Pausing, reviewing and learning – the importance of a quarterly review

low burned candle

Yesterday I took time out for a proper quarterly review. It was a good break from meandering between one project to another. It is something that I have wanted to do but, as always, never got around to doing in quite such a structured way. I had been feeling a little lost and unsure over recent weeks (months? years?) and so when the reminder popped up on my calendar and I had a clear day, I decided to go for it.

The big(gest) picture

I began with a time of spiritual reflection. I used elements from my own tradition and some from beyond. The aim was to think about my place among the bigger picture. It’s a time to see that there is more than just me, but to reiterate that I am part of that vastness.

I used random elements. I like using cards and so drew a couple from various spiritual packs to prompt my thoughts. I was able to learn a little about myself from those random elements. I also prayed and read some spiritual writings.

You don’t have to be religious or believe in a greater power for this time. It’s just about realising that there is more to life than just yourself. (Unless you are deeply into solipsism. :) ) Use any tools, routines or rituals that aid you in this, either sacred or secular.

In summary, I came away with using my wisdom and intuition to best foster my plans as I move forward.

I looked at the mirror of the universe and took note of my reflection

Envisioned future

I next began to focus on where I wanted to be in certain areas of my life. This started with a look at my current situation. There were positives and negatives in there. I found that while I was good at keeping external deadlines, I was letting personal projects slip. There were also some more personal issues that leave me isolated, which will need addressing too.

I then compared where I was, with where I want to be. This is where the envisioned future comes into play. I know what I want to be doing and where I want to be, within reason. The gaps and differences were clear.

Next steps

With the differences nice and obvious it was easy to fill in the final part of the review. What are my major priorities for the next quarter that will move the present toward the envisioned future. This was quite easy having compared the two lists. The hard part is implementing things.

Conclusion

The review was worth doing. I learnt some very specific things about myself and I have an action plan for the next three months. I have already added my next review to the calendar, I am looking forward to seeing how far I have got.

I’d recommend this sort of stepping back to everyone, especially anyone who is feeling a little lost, or lacking direction, or just feel that they are getting nowhere. I found it very helpful and I hope it will be beneficial over the next few months. Now, it’s time to get working.

The Quarry by Iain Banks: a review

quarry_cover

This was always going to be a difficult read. The Quarry is the final book to be written by Iain Banks before he died of Cancer. One of the main characters in the book is, yes, dying of cancer. Since the publication of The Wasp Factory Banks has dealt with extreme and dark situations. The Quarry isn’t as extreme and dark as that, but it does step from one shadow to the next.

The story revolves around a group of old university friends having a reunion one weekend about twenty years since their course. It is told through the eyes of Kit, the son of Guy, who is the man dying. The dialogue is gritty, earthy and hard-hitting. In one sense it explores the fact that all the characters, and perhaps us the reader, are all dying / failing / insignificant* (delete deepening which metaphor you want to explore). It doesn’t pull any punches but never dissolves into sentimentality or kitsch.

The Quarry is humanity in all its depravity and futility, yet also in all its fellowship and potential. This won’t bring you tears of joy, or indulge you in escapism. You may find yourself staring at the pages and seeing yourself in the words you read. Banks holds a mirror. As we look into it we see our lives… this was always going to be a difficult read.

Mine by Robert R McCammon: a review

I’m pushing myself to read a lot more this year. I was shocked to see the low number of books that I finished in 2013. I’m also trying to clear a pile of books that had been sitting around for a while. Mine by Robert R McCammon was one of those. I had begun to read it last year but had put it down after one and a half chapters not really getting into it. However, I picked it up again and…

… having got past the first couple of chapters, I was hooked. I will not use the cliché that I couldn’t put it down, but there were a couple of days when I read well over 100 pages in one sitting. For someone who struggles with attention at times, this is almost unheard of.

The psychological drama of the book is gripping. The two main characters are desperate to meet their needs and nothing will stop them. In a journey across the United States they leave a trail of death and destruction. The theme of child abduction is every parent’s nightmare and with a protagonist as warped and insane as Mary ‘Terror’, the nightmare is amplified.

If you want a thriller that will keep you gripped throughout, then Mine is a very good read.