Episode #87: Working With Your Tendencies & Unique Needs as a Human With Kat Cuthbert

Today I’m chatting with Kat Cuthbert all about working with your own tendencies. Kat describes herself as a messy-brained planner, writer and mental health advocate who helps other messy-brained, imperfect humans find space to breathe in their work and life through online courses, workshops and workbooks. Her approach is rooted in gentle, realistic self-development and creating a life with plenty of flex.

Listen to the Episode:

Ruth Poundwhite 0:06
You’re listening to creatively human with honest conversations about what matters to us and how it really feels to build an online business, put our work out into the world, make an impact in our own unique way, and importantly, to get well paid for it. I’m your host, Ruth Poundwhite business mentor to quietly ambitious humans.

Welcome back to another interview on the creatively human podcast. Today, I’m chatting with Kat Cuthbert, all about working with your own tendencies. Cat describes herself as a messy brained planner, writer and mental health advocate who helps other messy brained imperfect humans find space to breathe in their work and life through online courses, workshops and workbooks. Her approach is rooted in gentle, realistic self development, and creating a life with plenty of flex. We chat about planning and working in a way that puts your unique needs at the centre, working with chronic illness and disability and creating flexibility within a structure that works for you. I know a lot of you will resonate with this conversation. And I really hope that it gives you a little bit of permission to choose your own way of planning and of doing business. Enjoy. Okay, so can we start by talking about what is different with the way that you do planning.

Kat Cuthbert 1:28
So, for me, it doesn’t feel all that different anymore, I suppose, because I’ve been doing it so long this way.

When I first kind of discovered the planning community online, and that planning was the thing that might help me, it was all very, and I think this is maybe similar to the kind of business world it was very, like hustle focused, everything was like, super, like productivity focused. And also everything was really, especially in the bullet journal community, like some really beautiful journals, and I love looking at them. And sometimes Yeah, I love setting up a really pretty spread in my journal. But it’s not something that is sustainable for the way that I kind of work. So part of the way that it’s different, although plenty of people use the system is the bullet journal system, which I use as kind of my main bulk of planning, because it was designed by somebody with ADHD, which is

happens to work really well for my brain, actually. But it’s super flexible. And I try to not kind of put too much pressure on myself to do it every day. It’s the thing that if it helps that day, I’m gonna sit down with my journal and you know, write out what it is that I need to do that day. But some days, it falls by the wayside. And that’s okay, a lot of it is that kind of like acceptance of it doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be any day, every day, it’s there for whenever it helps. And kind of taking a wider view, it’s very much setting, not goals that are based on kind of achieving a certain thing. But rather, either being a certain way or bringing certain things in that I have is kind of like a longer term vision. Because I’ve got to be so flexible with things and I never know what my body is going to be like in three months time, I kind of have this, it’s cool to call it a future focus. But it’s a very kind of, it’s a bit more of a holistic view of things. So rather than I want to achieve this, and I want to do this, it’s these are the ways I want to be. And this is kind of like it is visual. For me, it’s a visual kind of representation of how I want to feel and things around me to be. And so I draw on that each kind of month or a few months to kind of find and test whether I’m heading in the right direction. It’s it sounds really kind of vague. And it makes sense when it all pulls together. But it’s so much less about having a concrete goal. Although I know that, for example, I want to set up a successful business, how I actually go about doing that is a really kind of winding path. And it’s just constantly adjusting to make sure that I can handle it that it works for where I am in life right now. But also that I’m as close to being in the right direction as I can be. Okay, it’s a very fluid kind of flexible way of doing it. And it sounds maybe a little bit like not concrete, which for my brain can be quite hard. But it’s the way that I found I can kind of plan things and actually move towards things in the best way.

Ruth Poundwhite 4:14
Yeah. And what is the alternative when like if you followed the kind of hustle approach that you first saw in the planning world, like how did that work out for you and what, like led you to move away from that way of doing things?

