Positive habit tracker

Ages ago I wrote a blog about some ways to build confidence and described a scorecard type tool I used to use to keep track of positive habits (I think I called them disciplines in the blog) I was building. (See original blog here.)

More recently I’ve been using a Google Sheets version, and thought some people might find it useful too.

  1. Click on the link below to go to the file on google drive.

2. Click FILE – MAKE A COPY – then save to your google drive so you can edit as you wish!


Overwhelmed? Try this instead.


Hi there! (Downloadable workbook for this article HERE.)

You probably have things on your mind that you’d rather weren’t there, the fact that you’re reading this means you want to feel differently and you’re ready to do something about it. 

Completing the steps in this article will help you do two things:

  1. Feel differently
  2. Do things differently

I believe in order to DO something different, you need to FEEL something different first, not the other way around. Actions flow from feelings, which flow from thoughts.

Some of these steps are very quick, requiring you just to think of and write down one sentence, some require more time…

If you have any questions about the process, drop me an EMAIL.

Grab a pen and some paper or CLICK HERE to download a ‘workbook’ version of this article you can print off and use to go through the process yourself. 

Step 1 – Acknowledge there is a problem…

…and that you don’t want it anymore.

If you’re going to solve a problem you have to admit it exists. 

How would you describe the feeling / scenario that you were thinking of when you decided to read this? I’ve used the word ‘overwhelm’, but if you have a word that makes more sense to you, use that. It’s important that you write it down for now. 

I FEEL _____________ (Your word for overwhelmed.)

Think briefly about what would happen if you kept having this feeling in the future.

How would you feel in a couple of months or a year, how about if it continued for ten years?

(Actually take a moment to consider this… What is the cost of NOT making a change?)

Do you want to make changes to this situation to make things better?

If you’re reading this, I think you do.

Step 2 – Do this to get it out of your system.

In a moment you’re going to do a writing exercise to release the thoughts and feelings that have been troubling you. This has loads of different benefits, including making what was once intangible (thoughts whizzing around your head) tangible (ideas written on a piece of paper.)

“…as we face the page, we meet ourselves. The pages give us a place to vent and a place to dream. They are intended for no eyes but our own.”

Julia Cameron, The Miracle of Morning Pages

To do this you’ll need:

  • No interruptions and a space you can be honest, where you don’t have to pretend.
  • Some blank paper and a pen. (Or you can download and print the workbook.)
  • A timer / stopwatch of some kind. 

It’s best to handwrite and not type this, there’s something about the physical connection with the pen and the paper, and making YOUR mark, rather than choosing from what the computer lets you do.

Take a piece of paper and at the top of the page write:

“What is overwhelming me?”

You’re going to write continuously (as in, the pen doesn’t stop moving!) for a minimum of ten minutes. (You can go on longer if you have more to write.)

Don’t stop to think about what to write. It doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t have to be sentences, but write in lines rather than in bullet points down the page.

If at any time you run out of steam (and you may do) immediately ask the question again, and simply write whatever you hear in your head.

You might find yourself repeating words or phrases over and over, that’s fine. You might find yourself describing thinking about the process, that’s also fine, but if you notice going off on something unrelated, bring it back to the question at the top of the page.

It’s also ok if you end up drawing, scribbling or making other marks. The point is the pen must keep moving. You’ll probably notice that as you write it some of the things that come out aren’t ‘true.’

Don’t correct spellings or grammar etc…

This is a brain dump, there’s no need to filter your thoughts, it’s for your eyes only.

Set your timer for ten mins, and let’s begin.

When you’ve finished, put the paper in a place it won’t be read by anyone else for now, and take a break. (Go for a walk, or do whatever you do to wind down.)

Well done!

When you’re ready, you’ve got a few options:

  1. Put it away somewhere to either get rid of it or look at later.
  2. Burn / rip up the paper straight away. (Excellent metaphor for you letting go over the overwhelm.)
  3. Read through the work to see if any of the information is worth taking note of before binning. 
  4. Read through it with reference to some kind of framework. 

(eg. read each statement you wrote down and ask ‘is this true?’)

* I don’t usually bother with more than a cursory glance to see if there’s anything in there that I wasn’t already conscious of. *

The task is to get it out of your system. You don’t need to keep it in your head anymore, you’ve written it down.

