Declaration of 2015

There are lots of things I love about this time of the year. Lots of things I really look forward to.

One thing that has hopped up on my nerves early this year though is the end of year countdown. We’re counting down 2014’s best music on MTV and celebrity stories on E! and My Year on Instagram et al. All this before Christmas has even happened let alone the final week of the year.  

We’re not there yet people: calm.down*.

To distract me from these final countdowns, I'm going to jump right over Christmas, skip looking back on the past twelve months, and just get down to the business of 2015.

Rebranding resolutions

When I was living in Australia with Fox and Willo, we often wrote down our New Year resolutions. I mostly rolled my resolutions over from one year to the next, never achieving any of them. Fox would do better than me by getting quite a few of hers done, but it was always Willo who would nail his every year; usually by March.

Because of my dismal effort and the fact I'm a slow learner, I’ve decided to rebrand my resolutions into declarations. Instead of being specific with a task like “save more” or “get fit” I’m going to theme the entire year with a couple of ideas with the intention that they will soak into my life and produce some kind of output.


I am declaring that 2015 for me will be the year of :


What on earth will that even mean, Michelle?

It means I want to:

  • be the subject of my life more often;
  • be more organised about nutrition during my workday;
  • have a better relationship with sleep.

Here would be a great opportunity to share a photo of me, making my lunch, in the morning - but I’m not going to do that - have to go watch MTV’s Wonderful Christmas Time! Top 40 countdown and wait for the first day of January 2015 to make it the best year yet.


*stop watching so much television, Michelle.

Listening with your pen

I draw most days.

That’s not to say that I have draw*ings* to show you most days; I do, however, have lines and cross hatchings, swirls and numbers doodled onto system cards and post-it notes. When I'm not doodling on scraps of paper, I take visual notes in my work notebook in meetings, during presentations, or while clearing my voice messages.

I’ve been doing some form of this visual notetaking since my mid-teens but up until South By South West (SXSW) in 2010, it wasn’t something I’d thought much about. At SXSW I attended the hugely popular Visual Notetaking Panel hosted by Mike Rhode, Austin Kleon, Sunni Brown, and Dave Gray. 

If you’re not perfect, that’s totally okay. Listen for the thing that resonates.
— Sunni Brown, SXSW 2010

In the years since then a whole load of visual notetakers have surfaced online thanks to sites like Flickr and The Sketchnote Army. We call what we do Sketchnoting and you can do it too.

It doesn’t take long to get started with sketchnotes because you can’t really get it wrong. No two sketchnoters do it the same way and no two sketchnotes are the same even if both attending the same meeting or presentation.

I’ve assembled a few links here so if you want to know more about visual note taking, or would like to try doing it yourself, you’ve got a good jumping off place.

I find the blank page terrifying - just make a mark and get on with it... [and] slow down. When you slow down you filter out all the crap.
— Austin Kleon, SXSW 2010

Some of the examples from Mike Rhode, and Eva Lotta Lamm are just gorgeous. Don’t be discouraged if yours aren’t like theirs - they’ve been doing this for years and worked hard to get their visual style together. That can be you, too if you stick at it and keep drawing your unique style will emerge too.

A few resources to get you sketchnoting:

Sketchnotes examples to inspire:

If someone says “That’s a terrible elephant!” you’ve succeeded.
— Scott McCloud, Webstock 2011

PS: drop me a line or a comment if you have any questions.

Sunday update

Secret Santas galore

In case you’re not sure what a Secret Santa is - it’s where a name is drawn from a group of people and an anonymous gift is given for Christmas. This type of gift giving at Christmas is popular in older family groups and work colleagues. This year I’m involved in three organised Secret Santa gift-giving groups:

NZ Post Secret Santa

This year New Zealand Post’s Secret Santa has been so popular they’ve opened a second round. There are over 2,600 participants secretly checking Twitter feeds to arrange just the right present for the person they’ve drawn. I’ve drawn a mysterious young woman who has locked her Twitter feed so I have no idea what her gift preferences might be.

It’s lots of fun to watch people tweet photographs their gifts, wrapped and being posted to the NZ Post warehouse for redistribution. Then it’ll be neat watching all the recipients sharing what they were gifted on Twitter. NZ Post also donates money to Christchurch’s City Mission for each Secret Santa registration (as well as all unclaimed presents) so it’s good will to all for this festive season.

Work Secret Santa

There are 22 of us going to our work Christmas lunch this year and we’ve decided Secret Santa is the fun way to go when it comes to appreciated each other this Christmas.

We need to get our gifts under the work Christmas tree by this Wednesday for distribution on Thursday at lunch. This is lots of fun because we all know each other - so we have an idea of what gifts to get - and how to tease each other by what we decide to give.

Blog Secret Santa

This is a nice twist on the usual anonymously-wrapped gift. In this case, we secretly give a guest post for our recipient blog. The posts are sent to our bloggers on Christmas Eve and they post them on Christmas Day.

In this particular Secret Santa the theme is Content Strategy and I’m playing even thought I don’t have a Content Strategy blog. I attend the Content Strategy MeetUps and content is what I do during the day, so I’m telling myself that’s okay to play. 

Tiny Books

I’m still amazed at these amazing tiny books. I ordered them online on a Wednesday evening. Pulling images from my Instagram feed and sorting them into three books. On the Thursday I was notified that FedX had my parcel and it was on it’s way and it arrived on Monday. I mean - wow. That’s service!

They are super cute and I love the magnetic covers as much as I love the perfect images on the pages. My littlest granddaughters are completely enamoured with seeing themselves and the rabbits inside such tiny wee books.

Check out the other products Printstagram offers. Fast and good and cheap - and I thought you could only ever have two of those at once!

Christmas Holidays

I am so looking forward to the ten days I have off over Christmas. In a strange twist, I am on my own for Christmas with everyone doing different things and me staying home to look after the rabbits. While I might get to spend some time with Melissa and Simon, I’m feeling pretty happy about days of just doing what I like, when I like, and enjoying the solitude. I won’t have to cook, or talk, or pickup after anyone. It’s really just this cool blue span of time I’m really looking forward to.

Long Weekend

Having a great weekend - getting stuff dine and doing just what I want.

A photo posted by @jamjar on

Speaking of time off - my long weekend is going swimmingly. My Friday was busy and full of personal projects; Sunday was completely void of any structure or work. Tomorrow I have a couple of appointments but no work until Tuesday. 

I’m still amazed at what a genius move this has been so close to the Christmas break!

Uncle Simon and Tandia colouring moshi-monsters #lovelySunday

A photo posted by @jamjar on

Associated links:


A quick note to whomever has drawn for Blog Secret Santa

First of all: welcome!

You will rapidly notice that I'm not a content strategy blog. I am a "whatever interests Michelle at the moment" blog. I do work in and with content with my day-job, as do some of my readers - especially the bloggers. 

You can write a blog post about whatever you like as part of the Blog Secret Santa deal here at - if you'd like to write a content strategy blog post that would benefit bloggers, that would be good for the people who visit here. Do feel free to write anything you like - on or off the topic of Content.

I'm super-glad you're playing along.

Many thanks, and Merry Christmas, love from Michelle (aka Jamjar).