Kat Cuthbert 4:27
I mean, I love the idea of it. I love the idea of being a person who’s super like, you know, goal oriented and absolutely like power through tasks every day. But at the time, I found the planning community, I was in the midst of like a mental health breakdown. So I knew as much as I wanted it to be true for me, it absolutely wouldn’t have worked for me at that point. And so even from then I had to kind of find this alternative way. And like I’m fascinated by the like the productivity community and the planning community, but it is very like how it just seems a bit strict for me. And weirdly, so I’m autistic, which means I love routines. I love things that are defined. But as soon as I have a solid routine, it works for me for about a week. And then I have to switch, I get bored, I get like rebellious for it. And it’s the same with goals I can want. It’s not that like I changed my mind frequently, but I can kind of set a goal and then get halfway through it be like, Well, actually, my direction isn’t quite there. I’m not, I don’t always know what I want. exactly the right time, I suppose. The idea of all the hustle stuff I loved. And even when I started, like getting into the business community online, too, it had that same kind of feel of like getting stuff done. And you know, being successful and powerful, and it felt great. But it also felt really anxiety inducing. And I just knew that it wasn’t, it wasn’t sustainable for me. As soon as I tried to work in that way I absolutely collapse. And then I have to take like a week off and a load of naps, which is one of my signals that things are not working.

Ruth Poundwhite 5:52
That’s interesting. And I know that a lot of people will resonate too there with this. I certainly had, I certainly had that feeling about the online business world and the hustle. And I’m really glad that the conversation has changed massively. Since I started my business. There is so much talk of not hustling now. But yeah, I see what you mean. So it sounds like you went through a few phases of trying to fit in with the the way things are generally done. And then crashing.

Kat Cuthbert 6:21
Yes. And this was a few years back, like so the conversation absolutely has changed. And I think within the planning community, too, it has changed. It’s like move away, although, you know, I’m, I completely respect the people who can work that way. And that works for them. Absolutely. Well, it’s just not the way that I work. I think it’s not the way that a lot of us work. And I am really glad that that conversation has shifted. And now we’re talking more about like, mindfully building things in a way that actually works for us. And it’s not so much about kind of bragging that you have six figure business businesses all the time, which like course, I’d love a six figure business. But also there are other ways to go about things. And there are other ways to lead, lead a life and build a business that are just as valid.

Ruth Poundwhite 7:00
Yeah, I love that. And, and I guess for me, it’s all about, it’s all about making it sustainable. You could have a big push towards a goal or you know, a business thing that you’re launching. But if you crash at the end of it, it’s not sustainable. So, yeah, I know a lot. A lot of people will resonate with that. So okay, so you went through this process of trying to do things a certain way, realising it didn’t work, reevaluating? Do you have any advice for people listening on getting, getting that awareness of like, so yes, a big crash is quite like a big sign. But there’s, there’s more subtle signs, I would imagine? Well, I know as well. Do you have any advice for anyone listening on gaining that awareness of what you actually need in the first place?

Kat Cuthbert 7:51
So a really practical one would be journaling, which is something I resisted for a long time, I think because I’ve done a lot of therapy. And you know, I’ve seen psychiatrist and so it feels like you’ve done the work. But actually, I think journaling brings a whole, it’s kind of a different, not a different perspective, because it’s your perspective, but it allows you to get your own thoughts out in your own way. And I think gradually through that, you can start to understand what it is that you need. It’s how I started listening to gut feelings, because before that I didn’t have gut feelings. Well, I must have had them, I didn’t know how to listen to them. I think it really helps with that. Obviously, there are the big signs like having a crash, please don’t go that far. It’s not fun. But I find for me, things like I my fatigue will flare like I will get significantly more tired and have to take more naps and find that my concentration is foggy. I think what a lot of people are probably dealing with at the moment is willpower, we kind of see it as this. It was originally seen as like a finite resource. I’ve been doing like research into this recently. So I’m kind of a bit fascinated. And that’s where the the theory of ego depletion, which might be one that you’ve heard of came from is this idea that willpower kind of draws on some finite mental resource. But actually, through more studies, they figured out that they think that willpower is more like an emotion so it kind of ebbs and flows. And if you think about things that when you get into a flow state, you’re not using willpower to do that work. It’s just happening. And so this sort of talk about how successful people don’t actually use willpower, they work in a way that they don’t need to use willpower. But I think at the moment with everything going on. It’s we’re using up a lot of our mental resources and it becomes really hard to kind of have that flow of willpower more often. So it kind of I think a lot of us are finding it more difficult to do things that were significantly easy beforehand. And that struggle to do things that you even enjoy, I think is a bit of a flag for me. And obviously you know if it’s getting to the point of depression and that’s, that’s a whole other thing, but just you know Those small, the small things that usually help you feel improved when they start to become difficult. That’s a little bit of a flag for me,

