Channelling those New Year Feels

I’m generally not one for New Year’s resolutions.

I am, however, very much into finding ways to improve my work and lifestyle throughout the year. I enjoy reading about ways to increase productivity, and I tend to spend (too much) time browsing through Pinterest looking at things that’d make my home, wardrobe, or food more exciting.

A normal day on the Ella Hawkins Pinterest homepage…

This self-improvement energy definitely reached a peak at the turn of the new year. After spending the festive period luxuriating in all my favourite things (food, Bailey’s, chilling, and bed), I was ready to freshen things up and make some changes.

Getting organised

I love feeling organised. Planning out my life genuinely brings me happiness, and making things colour-coordinated and/or alphabetised always feels like a good use of my time.

Naturally, my Filofax is one of my favourite things. It comes with me everywhere I go, and I use it to plan my week, to make lists, and to jot down any ideas that pop into my head.

The time between New Year’s Day and the beginning of term was a great time to take a fresh look at my Filofax setup. I’ve been interested in ideas I’ve come across relating to bullet journalling, but I’m too tied to my Filofax to fully commit to a new way of planning and documenting my life. Instead, I decided to make a sort of hybrid planner…



For me, it’s the best of both worlds! I can carry on using washi tape and a week-to-view format, but also introduce the symbols and list-making approaches of bullet journalling. Happy days!

Thanks to Father Christmas, I’m also now the proud owner of the most epic stationery I think I’ve ever seen. I’d mentioned to my partner that I’d love a stapler and hole punch that would deal with more than 6 sheets of paper at a time. I was not disappointed.

NB – I also got a label maker for Christmas.

Working on paper is about to get a whole lot more straight-forward. All in all, I’d say I’m pretty ready for a new term of PhD fun!

Getting my DIY on

I’ve now been a homeowner for approximately five months. When we got the keys to our new house, we spent two weeks frantically cleaning and redecorating before we actually moved in. There wasn’t time for massive progress on the decorating front (the house hasn’t been decorated in… some decades), but it was enough to make the place feel like it was our own.

All these patterns can be found within a single room in our house. A nice patchwork quilt; a less-nice living room aesthetic.

Autumn turned out to be quite busy. We managed to put the odd mirror and picture frame up, but, other than that, the DIY drawer was mostly left alone.

A combination of free time and New Year energy helped me get stuck into redecorating again. Rather than sitting on the sofa listing the things I hate about the appearance of the downstairs rooms (particularly the above combination of patterns within our living room), I launched an attack on the unpleasant shade of yellow that was plastered around the kitchen. The cupboards and drawers are now a much nicer pastel blue. Hallelujah!


(The clashing flooring will be replaced over the next few months. In theory.)

There’s a lot (a LOT) that still needs to be done to the house – including having the floor of the entire place dug out and replaced – but I’m really pleased to have made one room a nicer place to spend time in.

Getting productive

If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you’ll know that I’m always working on finding ways to get as much stuff (mainly work) done as possible. I’ve been a big advocate of the Pomodoro Technique, and I spent my MA year trying to figure out my favourite ways to research and write. (See this post for more on these things.)

I’ve been trying out a new approach to being productive over the last month or so. Working in 25-minute blocks throughout the day was a great way of forcing me to make progress on essays during my MA year, but I’ve always found that I write best when I knuckle down for a longer chunk of time.

All credit for this to Tanya Golash-Boza at Get a Life, PhD.

I read about writing every day on the Get a Life, PhD blog and decided to give it a go. As it says on the tin, this method involves devoting one or two hours to writing every single day (excluding weekends). I get up in the morning, make myself a cup of tea, and turn on my magical social-media-blocking app (SelfControl) for an hour while I get some words down. I keep a whiteboard next to my desk, where I list the various documents and deadlines I have on the go, and I always have a good soundtrack playing in the background. After eating some breakfast, I aim to carry on for a second hour. (I find switching to a different document/topic useful for recharging my writing batteries at this point.)


I’m loving how much I’m getting done using this approach. Today I used my first hour to work on an important piece of PhD work for an upcoming deadline, and the second hour to write this blog post. By 12pm, I have around 800 words of brand new Ella content. Boom! I can then spend the rest of the day doing fun things guilt-free, or cracking on with reading, emails, and other work tasks. (Or, as has been the case over the past few days, painting my kitchen blue.)

My New Year hasn’t involved making myself any big commitments, but I have channelled all my happy feelings into making changes that’ll improve future-Ella’s day-to-day life.

Here’s to a fabulous 2017!