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  • Simon Birdsey

What to do when you run out of ideas

Tips to help reinvigorate you


I know that 50 boxes can seem pretty daunting and I will produce a smaller board before too long. Hopefully this blog will give you some inspiration for filling them in the meantime.



When I start a new Jossed board I have several regular boxes that I fill in to get me started. The first is a relaxation box that I call 'Reward Week'. This is when I give myself my prizes from the previous board, have a haircut and a massage and generally pamper myself. If you're trying to go from board to board without giving yourself time to reflect and recharge, it is going to feel like hard work. Take some time out. You've earned it.


Sometimes during Reward Week I'll find a magazine to read that I haven't tried before. The Economist are offering a free trial copy at the moment and I've found an app called Magzter, which links to my local library and allows me to read certain publications online for nothing.


I try to listen to 50 albums over the course of my Jossed board to keep me in the habit of listening to music. I'll give it a theme too such as Scottish bands, the Mercury Music Prize, acts that are playing Glastonbury or new releases, as I find that it helps me to discover music that I might otherwise not know about. It also helps me to connect with what's happening in the world. By doing this I found out about the connection between Teenage Fanclub and Nirvana and it gave me an interest in learning more about both bands.


Each month Action for Happiness come up with a calendar full of self-care tips and this helps me to fill an empty box.


Once I've done that I'll look at ways that I can progress from previous boards. For example, I did the Couch to 5k, treated myself to new running shoes as a reward and then did the Beyond C25K programme on my next board. Without the Cricket World Cup I wouldn't have thought to follow the Ashes. And, another time, I watched the Mad Men boxset and then thought it would be good progress to see what Elizabeth Moss was in next, so I moved on to The Handmaid's Tale.


Why not expand on something that you've done previously? I had a goal on a previous board to get into the habit of swimming a mile a month and now I'm trying to swim the distance of the English Channel in 6 weeks. And, if anxiety wasn't a problem, I would love to get to know my local area better by trying out some other Parkruns nearby.


You could diversify. Normally I only do the spin and yoga classes at the gym but I've given pilates and boxing a go recently and enjoyed them both. And I've made a point of going to watch a local theatre production of Spamalot rather than National Theatre Live at the Odeon, which I normally go to.


If you've tried something on your board and you've found that it wasn't really what you were hoping for, you needn't write the whole experience off. Maybe you just need to pivot. I've tried stand up paddle boarding and found the standing up to be the hard part but I could give paddle board yoga a go instead, as a lot of that is lying down or on your knees and will help to improve my balance on the board. Then I could try the standing up version again once I've developed my confidence.


I started doing the FA's Psychology course online and I was hoping that I could progress through them on my boards but it seems to stop at Level 1, so I'm going to pivot to their Talent Identification programme instead, where I could go right through to Level 5.



Sporting Events are always a great way of filling a box. I'm hoping to progress as a football coach and we're encouraged to watch other sports to see if there is anything that we can learn that might be transferable. I often find that I get more absorbed in new sports, such as cycling or the Commonwealth games, because there is so much to pick up on and it's unpredictable and exciting. I'm looking forward to watching the Rugby Union World Cup that's just starting and I can see myself getting into Ice Hockey in the future.


I love a good theme. The board that I'm doing at the moment has a bit of an environmental thread running through it. I've recycled tea towels by donating them to a local community garden, been to a climate change film festival, repotted my hanging baskets, made meals using home grown produce, got back into doing the parkrun and cycled home via the river rather than along the main road.


It's quite easy to think up half a dozen challenges if you link them with a theme. I like to use them to connect with world events. I could have used my environmental theme to attend a Climate Strike, if there was one near me. I normally stick to cultural or historical events though, such as the Emmy's, the Mercury Music Prize, the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing and two hundred years since the Peterloo Massacre.


I use Jossed to help me establish new habits. For years I have got up whenever I have felt like it and I've woke feeling really groggy but this time I've tried to discipline myself to get up at the same time every day and my head definitely feels clearer for it. I'm also trying to make sure that I do half an hour of exercise per day, limit my Subway intake to twice per week, do regular hip stretches and tend to my garden for an hour per week instead of leaving it until my dog can get lost in there.


Years ago, when I was trying to give up smoking, a Doctor told me that the keys points for embedding new behaviours are 3 days, 3 weeks and 3 months. I've certainly found that if I do something every day for the duration of my board, and I've seen the benefits, it's likely to become an automatic part of my routine once the board has ended.



The board also helps me to do things that I've been putting off because it makes me commit to a deadline. I finally had a filling because it was on my board and I was really anxious about taking Max, my dog, for an operation but I knew that I'd feel so much better once I was able to tick that box off. It needn't just be scary things though. I've downgraded a subscription that I knew I wasn't getting very good value from and on my next board I'm going to investigate a lost bank account that I keep receiving letters for.


Use Jossed to try something new. I make the effort to buy a cake that fits with the Great British Bake Off theme and last week I went out of my way to try a bakery that I don't think I've ever been to before. Now I'm wondering where I can get a 1920's-themed one for this week's Bake Off!!


Why not break larger goals down into bitesize chunks? I'm quite sporty but I've still got a bit of a belly. I'd love to get to my physical peak before I get too old but I don't have the energy or the willpower to do it at the moment, so I'm trying to get myself into the habit of doing little bits that take me in the right direction. I'm working out three times per week, I've increased the protein in my diet and I've got back into light running. On my next board I'll probably step it up by taking HIIT classes.


It's fine to be spontaneous. You might see something that you think would be a good opportunity to tick a box. Do it and tick the box later. Jossed is still working for you because it's helping to take you off autopilot and giving you the push to engage with the World. I know some people who like to fill in every box on their board before they get started but I think it's important to allow yourself to have blank boxes to react to life as it happens.


To me a blank page is exciting because I know that there are numerous ways that I can spin off things that I've previously done and every time I attempt something new I'm pushing further and further away from my comfort zone. As I'm getting towards the end of one board I write notes in the border of things I could attempt next time. Sometimes I have things in mind for this board but the timing isn't right, so I defer them. Maybe friends and family are doing something interesting that you could tag along with?


When you think about it, the possibilities are endless, and really it's just a question of deciding what is achievable now given your current constraints.



"I know some people who like to fill in every box on their board before they get started but I think it's important to allow yourself to have blank boxes to react to life as it happens."

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