Ruth Poundwhite 10:08
I think. Yeah, that’s really helpful. And we said about willpower and the flow. That is, that’s been a big one for me. Like, I’m obsessed with flow, because it’s like, this is where I find the conversation on productivity, oh, sorry, procrastination, especially. And like you beat yourself up about procrastinating on certain things. But it’s like, when you can find the flow. In some of those kind of barriers, just they go, and you just like, get the stuff done. And it doesn’t drain you as much, although it’s, it’s a lot harder to get into that state of flow when there’s so much going on. And we’re all very tired. And I’ve certainly experienced a lot more fatigue in the last year. I don’t know if it’s related to the pandemic or not, it certainly coincided with lockdown and stuff. And I mean, a lot of the stuff you said, was very relatable to me as well. And it’s I think so what you said about journaling, and being able to put things out there in your, in your own words, I think that’s really, really useful. And I think there comes the more, let me know if you can if you relate to this, but I feel like the more I dig into this stuff, the more I try and understand how I feel. So I might identify that I’m feeling really fatigued after doing certain things or having like a really high visibility week in my business or something like that, which I’ve literally just had, I might identify that the more I can identify that the less I judge myself for it. I don’t know if you can relate to that.

Kat Cuthbert 11:37
I think that makes sense. I think when you realise that something is normal for you, you stop, the judgement kind of decreases. I mean, I hope it’s that way for most people, because it really, it really can be helpful to figure out like, Okay, this is just a way that I work. I think that the identifying the feelings and realising that they are normal for us is part of that figuring out how it is that you work. And I think practising Kind of, yeah, sometimes it takes practising self acceptance to be like, okay, so I do get tired after this thing. That’s okay. How are we going to deal with it rather than fighting it? I think when you start fighting the way that you’re feeling, it becomes really, really difficult to move forward in any way.

Ruth Poundwhite 12:19
Yeah, yeah, definitely. So in that kind of journey that you’ve personally been on? How have you found that? Did you? Oh, do you fight it much? How? or How did you get to a place where you can accept that and go with what you need?

Kat Cuthbert 12:34
So yeah, it’s been a long, long road. So I’ve dealt with mental health challenges, probably since I was in my teens, but I was diagnosed when I was 18, or 19, with depression to begin with. And since then, there have been free mental health breakdowns, and then some kind of physical diagnosis from that. And so I think I was forced a little bit into accepting that I have certain ways that I needed to work or I’m always hesitant to say limitations. But I don’t know that limitations is necessarily a bad thing. I think we can kind of, we forget that we all have them, because they’re they’re not seen as like valid reasons for not being able to do something or you know, so it sounds like a negative, but I don’t actually think it is because I don’t think that there is a bad thing and knowing where your limits are. I think that’s definitely a good thing. It was kind of a long, yeah, a long path. And absolutely, I still do fight against how I feel sometimes, and it takes my other half been like you’re acting like a grumpy toddler. I think you need to take a nap, which is really helpful. But I don’t always notice it, I think probably the biggest example of acceptance. And it’s not really the acceptance of how I work, I’m not sure. So I was diagnosed with a few chronic illnesses, which really affect the way that I kind of function. And there was a really long process of accepting them as part of just how I need to move through the world. But it was the point where I picked up and actively identified with being disabled, that I stopped fighting and everything got so much easier. And it was a very strange thing because for a lot of able bodied people or non disabled people, that that identifying with being disabled, I think to a lot of people can look like giving up because it’s that kind of way, you’re not fighting to get better. You’re not you know, you’re not what are you doing now you’re not because the push is always to be better, or, you know, to do more than you can currently do. But that acceptance of going Oh, no, actually I am disabled and that’s an okay thing and kind of my, I’ve gotten involved in the disability community online, which was so incredibly helpful. It’s another level of self acceptance that yeah, this is how I need to move through the world. And that’s okay. And suddenly, everything became significantly easier, my mood lifted, I was able to actually do things because I wasn’t constantly fighting against my own body or that I was just, this is how it is. And that’s all right, we will do what we need to do today. It was a weird, a really strange thing. And it was really strange like to explain to my parents like, I just five disabled now, I think to them looked a little bit perhaps like was this you’re not trying to get better anymore. And it’s not that I’m never saying I will get better. But what it is is saying, This is how things are now, this is how I need to interact and move through the world. And it just, it was like a light bulb switched on. And suddenly, life felt so much easier. Wow,