Well done. Notice how it feels when you’ve finished compared to how you felt when you started writing. Write down a few observations about how you felt before, during and after the process.

It feels: ______________________________

Step 3 – DECIDE how you WANT to feel instead of the overwhelm you had.

If you want to feel better, it’s good to have a clear idea what kind of ‘better’ you’d like exactly.

Imagine you could wave a magic wand and fix the situation, how would you like to feel instead of the ‘overwhelm?’

This sentence must be phrased positively.

So that means it must take the form:

I want to… feel calm and focussed.

I want to… have more energy

I want to… be relaxed and happy


I want to NOT feel overwhelmed.

I DON’T want to feel flat and tired.

I want to STOP feeling tense and angry.

If that’s tricky, write down what the opposite of your current feelings would be.

Eg I want to NOT feel overwhelmed —-> I want to feel ON TOP OF THINGS.

(Your brain does funny things with ‘not’ sentences and we want to move towards something positive.)

Your sentence:

I WANT TO FEEL: ______________________

Step 4 – How would you know if you had that feeling?

Grab a pen and a piece of paper again. (Or download and print the WORKBOOK for this blog.)

Here, you’re going to think about what that ‘better’ feeling would actually FEEL like if you had it right now.

You’re going to vividly imagine having the feeling you want, in as much detail as you can, noticing all the things you can see when you think about it, all the things you can hear, and all the things you can feel.

(If you don’t know the answer to any of these prompts, make it up – any answer you make up has to come from somewhere inside of you.)

Imagine a point in the future, where you have the good feeling, and things are the way you want them to be. Write down something for each of the following prompts. (… and remember you can always get the workbook here.)

  • What you can see when you think about having the good feeling:

Where are you?

Who else is there?

How will you look?

What else can you see?

  • Now you’ve done those things, how would you describe the ‘qualities’ of the imagery? 

Are the things you can see like movies or still pictures? 

Are they in colour or black and white?

Are the images large or small?

  • What you can hear when you think about having the good feeling:

What can you hear around you?

If you were saying things to yourself, what kind of things would you be saying?

How would your tone of voice sound?

  • Now you’ve done that, check in and see what the general qualities of the sounds are:

Are the sounds loud or soft?

Do the sounds seem to be close or far away?

Is the sound clear or muffled?

  • What you feel (physically and emotionally) as you think about having the good feeling:

What can you feel physically when you think about having the good feeling? 

(Can you feel a breeze / the sun’s warmth / your feet on the ground / the clothes you’re wearing / the drink in your hand?)

Where do you notice the good emotional feelings in your body? (If they had a place in your body…)

If this feeling had a colour, what colour would it be?

Are there any particular tastes or smells that come to mind, as you think about having the good feeling?

Once you’ve made some notes, take a moment to go back into that feeling / scenario and really enjoy it, notice how good it feels when you think about the details of this scene.


Using your notes or from memory, go back into this feeling at least one more time today, you can have this feeling whenever you want it. Just think about and imagine the stuff you described above. It doesn’t matter how vividly you ‘see’ things in your imagination, just get a sense that something’s there.

Step 5 – Imagine a few key events where you do things and feel differently.

Now you can generate that feeling, you’re going to imagine what having that new feeling might be like in some different situations. It’s a bit like practicing the new feeling, and the new behaviours that come from it.

Sit or lie somewhere comfortable where you can relax for a few minutes.

(After reading the instructions, you can close your eyes…)

Take 3 deep breaths.

On the breath in, say to yourself in your head, “breathing in”…

… and when you breath out, ‘breathing out.’

Notice any thoughts, just notice them, you don’t have to follow or silence them.

Bring your attention to the good feeling you created earlier. Think about the things that you could see that made you feel good.

Then what you could hear…

… and finally, how you felt the good feeling. (Where in your body, what colour it was…)

When you have a sense of that, see yourself going about your day, with this good feeling. Imagine waking up with this feeling, imagine getting out of bed and showering, eating breakfast. How are things different with this feeling?

See everything going as you want it to go. 

See yourself responding to things in new ways.

See opportunities arise, see friendly conversations, fun, whatever you’d like to happen in your day.

Then, see little challenges come up, but you responding in a new way. 

See that the challenges don’t have to change how you feel and respond unless you want them too. Then see things going perfectly again.

