The four questions- Reflections on 2014 and looking ahead to 2015

As we approach the turning of the year, I thought it would be the right time to reflect on how 2014 has been for me and set myself some intentions for 2015.

In January 2014, I spent some time planning my diploma journey and considering new years resolutions and things I wanted to achieve. I divided these into eight categories; home, family, friends, health, work, diploma, leisure and other. My planning is detailed in the  image below, the ticks indicate what was achieved. I did manage quite a lot of the things on the list, but various tasks were left unstarted or uncompleted due to lack of time, money or energy. These tasks will be carried forward into 2015 and are listed under ‘next achievable steps’ at the bottom of this post.


What is going well?

2014 was a great year overall, we had lots of happiness, three close friends had new babies, as did my sister and her partner. My brother’s jobs went well, my mum enjoyed her retirement. Joe got on well at work and his company will be moving to a larger premises early in the new year. My eldest is getting on well at school and is enjoying her hobbies, especially cross county running. My middle daughter started full-time school, which caused us lots of anxiety but she settled quickly and loves it now. She has a ‘Frozen’ obsession which has been fun! Little S is becoming a real rough, tough boy now, obsessed with trains and tractors. He is very loving and fun to spend time with.

I have been surprised by my new-found love of running this year. I have just completed 100 miles since I began recording my runs back in August. I am proud of myself and have seen my fitness improve dramatically. I took part in a Muddy Run and enjoyed it immensely, so have signed up for another in March. It’s lovely to have this hobby in common with my marathon running husband. I have taken part in a 6 month on-line course in health and nutrition. I have learnt loads about whole-foods and have made some positive changes in our diets. My diploma continues to be a big part of my life. I work on it almost every thursday and enjoy writing up my thoughts and activities on my blog. I have helped out on the local PDC and intend to take an even more active role in 2015. I looked at one permaculture Principle each month, which was great and taught me a lot.


What are you finding difficult?

As always, the difficulty come in allocating my time and finding the balance between managing family life and finding opportunities to pursue my own interests and diploma work. Walking out the door is difficult, the parent guilt is a killer. however, I do feel I have found a slightly better balance this year. I almost always have one day a week 10-2.30 free, without my children to work. I have also fitted in a regular exercise class one a week and frequent runs either early morning or afternoon when was OH is around. As my children grow up, I think this balance will settle more and more. As I am still breast-feeding little S, nights out or sleep-overs are not possible, but by this time next year I expect this will have changed again.

I find not having any money OK most of the time but occasionally stressful. I would quite like to take on a little more work in this coming year, either photography teaching, making Muddy Boots into a business or something else that has not yet presented itself to me as a opportuniy. I am open-minded and would quite like to try something new.

The constant clutter and housework gets me down. I don’t enjoy it and resent how much of my time is taken up with moving things from place to place. I did a lot of de-cluttering in 2014 and plan to do even more in 2015. I want the children to use and value what they have rather than being over-whelmed by stuff and not realising how lucky they are.

What are your long-term goals and visions?

This brainstorm shows my plans for 2015, lots of the themes from 2014 arise again!


I decided to use the permaculture tool of Zones and try laying out my aims for 2015 in terms of Zones.

Zone 1  Daily activity – Self, home, health

Zone 2  Weekly activity – as above plus immediate family, close friends, diploma, blog

Zone 3  Monthly activity – as above plus wider family, wider circle of friends, training, work

Zone 4  Annual activity – Once only activities, yearly overview, outlines and aims

Zone 5 Long term plans and visions and steps taken towards these.


What are your next achievable steps?

* Arrange more one-to-one time with each of my children and my husband.

*More sunday lunches and meet ups with old and new friends

* Find a yoga class and attend regularly

*Get down to my ‘happy weight’

* Drink more water

* Organise my photography teaching notes/ resources so workshops are easier to plan.

* Attend workshops to learn new skills in areas that interest me.

*Be an active member of the local PDC planning group

* Look into Forest schools training and TOT training.

* Spend less time using screens! Reduce Facebook/ internet/ I-player/ Netflix usage and encourage my OH and children to do likewise.

* Further de-cluttering of the house.

*Get better at planning meals and shopping according to my ethics and budget

*Work on my diploma and aim to complete three additional designs during 2015.