Ruth Poundwhite 15:30
that’s so powerful. Because I think that I don’t know if it’s even correct to say it like this, but like, it could be a late it could be considered to be a label. And when you label yourself a certain way, it could be you’re limiting yourself and you’re putting yourself inside a box. But I mean, like I said, I don’t know, it’s even right to say that being disabled as a label. But in your case, it’s it’s a useful one. Absolutely.

Kat Cuthbert 15:57
I think maybe think of it. I’m always hesitant to kind of compare labels, as you say, because they’re, you know, they’re describing very different communities. But so two labels identify with one is disabled, and one is queer. So I think labels, yes, I can understand that it looks perhaps like that you’re putting yourself in a box. But it isn’t. For these ones, specifically, at least I think because it’s more it opens up community, it means that you have a way of describing what it is that you deal with. And it’s different for everybody, whether we’re talking about queerness, or we’re talking about disability, everyone has a different experience of that. But it’s a way of saying here is kind of a general format. For my experience. This is how I connect with the world. This is how I relate to the world. And you know, there are no there are plenty of people who say things like, oh, would it be great if we didn’t have to, you know, label ourselves as queer and we were just people, that actually is really helpful, because it does provide that community. And it does provide that kind of blueprint, almost if people who’ve been before you to figure out how you can move through the world in a better way.

Ruth Poundwhite 16:58
I love that it’s really, really powerful. And I know it’s not the same thing. But I remember when I realised I was an introvert and was just like, it sort of rewrote loads of stuff that was in my brain about what it meant to like, be a human in the world and interact with people and how you feel afterwards. And unfortunately, I didn’t even know what the internet was until I was 25. I mean, it would have been very helpful. I mean, I guess there’s this whole Yeah, this whole thing about like, labelling and childhood, whatever, maybe it wouldn’t have been helpful if I had known it then. But it was certainly helpful to discover it as an adult and just realise, okay, this explains a lot. And it actually it actually it was I don’t find it restrictive. I find it quite freeing. Interestingly,

Kat Cuthbert 17:43
yes, I think it really can be in the right circumstances. As a very specific example, for me, it sounds like I’m just talking about medical stuff at the moment, I was diagnosed as autistic two years ago. And I spent ages trying to figure out what the diagnosis was actually what I wanted to do, because would it be helpful, but actually having somebody say, No, you do see the world in this certain way. And here are some ways that you can, you know, work to help yourself with that. It was really validating somebody saying, you know, this is how you see the world. And I think it’s kind of it’s similar with things like introversion and extraversion. I’m definitely an introvert too. It just, I remember reading, I think was a Susan Cain book ‘Quiet’. Start reading again, it makes sense, like, all of a sudden, yeah. And I think they can be really helpful in that way. When you find them limiting, find them, put them down for a while, you know, they’re not, they don’t define you what they do is kind of give you a almost like a different framework to look at the world through, I suppose.

