to it- this is the essence of what singing like no-one’s listening is all about!

It’s funny isn’t it, we make stars out of singers and songwriters and yet we are often discouraged from singing ourselves. The jolly scene of someone singing to themselves in the bath or shower has been the butt of so many jokes, jibes and digs that many people feel ashamed to even do it anymore..Well we at Meta say ‘bring back bathtime karaoke!’ and let’s re-learn how to: sing like no-one’s listening!

So what can we do to re-learn this vital tool of fun and creation – where can we practice our ‘sing like no one’s listening’ skills?

Well are some ideas we came up with…

  1. Sing like no-one’s listening when in your car
  2. Sing like no-one’s listening when your on a walk
  3. Sing like no-one’s listening in the bath
  4. Sing like no-ones listening in the shower
  5. Sing like no-one’s listening home alone
  6. Sing like no-one’s listening with your kids
  7. Sing like no-one’s listening when you need a pick-me-up
  8. Sing like no-one’s listening with your bestest mate!
  9. Sing like no-one’s listening at the concert of you favourite band
  10. Sing like no one’s listening to your favourite Disney films


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This month’s workshop is inspired by nature. As I write this update, the sun is streaming down and there’s a Magritte blue sky with whispery light clouds. The birds are singing, and you can almost hear the grass growing..

Nature has been the inspiration for artists and creatives throughout human existence. From the crude drawings of pre-historic man, through to the landscapes of Constable and Turner. Yet how we harness nature for our own creativity is not as predictable as it may sound.

Nature is all around us. I want us to look at nature, not as ‘watercolour challenge’ or a Constable ‘village scene’ but something vibrant and dynamic that can inspire!

Begin to look at nature with fresh eyes. Begin to see nature as a tool for creation. I have a few exercises which may help…

  1. Find a place in nature – this can be remote, a park, a garden, even an urban environment
  2. Take time to notice what is around you – what do you see? Make a note of everything in your place in nature.
  3. Take a slow walk, again noticing the bounty of nature around you. If you want to stop, pick something up, study it, do.
  4. Take time to study in depth a piece of nature, – a leaf, a hill, a berry, a cone, a feather – maybe sketch it, maybe take it home with you.
  5. The wonder of nature is in its perfection on a miniature scale– a bumblebee’s tiny wings, the veins on a leaf, the spiral on a snail’s shell.
  6. The cyclical nature of nature is everywhere. See new birth, life, death, growth, and reproduction. Does this have parallels in our own lives?
  7. What are we doing to this environment we live in? What is our relationship to it?
  8. How does it make you feel? What are its smells, tastes, sounds? Make a note of them.
  9. Nature is awash with colour, vibrant and full of life, let nature’s colours inspire you, be the starting point of a new piece of creation.
  10. What shapes can you find in nature? Take the outlines/shapes use them in your own work.

Nature is vast. It is a vast topic to cover in such a small workshop. But if the British summer does hold out, do take the time to go somewhere new and record in whatever way suits your own creativity, the way it makes you feel.


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