Diploma design for Muddy Boots – Reflection

Evaluate progress… What is the current situation? What is going well? What is challenging?                      L.Macnamara People and Permaculture 2012


I am writing this with two more sessions of Muddy Boots to run before we stop for the Winter. I have been reflecting on how the design has worked all the way through the process really. It is a natural human response to look back over what has happened in your life and ponder. In order to make my reflections useful to me, I have formalised this pondering process and carried out lots of reflective activities for Muddy Boots.

1. I have kept a reflective journal. Immediately after each session I made notes about the following points; how many people attended the session, what the theme was, a brief description of activity, who led the activity, what the weather was like and how much I enjoyed the session. I tried to be honest in this and I have found it a revealing process. In summary, the sessions where I was well supported felt great, positive, inspiring and worthwhile. The few sessions were I felt I was battling through on my own, felt unfulfilling, hard work and unenjoyable. An easy lesson to learn there about working with others.

2. I have used The four questions a number of times when thinking about Muddy Boots. I have discussed the design during guilds and I have used the questions on my own. Especially at times when I am feeling stuck or troubled, I find it helps to settle my thoughts and see a way forward if I write down my responses to the four questions. ‘What is going well?’ ‘What are you finding difficult?’ ‘What are your long terms plans and visions?’ and ‘What are your next actievable steps?’

3. After the 7th session, I began doing Midpoint evaluations. I asked the group participants to complete a short questionnaire about where they found out about the group, what they enjoyed, why they came along, what changes they would like to see etc. This provided me with useful feedback, some of which led to immediate changes within the group like swapping squash for water and continuing to run sessions even if it rains.

4. At the final session on October 31st I will be doing Final evaluations. I need to spend some time thinking about what format this will take. I don’t want to do another written questionnaire really, so we may do a brainstorm activity. I would also like to give participant’s who may not be at the final session for one reason or another a chance to give me feedback. So I will welcome this via emails or the Facebook page. Again I need to consider exactly how this will work.

5. The four types of reflection listed above will feed into my reflections and resulting tweaks to the design. I hope to run Muddy Boots again next spring and summer but making some changes to how the group runs and hopefully proving me some payment for the hours I put in. So this design is very much ongoing and is hopefully the start of something much bigger for my future career path. Watch this space!


The four questions

During the study of Permaculture, we are encouraged to reflect on our actions, aspirations, thoughts and considerations in a structured way. Working in a group of three people, we take it in turns to ask, answer and record responses to four questions. This is normally done within a time limit for addressing each question.

1. What is going well?

2. What is challenging?

3. What are your long-term goals?

4 What are your next achievable steps?

I thought I would use a variation of this technique to look back over 2013 and forward to 2014. I am thinking of this as a Permaculture version of the new years resolution! I know it is rather boring to hear about other people’s resolutions, so below is the very much shortened version. I can now use this info to start making plans for 2014. I love the way Permaculture can so tightly intertwined with your life. It doesn’t feel like an extra bit of ‘work’. Many things that I do for my Permaculture diploma improves my clarity of thought and quality of life.

1. What is going well? New baby in February, great birth, lovely child. Garden productive and enjoyable. Started Permaculture diploma. Had a fab camping holiday. Fun times with friends. Family and friends happy and good things happening in their lives. I am enjoying being a SAHM but also few hours photography teaching in Dec was great.

2. What is challenging? Getting the balance right. Finding time for myself, importance of this to make myself happy! The parent guilt. Money. Quality time with J. Lack of sleep. Too much housework. Lack of energy, feeling unhealthy, need to find time for exercise.

3. What are your long-term goals? Moving to the country side, small holding. Unachievable? P dip helps make this seem more achievable. Work hard on diploma aim to complete in 2017. Get a part-time job after that, Permaculture related or environmental education? Make garden even more productive. Improve health. Live more lightly, scale down possessions.

4 What are your next achievable steps? Health- lose weights, exercise more, dance/zumba/yoga/swim/cycle/walk as much as poss. Try to incorporate this into my everyday life. Keep growing lots of fruit and veg. Eat more vegan, maybe do 2 or 3 completely vegan days per week? Work, regular photography teaching? Maybe I can do a photography course online for digital or do a darkroom evening class to get in some practice or brush up my skills? Diploma -Try to do 6 hours per week minimum on my P diploma. Keep working on my blog. Plan the 2014 garden. Make contact with local permies and set up a guild date. Family life -Get more organised, ask for more help, keep de-cluttering.

It will be interesting to review this post in a year’s time and see how much has changed and what I have achieved during 2014. Happy new year everyone. xx