Ruth Poundwhite 18:38
Yeah, absolutely. And I was just thinking, like, if we take this back to what we were talking about planning. And you think about there’s a way things are done, in planning, in business, in life, in productivity, whatever, there’s a way things are done. And I think thinking about Susan Kane’s book, for example, about introversion, like it was a long time ago that I read it. But as far as I remember, she talks about how we can do things differently, how we could structure things differently in the workplace, or in schools and stuff. That’s where it, it feels very useful. Because it’s like, yeah, there’s a way things are done. And there’s lots of people who benefit from the way things are generally, but there’s lots of people who, who think they can’t do a thing, because they don’t fall into that way of doing it. And there are other ways and I think that Yeah, just taking it back to kind of the planning example. That’s obviously really, really helpful that the conversation is that opened up and there’s like, I guess it’s like intersectional, planning, you know, intersectional ways of doing things that everyone has unique ways of being unique, unique needs, and you find your own way of doing things that meets all those needs, hopefully, yeah,

Kat Cuthbert 19:49
I mean, there are as many ways of doing things as there are people in the world everybody needs it slightly differently. And I think the world is set up to kind of cater for not not even necessarily the majority, but just sort of a as many people as it can for now, in, in an at least an All right, and if way, you know, like, I think actually I think it is in susan collins book she talks about how I’d like primary schools, you all sat around groups tables, which is great if you’re an extrovert, but can be really difficult if you’re an introverted kid. And so kind of you know, even back from school things are set up in a really certain way. And I think it for me, it took mental health breakdowns to figure out that that didn’t work for me at all. I think there are slightly less dramatic ways to figure out that it doesn’t work for you. But yeah, there is definitely a conversation opening up about all the different ways that they you know, the foot for you to plan your day, for example, or for you to set goals, it isn’t just the kind of standard where you need to aim really high all of the time and work until you sleep, and then you wake up and then you work again, has a much more kind of nuanced conversation opening up around that.

Ruth Poundwhite 20:50
Yeah, absolutely. Okay, so let’s move on to like, you figured out you’ve identified these needs, you’ve kind of figured out maybe a few things that you can change are ways to do things differently. How do you stick to that, because as someone who is working on this stuff, too, I find, I think it’s important to talk about the fact that it’s not just figured out, it’s not just something that is then easy to do at your way, because there’s a lot of factors at play, for example, comparing yourself to other people, and potentially the speed at which they do things, or the how loud they are whatever. Or just the fact that sometimes the dominant message, the one that can feel the loudest might be different. So how did you deal with that, just like, sticking with it, and knowing yourself and trusting yourself in moments where you might compare or feel like things are a bit noisy out there.

Kat Cuthbert 21:46
So I guess there’s two parts to it, I think, first, the, the kind of practical aspect of actually doing it and starting to implement those things is Do it slowly. And bit by bit. It’s like building a habit. If you try and build six habits all at the same time, you’re probably not going to actually manage to bring any of them in in kind of a successful, sustainable way. So when you figure out things that might be helpful for you, doing them in small doses, and then gradually building up is a way that I find helpful. So I mean, I figured out I needed naps, and then would take really long naps, but then I would just not be able to do anything for the rest of the day, because I’d kind of not overslept. But, you know, sometimes you wake up and you feel much quieter. Yeah, so it was figuring out where that kind of like that barrier was bit by bit and doing it slowly. But I suppose from the kind of comparison side of things, I think a little bit if it is learning to put blinkers on. And I don’t mean, never look at what anybody else is doing, because we’re human. And that’s what we do. But I mean, putting social media down for a bit is a huge one for me, because I know, I know that so much of the things that I assume from social media that other people are doing are not necessarily true. Like, it looks like people are doing so much. But it’s that constant thing of it’s the highlight reel on Instagram, it was you know, it always is. So finding a way to put that down as much as possible. And I think, Well, I hope that kind of thing, the benefits of starting to work in a way that works for you is something that acts as a bit more motivation to keep doing it and keep trying other things. The fact that hopefully, you’re feeling a bit better for doing that. I think it can be really difficult, especially if you’re coming from somewhere, I don’t know, maybe a corporate setting, or perhaps you know, you’ve been running a business in that hustle focused way for so long. It takes time to shift that mindset. And I think you’ve got to be quite gentle with yourself and the way that you go about doing it. It’s not It’s not something necessarily that happens overnight, because you’ve had a lifetime of doing it a different way. Yeah. And so doing it bit by bit and offering yourself a bit of self compassion as you try and figure it out. And the thing is, you’re probably going to try things and they’re not going to work for you. And that’s fine. There are other ways of achieving, you know, similar aims, I suppose. Yeah. Bit by bit, go slowly. And as I’m always hesitant to say, try not to worry too much. That’s such a difficult thing to do. But find ways that allow you to like, not have to pay too much attention to other people for a while.