Now imagine a slightly bigger challenge, but notice that you handle it a new better way. See yourself looking calm, looking how you want to look.

You don’t need to know exactly how you’ll respond, but just know that you will respond differently, which means you’ll get different results, which means you can feel even better.

Now imagine what life could be like for you in a year.

Where could you be? What could you be doing? How could you feel? How strong could this good feeling have grown over a year?

When you’ve had a play with this, and you’re feeling good, take a deep relaxing breath and open your eyes.

Step 6 – What can you DO to make things better?

Up until now you had a fool proof system for being overwhelmed, let’s see what your fool proof system for feeling good might look like!

Now that you know how you’re going to ‘feel instead’, you can use that feeling to help come up with some ideas for what you could DO to make things better in the future.

In a moment you’re going to do another (shorter) piece of stream of consciousness writing, this time focussed on possible solutions instead of the old problems.

As before, the idea is just to keep writing. 

This time it’s about possibilities, what you COULD do. Not what you’re going to do necessarily.

Be open with this. Even a little silly. You should have a few ridiculous things at the end of the 5 mins. Don’t filter out silly or bad ideas. If you’re really struggling, aim for as many bad ideas as possible.

(Things I have written down in ideas bursts have included ‘cover myself in jam and run around the park trying to get attention.’ Now obviously I’d never do that, but you want to keep the ideas coming, later you can decide what are good and bad ideas.)

This time the time pressure is really on. 5 mins non-stop on “what could I DO to make things better?

If you get stuck, you can give yourself that hint “what might someone else do?”

Again, no filtering, write everything that comes to mind, but steer yourself towards the question if you notice being off track. The time pressure thing is important! Only 5 mins. Have the timer ticking down in front of you.

So, get your pen and paper, write the question “what could I do to make things better”, and if you like the prompt “what might someone else do” underneath, set the timer for 5 mins, and go for it.

After you’re done, take a little break before moving onto the next step.

Step 7 – Pick something!

Pick one of the things that you can imagine doing, and maybe even working from your stream of possibilities. The best thing to do is to do something NOW, immediately after thinking of it. 

It helps generate momentum, if you can’t do that, commit to a time when you’re going to do it.

Then do it.

When you get comfortable doing one thing to make things better, when that seems easy, you can add another… One step at a time.

… but often, just doing one new thing sets you going in a new direction, and that’s all you need.


I hope this has been useful for you. You can repeat the steps as often as you like whenever you like.

The process doesn’t have to be just for overwhelm. Use this process for anything. Try it. See what changes. See which bits really work for you and do them more.

If you allow external events to dictate your feelings, they will.

Feeling good is about having a practice of feeling good.

Set up a simple routine of things that help you feel good now. Even if it’s just a walk, reading for 10 mins or a short meditation early in the morning, try stuff and notice what consistently puts you in good moods.

As you begin to notice what works really well for you, write those things down. 

Now you’ve got a recipe book for your own happiness. 

Commit to doing those things often.

Get in touch if you have any questions.

John Blackburn



Here are some links to other resources you might find useful!

Printable workbook to go through this process.

Sign up to my email list and get a free copy of the guided relaxations PDF.

What IS coaching? (Some brief thoughts.)

“Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”

(John Whitmore, Coaching for Performance)

Coaching can address specific personal projects, professional aspirations, or general conditions in your life.

Coaching requires commitment from the coach and the client.

Coaching is all about the coachee – you do almost all of the talking. It’s about you figuring out WHAT you WANT to do, and HOW you can do it.

Coaching is actions driven.

A coach listens, observes, questions and provides feedback.


Read about why I love BEING coached HERE.

CLICK HERE to see how we can work together.

Why I love BEING coached…

… and why you might too!


Hi there, I’m John. I’m a coach. But that’s not what this is about.

This is about me loving being coached.

(CLICK HERE to sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send it to you as a pdf!)

I’ve always been pretty self-reliant, and certainly since I discovered music and drumming when I was about 15, pretty well motivated. I read some books around the same time (thanks again to my drum teacher and mentor) that pointed me in the direction of taking responsibility for how I thought and felt. (Thanks Geoff!!!)I got absolutely fascinated by self-coaching and ‘self-help’ type books and ideas. Maybe even slightly obsessed.