Ruth Poundwhite 24:14
Yeah, yeah. And I think that Yeah, what you said makes a lot of sense to me. And it’s remembering it’s a lifetime of stuff that you’re figuring out like, or potentially unlearning, I think is really, really helpful. And just having I think the whole, like having the right communities of people and the right people to talk about it is so important. So like, I’m in a mastermind group for business. And often the conversation comes down to well, how much are you resting like, are you taking on too much right now and it comes up so often. And on the outside, like we, all of us, I think probably in our respective businesses talk about it, we preach it we you know, we encourage it. And at the same time, we’re all going through it and we all have ups and downs. Were there and we still make mistakes. And I’m, this is a podcast episode, you can’t see me doing the air quotes by mistakes with, like pushing ourselves too hard. But yeah, it’s an ongoing process and being okay with that is such a such an important thing. And one thing you mentioned is social media. And I wanted to ask you about that, because I certainly, I mean, I would say that we’ve probably both surrounded ourselves with people that, you know, get it and, and, you know, share a lot of the same views as us. But at the same time, it’s still really easy to be taken, like, get the comparison itis and all of that. And the other thing I was curious about was, you know, you’ve got a pretty decent following on Instagram, I’m pretty. Is that where you kind of you’ve built up your platform? Is that your main? Yeah. So I’m wondering like, especially as an introvert, and a disabled introvert, I should say, like, how does it affect you? Does it the energy of having the like the following that you have on social media? And potentially, your expectations of what those people expect from you? Like, how does that all impact this? And your way of working? And how do you navigate that?

Kat Cuthbert 26:20
with difficulty? I have to keep reminding myself that my business is not Instagram, because it’s so easy to get tied up into I think, yeah, it’s a tough one. And at the moment, it’s something I’m I say at the moment, it’s something I’m struggling with, I think most of the time I am in, you know, various different ways. I’m trying to not necessarily pivot what I talk about, but pivot the way that I talk about it on Instagram. And so I’m trying new types of content and new ways of communicating, which actually really worked for me. But there’s always that bit of me in the back of my head. That’s like, Yeah, but there’s all these people who are there for the journal photographs, and you’re not doing those anymore. Which can be Yeah, difficult to deal with. As far as compressing I just goes, I’m actually a really regular and follower of people.

Ruth Poundwhite 27:08
I love that.

Kat Cuthbert 27:10
It felt really naughty, the first couple of times I did it, but I realised I was following people that not necessarily were making me feel bad, but didn’t make me feel great. Or I was finding I was comparing, like my productivity level to theirs, or you know, or my kind of content or their kind of content, should I be doing better or worse. So I’m trying to with fairly, you know, with a fairly frequent kind of regularity, just go through my list and unfollow, who isn’t like adding something positive, to my Instagram world, I suppose. And sometimes, on one round, somebody can be adding something hugely positive. And then by the next round, I find that my mindset shifted, or I’m just in a bit of a weird place. And actually, I need to unfollow them for a while, and I quite frequently, unfollow and then re follow people. And it’s not there’s no, it’s not intended with any form of malice or anything like that is just purely self care in, you know, I need to be able to function, because this is how I market my business. And this is the best way for me to do that. I think,

Ruth Poundwhite 28:09
yeah, I have the same thing. And my kind of way of explaining it is literally, it’s not you, it’s me, like it’s nothing necessarily that they’re doing. It just doesn’t, for whatever reason work for me right now, or like, my mental health and good right now.