I’ve also always been fortunate to have a really good group of people around me, friends and mentors who had the best in mind for me and would support and push me when I needed it. Some people that gave great advice, but a few that could ask really really good questions. I read the books, tried the stuff out, went to courses, and watched speakers. I had help if I wanted it, but I mainly got it together myself, and it all worked brilliantly…

… and then one day, whilst on a week-long ‘Licensed Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming’ training at a hotel in London, I was doing some work with a partner on the course, examining this particular way of dealing with old, ‘back ground’ type feelings. I couldn’t think of anything to pull out of the bag for this one, I didn’t think I had anything like that. But I found something from the past I thought I had pretty well dealt with, it didn’t really bother me. As my partner worked through I experienced the most extraordinary feeling of change I had ever felt (thanks Joey) and after it was actually a little bit shaken up. We went for lunch and I had to take a few minutes to myself to settle before the next session. After doing that, I was quite euphoric. That metaphor of the weight being taken off your shoulders? That’s the best description I have for it. A burden I honestly didn’t know I was carrying.

… and this happened at a training session!

That is the moment when things changed for me. I realised that actually, great though the results you could get doing things by yourself were, having someone else there to catch all the unconscious signals and things you just can’t be aware of yourself, makes a HUGE difference. Having someone else work with you could lead to even more dramatic results with these skills than I had been getting before.

That’s when I started to realise there was nothing to brag about doing myself, when I could get bigger results faster, by enlisting skilled help.

So with a lot of the following things, it’s true I’d have figured something out sooner or later.

It’s not just about the speed of getting to ‘the answer’ though, It’s also the quality of the answer you get to, which I know for certain has been greatly improved for me by working with a coach.

It’s also funny writing about these things in retrospect, because these days none of these types of things are really a problem anymore, and trying to remember exactly what it was like when it was a problem is sometimes quite difficult. (What a shame…)

I’ve had coaching on loads more stuff than this, in fact, I get coached regularly. (Have I mentioned that I love it?!)

But here’s some specific examples of things I’ve been coached on and how it helped.

They’re not in chronological order and represent challenges from different points in my life since I started getting coached, rather than one sequential programme.

1. I had loads of ideas for getting my new project going, but just couldn’t seem to get anywhere.

I’d always been pretty good at coming up with ideas, maybe that’s to do with having been a professional drummer for so long, being used to improvising.

Anyway, I’d come up with a massive poster sized brain splurge I was constantly adding to of things I could do with my newly developing skills. I’d even started running workshops in stress busting for school staff. It had gone well, but it turns out that I was trying to sell something to people who didn’t think they needed it. Time to pivot.

Now I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back I think I was just overwhelmed trying to make ‘the right choice’ of direction this time around.

So I started doing a lot of thinking and reading, a lot of things around the edges to help me decide, but I wasn’t actually committing to a new way forward. I knew I wasn’t taking as much action as I could, and I knew what I wanted from the project ultimately, I wanted a new career, but in truth, I was a bit confused about what exactly I was trying to do with that new career.

(Remember you can CLICK HERE to sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send this to you as a pdf!)


I really wanted to figure it out myself, I thought I should be able to, and that actually it was important that I did. But, something was missing from my thinking and I had no idea what it was. I realised it was time to do something different, and actually make some progress!

And then I remembered:

That’s what coaching is.

It would be me working it out, it’s just there would be someone there to catch some things that might need questioning, check blind spots, challenge assumptions and help me figure out what was missing from my thinking. So, I finally took it to a coaching session. As soon as I booked the session, I felt a little shift. I felt like a weight had already been lifted.

In the session, my coach and I first figured out what I actually wanted.

After some gentle but precise questioning, not letting me off the hook if I started telling the story of my challenge, we figured out that although relaxation and stress management workshops would no doubt be part of what I could offer, my real purpose and passion lay in working one to one and in small groups. My real passion was in coaching individuals and groups. Not just teaching, but coaching.

We then went through a process where I picked up a bunch of insights during the journey about the kinds of people I really enjoyed working with. The kinds of challenges I was most interested in.

As we continued to talk, I would describe the process as like moving from overwhelm to a tangible crystalline clarity, that I had never had about this work before.

Even though I was actually being more focused and making decisions, I felt like the possibilities for things I could do, the size of game I could play had been blown wide open.

I walked out of the session feeling energised, focussed, excited about the possibilities AND with a plan to get started… That plan is still serving me well.

Thank you, coach!

2. I wanted to look after myself better, and had all the tools to do it, I used to have a really good routine, but I’d somehow fallen out of it…

Since I was about 17, I’ve been aware of the importance of having some kind of ‘be a good version of me’ type routine. I’d discovered meditation and then later, NLP whilst learning to play the drums as a teenager, and as soon as I started practicing meditation I loved the profound effect it had on me.

At Christmas 2020, I decided I was going to take 2 weeks completely off, I wasn’t going to do anything I didn’t have to unless it occurred to me naturally, and I was just going to relax and take a break. It was wonderful, relaxed the whole time, and didn’t really feel any NEED to meditate or take charge of my state on purpose. And that was fine.

However, after my little break finished and I started working and dealing with the normal challenges, I didn’t start the ‘looking after me’ stuff again.

And that was fine.

For a while.

And then for the first time in at least 20 years, I started to see and feel times where I’d rather be in a different state, but I chose not to do anything about it. For me, this rang some alarm bells.

Which I promptly ignored.

Fast forward a few weeks and I just wasn’t me, I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t upset, I wasn’t being unpleasant to anyone around me, but I just didn’t feel like me. Fortunately, I already had a coaching session booked, so I took this (admittedly vague) problem with me.

Really quickly my coach and I worked out that what I wanted was to get back to my old self, and that meant in a tangible sense was get back to doing the routines that worked for me, including meditation and taking charge of my state and how I was feeling.

So we talked about what had been stopping me, which it turns out was sort of malaise about my general life situation (lockdown was a strange time!) and I realised I just needed to relax and start to get a little more excited about things again.

My coach got me to vividly imagine how I wanted to feel and be responding to the world, the kinds of things I’d be doing IF I felt good and was back into my normal habits. Just imagining it started to make me feel differently. I could already feel the good feelings I’d been missing.

That little glimpse of that better way of being, that little taste of what it could be like was enough for me. With my coach, I worked out what I needed to do and when to make sure I got back into the good habits from that day and on into the future. My coach also asked me to stay in touch over the next week to check in and see if I needed any more support on the matter. I was happy to do this, as every day there was a self care triumph to report.

I’m happy to report that as with the other examples in this series, the habits and insights I got from this session have stuck with me, and continue to serve me well. It feels great to be back to living how I like to live on the inside. Things in the outside world might appear up and down, but my inner life is steady and happy.

3. I had noticed I thought about a colleague in unusually harsh terms…

… (for me, I pretty much like everyone.)

He, I thought, was extremely bad at his job, and he didn’t seem to care that he was so incompetent. He would send condescending emails full of errors and create extra work for those of us trying to work with him. In fact, at several important moments, he just failed to do the required work at all, which meant those of us around him either missed out on being paid for work or at the very least were inconvenienced. Whenever an email came in from that job, my brain would automatically start criticizing and making jokes about him, before I’d even read the email. I noticed that although it didn’t make me angry, in fact often I would laugh about it, I thought I could probably have a better attitude to the situation, and towards that individual.

So I took it to a coaching session…

In the session, my coach led me through an exercise where I had to not only deeply examine my own thoughts and feelings about the situation, but I had to meaningfully get into what my ‘unhelpful colleague’ could be experiencing. Now, at first, this felt a bit like guess work, but as I really made an effort to think about what MIGHT be happening for the other person, I reminded myself about a few things that I actually knew WERE happening. Not just guesses or intuition. Guiding my mind more sympathetically in their direction brought up things I’d heard them saying over recent months that actually did help explain some of their behavior.

As I did this, I felt a lot more sympathetic towards him, and I gained some insight into how to deal with the situation better and what might help them.

Then, my coach had me look at the situation through the eyes of an impartial observer. At first finding someone to play that role was a little tricky, but once I’d selected someone, and looked at both my (John’s) behavior and that of my unhelpful colleague through the eyes of someone impartial, I started to laugh.