Kat Cuthbert 28:25
And it’s so often right now, it does often shift as well. And they’re almost, you know, I have my pretty much everybody, I follow online. And so, you know, I always have a huge amount of love for the work they do. It’s just not always kind of on exactly the right wavelength. For me. I think also following a lot of disabled creators is huge for me. Because there is always a conversation in those communities about the level of kind of productivity and how to navigate that as somebody who lives in a body that works a little bit differently. And, you know, I’m talking about physical disability and mental health stuff, too, both of which are like super, super helpful for me, I think, to just remind myself that the world isn’t just full of people who are doing, you know, loads and loads of stuff, and, you know, being super successful all the time, and also that there are so many different definitions of success, and that my definition of it looks different. And having that reminder from other people for whom the definition of success looks different. It’s really helpful.

Ruth Poundwhite 29:22
Yeah, yeah, I totally agree. So you mentioned something about changing the way you post in a way that works for you. What are some of the other ways like Can you think of any other examples you could share with the listeners about the way that you work and and the little like subtle or potentially big shifts you’ve made in the way that you work to suit you.

Kat Cuthbert 29:43
So to begin with, I was posting kind of flatlays of my journal with usually a post kind of, you know, a caption about like mental health or something quite personal usually, which I absolutely love doing, but as I’ve shifted kind of more towards making this a business Rather than just an Instagram, which I think is why I have to keep reminding myself that Instagram is not my business, I’m shifting more towards kind of educational stuff. And I’m trying to do it still income in a way that you know, makes sense to people and is relatable and useful. But I am a huge researcher, I absolutely love researching stuff. And I discovered about a month and a half ago that I was allowed to do that as part of my job, which was like this huge revelation of Oh my God, I can do this stuff, like, you know, as part of an important thing, I think that’s part of it, you know, important part of my life. And so I’m now starting to give myself space each week to research, whatever feels interesting. And it’s pretty much always related to work, because thankfully, I’ve managed to build a business around something that fascinates me anyway. But just giving myself a couple of hours to do research, and then gradually turning that into content. So now instead of posting photographs, I’m posting more kind of graphics and educational stuff. So carousels with more kind of text based, which is a little bit more how my brain works. I loved posting the flatlays of my journal, um, you know, probably will still post some of them. It just expanded the amount of stuff I can talk about, I think, and that feels really good. I really quite like that. Yeah, to not be as maybe I think boxing is probably the wrong word. It’s finding that balance between giving yourself a niche, and also not boxing yourself in too much. And I think it feels like it’s opened up a little bit more. And also, I can post memes now, which is, it feels a little bit more light, and like, easy to do. Bam. Yeah. Spending 20 minutes setting up a like literally flatly right. Yeah,

Ruth Poundwhite 31:37
exactly. And I think what you shared about your Instagram posts is something that can be applied to anything you do in your business really, just sitting down thinking about, okay, what’s the process that takes me from, you know, an idea to write in the post getting a photo putting out there going through any kind of process like that, that you do in your business? And asking yourself, Well, how can I make this easier for myself? How can I make this take a little bit energy of me? or How can I incorporate something I love doing like the research into the thing I’m already doing. And I just think I kind of wanted to highlight that as like people listening, there’s always ways when you sit down and think about it to shift what you’re doing. And sometimes they can be so subtle, but they can make such a huge impact. Definitely, in my experience. And actually, I wanted to ask you about your routine, because you kind of touched on your daily routine, and the way you do things I’m really curious to hear like how you’ve made that work for you.