My unhelpful colleague was actually doing the best they could, in a job they didn’t ask for, in a situation that was inherently difficult to manage. My unhelpful colleague had different values to me, for him, his family was his highest priority, and although that was sometimes inconvenient for me, I couldn’t say that I thought it was wrong. Actually, there was probably a lot I could do to help just by slightly tweaking the way I responded to them. If I could be even more light hearted about it, then dealing with the issues we shared might not be such a terrifying and off putting thing for my (formerly…) unhelpful colleague.

That experience (seeing it from an observer’s view) re-enforced some of the insights I’d already arrived at, and also reminded me that when I observed my own contribution to the situation, that I was already dealing with it fine, and that there wasn’t really a problem – but yes, the tweaks in approach I’d discovered would have a positive impact for everyone.

My coach then helped me figure out that what I wanted was to spend even less energy thinking about the situation, even when things went wrong. It was also a job that I had run out of enthusiasm for, and whilst ultimately it was time to move on, there was no reason not to enjoy my life and even my time doing that work. Why would I choose to be down on it if I didn’t have to be?! (See number 4.)

Most importantly, I didn’t need to take the situation so seriously.

In the following weeks, I started to enjoy my interactions with that person. I didn’t need it to be as ‘professional’ as I had done before, I was more comfortable accepting the realities of that working relationship.

4. I really hated part of my work…

There was one small part of my work that I’d been doing for a long time, that had actually served me very well over the years, that I had developed a really unhelpful and unhealthy set of feelings towards. What’s worse, is that over the course of years I was aware of it and actively made it worse in the way I thought about it, even though I knew what I was doing!

I’d managed to condense that work down into one day, and used to just sort of grin and bare it.

In a coaching session about something else, it occurred to me that actually, why wouldn’t I choose to have more fun doing that work? At that time I wasn’t in a position to easily stop doing it, so why wouldn’t I do something to make it better?

SO! I took it to my next coaching session.

Initially, I thought my goal was just to enjoy this work more, and it turned out there were a couple of reasons I hadn’t done anything about it already.

I’d been reducing the amount of this work I did, and ultimately I wanted to stop doing it all together. Part of me thought I needed to hate it so that I’d work to move on to something else.

Also, after some further prompting from my coach, it became clear that I resented the feeling of ‘having’ to do it.

My coach asked me if I’d be prepared to try doing things differently, safe in the knowledge that if I didn’t like enjoying my life more I could always go back to being resentful and angry about it…

… obviously, I said yes let’s go for it.

I went through a process that examined in detail when and where the problem would occur, what my role / ‘inner’ thought processes tended to be, then what I believed about the situation, what I believed about ME in the situation, and what some of my beliefs more broadly might be that could be affecting it. It turned out (as it always does) that I had a clear method to make myself unhappy about the work. It would start by me groaning to myself in my head, speaking to myself in a heavy way, thinking about how tired I would be, and literally imagining the work being unfulfilling. NO WONDER I WOULD END UP FEELING BAD.

As I’ve said a few times, I think of myself as being quite self aware, aware of how and what I’m thinking. But this pattern was completely unconscious, and when my coach helped uncover it so clearly, I had to laugh…

Then some real magic started to happen, we expanded my thinking and explored some big questions. What did I want beyond just feeling better about this work? I discovered some aspects of my purpose (yeah, as in purpose in life! Be brave…) that meant that work was totally acceptable, in fact, I was grateful to have it, but having that gratitude didn’t have to stop me from moving towards things that might be even better or more fulfilling.

As I gathered up these insights, I also realised that not only was it fine for me to ‘not hate’ that work, it was actually of course way better for me to actively find ways to have more fun with them. This would mean the period of time before that work wasn’t spent dreading the work when I could be enjoying or productively working (OR BOTH) on something else. And it meant I could quickly move onto something else after doing the less desirable work, and wouldn’t have to ‘write off’ the rest of that day to recover. I could just bounce into the next thing I really wanted to do.

In the weeks that followed, I set aside a small amount of time before each of those days of work to create a fun mood, or state, to work from. One that brought to the fore all my enthusiasm, fun, organisation, creativity and motivation.

… the work gets done a lot quicker and with better energy now, and I’m building up other stuff faster, and soon I will have the choice to simply stop doing that work, without losing income or security or any of the other things that work gave me.

5. I really wanted to make time for creative work in my schedule, but just wasn’t doing it…

I really enjoyed creative work. I knew that it was worthwhile and that it felt important. I knew that I was a creative person. I knew that a lot of the challenges I was facing needed an injection of that kind of thinking. But I wasn’t doing it! Even though I had the time! I also had no idea why I wasn’t doing it, no idea what was stopping me (if anything) or what could be in the way. It just wasn’t happening.

As you’ll have guessed by this point… I took it to a coaching session!

As I talked it through with my coach, I started to realise how a big part of me had been ‘missing’ whilst I wasn’t doing creative work. I remembered how much I enjoyed creating and doing music stuff. I begin to build an image of me doing it and enjoying it, growing from it on a regular basis.

After further questions, it came out that one of the things that had stopped me was thinking EVERYTHING in my schedule needed to be a daily activity.

What would happen if I promised myself a creative slot two or three times a week? Could I schedule that in without interfering with my existing balance and work? Yes, it turned out I could.

This might seem like a very small thing, but to me it was huge.

I had for a long time been thinking about the ‘micro’ of my routine, what was important for me to do every day, and of course, once I’d scheduled a fairly small number of daily things, alongside things that I had less choice in the scheduling of, it became overwhelming to try and fit more into each day.

I could operate exactly as I wanted on say, a Thursday when I didn’t have scheduled meetings or events, but how about a Wednesday when I would leave the house at 6 am and get back at 7 pm?

In the session, I realised I wanted to reduce the number of things I had to do daily and start to think more in terms of weekly activities in my scheduling.

This opened up a lot of space in my thinking, and instantly relieved a lot of pressure, I realised I did in fact have the time I needed to do and make progress with all of the different things that were important to me. I just needed to take a look at the situation using the frame of a week, rather than a day. As I thought about doing that, I saw myself enjoying being creative with other aspects of my work that I was already doing. AND LOVING IT.

I could be creative, and experience and express a similar feeling to when I was making music in all kinds of other situations. Writing blog posts? Creative. Designing handouts? Creative.

Like with my insight into my weekly scheduling, that little switch, realising I was being creative in a variety of ways and actually could enjoy that NOW was huge!

Thanks for reading

I hope those little snippets have given you a taste for why being coached has been such a powerful thing for me in my life and my growth. I’ll keep being coached now, on a regular basis, and actively look for things where a second pair of ears (and eyes…) might help.

The more coaching I get, the more I’m amazed at the power of it, the scope of the changes possible, and also the sheer fun of making progress and having a space to think out loud, with someone who REALLY knows how to get the best out of me. Someone who is caring, but also knows when to push to get more out of me when they can tell I’ve held back.

I hope that you will have the chance to experience some of this for yourself, and that if you have had coaching before that you are reminded of the power of it.

Good luck!


(Remember you can CLICK HERE to sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send this to you as a pdf!)

7th April 2020 update! Join me on social media!

Hi there!

As I type this here in the UK we’re in the middle of our lockdown I’m response to the corona virus outbreak, as is much of the world. These are challenging times for everyone, and if I can contribute something to help make people lives a little easier and maybe even a little more fun, I’m excited to do that.

To that end, whilst it’s been a while since I posted here on the website, I have been busy posting videos and thoughts on my Instagram and Facebook pages, so far there’s been stuff about structuring your time, and some ideas from NLP (amongst other things) to minimize any anxiety you might have been experiencing, and hopefully help make a nicer time of it all.

I’m also offering my Stress Busting and Relaxation course in small workshops via zoom too small groups, on a pay what you can basis. If you know anyone that need some help and you think might benefit from some new skills to manage how they feel, then please feel free to pass this offer onto them, and have them get in touch with me via john@key-idea.co.uk

Sending you positive thoughts during this unique and challenging time.


March and May 2019 public workshop dates + audio track links.

Hi All,

Just a quick note to let you know that tickets are now on sale for the March and May “Stress busting and relaxation” small group workshops. As always places are strictly limited, please head to the links below for details and tickets.h





Also please find below think to the audio tracks that accompany e-book, free when you sign up to the mailing list.


Hi everyone,

A number of people (1-1 clients and course attendees) had mentioned how helpful it was having someone else talking them through the  various relaxation exercises I suggest in my training / coaching sessions. To help with that I’m just putting together some free videos for you, an introduction then one video for each of the relaxation techniques in my E-book. (If you haven’t got a copy, you can get one now by signing up to my mailing list HERE.)

I’ll be sending the videos out to subscribers soon, so please make sure you’re signed up if you’d like access.

Hope everyone’s having a great week.



Some ways to kick start or improve staff wellbeing

Here are some ideas for improving staff wellbeing in schools, or any institution really. They’re just little prompts I can go into more details about later if people would like more thoughts. Some you might already do, some might not be for you.

Acknowledge it’s important.

Say it to yourself, say it to your colleagues. My wellbeing is important. Your wellbeing is important.

Take responsibility. You are responsible. Response – able. Able to make a response.

(With thanks to Stephen R Covey and his ‘7 Habits’ materials.)

There are things you can do now, without help or permission. Take 5 mins to do a breathing exercise at the start of the day. Watch 5 mins of your favourite comedian on youtube. Experiment, find something small that works, do it everyday.

Set up a Staff Wellbeing group that meets regularly.

Make the meetings something people look forward to. Begin with the end in mind. (Thanks again to Stephen R Covey, google him!) The meetings should leave people feeling better for having attended.

Talk to each other. Check in.

All staff. It’s not an excuse to whine! Listen to each other. But know any conversation should come around to positive action. Make pro-actively dealing with challenges part of the culture. (If it’s not already…)

Get together with the wider community and and the wider TEACHING community. 

Don’t limit conversations just to your school. All schools and staff are facing these challenges. What could we achieve working with friends and colleagues from neighbouring schools?

Plan fun things. Individually and as an institution. Put fun on your to-do list.

Socialising is important for most people. If things are tough, make sure you have regular lights at the end (or even better, in the middle) of the tunnel.

Think about your habits and rituals.

What direction are they taking you in? Do your current habits support your current goals, or the way you would like things to be in the future.


– As I said at the start, just some prompts to point our brains in a wellbeing direction. Have a great week.

John Blackburn

Don’t forget you can get a FREE Relaxation Techniques E-book when you SIGN UP to the mailing list.

“Easy to do, easy not to do!” – with thanks to Jim Rohn

The above is one of my favourite Jim Rohn-isms. (Jim Rohn was a well regarded American speaker, search for him on youtube!)

That sentiment was in my mind this week as I had the privilege of sending out about 600 copies of my Relaxation techniques E-book to teachers across the UK and beyond. Thank you to everyone that expressed an interest and good luck!

I remember a year 9 drum kit student I taught a few years ago. You’ll probably recognise this kind of story in some of your own students if you’re a teacher. He was extremely bright, played several other instruments, but he had a really limiting attitude / belief that it was enough just to intellectually understand something, so he didn’t practice. He’d stop once he’d figured out how it worked. He never ingrained good practice habits. Its not enough to do that. As we all know, you have to do the ritual, the habit, the activity…

… IF you want the benefit… and you do want the benefit.

Taking 5 minutes at the start of our day, to relax and put ourselves in the state of mind where we are at our most resourceful is easy to do. It’s also easy not to do it.

I really hope as many people as possible will take the time not just to read the ideas and methods in the book but to pick one and do it, and do the same tomorrow…

If you’d like a copy of the E-book, just head to SIGN UP to my mailing list. If you have any questions, drop me an EMAIL.

P.S. Here are some blogs I’ve written about developing habits, and the importance of feeling ok, and why I think you should start any activity with the feeling you want at the end!

Start with the feeling

I’ve been doing some work with a friend recently, and the most common thing thats come up as being useful for them has been to think about and engage with how you would like to feel when doing whatever you’re doing first. Before you start doing the work.

So if you want to do some creative work, how would you LIKE to feel whilst doing the work? What feelings (or states if we’re talking about it in more ‘NLP’ type terms…) would be useful in getting the work done?

Maybe you want to feel energised, motivated and excited to start the work in the first place. When have you felt like that before? Even just a little bit… Run the experience through in your head – what could you see, hear and feel when you felt like that? Here is an important one… What kinds of things were you saying to yourself?

What about once you start the work, how do you want to feel whilst you’re actually doing it? Focussed, calm, certain, confident? When have you felt like this before? What could you see, hear and feel? What is that internal voice saying, if anything, when it’s all happening how you like it.

Get the feeling you want first, then do the work. Maintain the feeling whilst you do the work.

Questions? Drop me an email at john@key-idea.co.uk