Kat Cuthbert 32:32
I mean, to start with, it’s constantly changing. So, you know, through what we’ve talked about, about figuring out what works for you how you work. It’s kind of an ever changing thing I’ve discovered it’s not, you know, there are some core things like you know, we’ve talked about being an introvert and that’s, that’s something that’s not going to shift. Yeah, but things like my energy levels over the day, are constantly changing, which is really annoying, I wish they would stay the same. But it’s okay, because I’m figuring out a way to kind of make that work. So I feel in a way, like I’m constantly testing new ways of doing it. So this week, I’m trying to be up earlier, work in the morning, and then have the afternoon off. And it’s been moderately successful. And I’m kind of hoping to continue that for a bit. But I also know that in a few weeks time, that might not work for me anymore, and I need to shift that. So I’m somebody who sits in a really strange place between I need, like routine and reminders. But I need it to be flexible too. Which sounds like two contradictory things. But it is possible, I think, I think it means a little bit adjusting how you approach it each day even. So some days, I’ll use time blocking, because I just need that constant like now you’re doing this now you’re doing this, now you’re doing this, you’ve got an hour for this specific thing. And at some days, I find that really helpful. And other days, it’s much more right you’re working tential to and here is the list of tasks you need to get done in that time. So it’s really allowing yourself to be flexible in that way. And I think that’s why using something like a bullet journal and not you know, I don’t pre planned spreads, I can’t use a pre planned journal particularly well because I need to be so flexible. So I have practically I have two journals, I have my bullet journal, which tends to hold tasks and like big monthly events that I’ve got coming up it’s where like lists of stuff go or if I need to remember something or if I have a business meeting with my other half for example. But then I have a planner which allows me to it’s like pre printed with tight with like the time down vertically, so I can time block but only on the days that I need to and at the moment it’s been very few days but at the end of last year I was doing it almost every day. So it’s just allowing yourself to be flexible and I think some peace some journals that I see are so beautiful and beautifully set out and I would feel so guilty if I spent all of that time setting it up and then never used it because I needed it to be flexible. So this is kind of like scrappy, not half hearted but I’m not all in on one way of planning really, really helps me Be flexible with that. So yeah, it’s a mishmash. Sounds it’s not particularly great advice. I suppose that it but it works, it’s possible to have that kind of routine and flexibility. At the same time,

Ruth Poundwhite 35:11
I feel the same, I really resonate, I feel the same. And I talked to people, one of the things that comes up a lot for me is, how do you stay consistent posting on social media. And I’ve realised that I need to have routine with it, I need to otherwise it stresses me out. Otherwise, it takes up space in my brain thinking I need to think of something to post or I need to decide what I’m going to post. So I do now have a schedule. And I do write things ahead of time. But it’s never set in stone. And it can always change at the last minute, I can always write something if I feel like it, or I can always take some time off if I feel like it. And at the same with my planning, I really resonate with what you said about sometimes time blocking, like, I can go months using like a plan I really, really like properly. And then at the moment, I’m not really using anything like that. And I’m just like, it’s really interesting. And I’ve been thinking about this a lot, because one of my kind of values for my business is definitely freedom. And freedom for me means, well, a big part of it is flexibility. And one thing I’ve found in like building the business as I have is that I’ve had less and less flexibility because I’ve had more and more like specific calls in my calendar. So I’ve been working a lot to think about, okay, well, how can I How can I bring flexibility in in other ways, and often flexibility, ironically, to me looks like schedule and routine. But in a way, Oh, it’s so hard to describe like, this is just what you were saying basically, but it’s like, I need something being flexible. For me. Having a wide open calendar and not playing at all does not work. It just like creates anxiety, basically. And overwhelm overwhelm is my big problem if you don’t plan anything. But it’s just like, yeah, how do I create a schedule that can be changed that can be tweaked that. And that’s the thing, I always remind myself, whatever I decide now doesn’t have to be the way it is an even with client calls. This is a big one. And I know people listening will think Well, you can’t change things like that, because you’re putting someone else out. But I do I do tweak it. And I try not to do it all the time, obviously. I mean, even as we speak, we’ve rescheduled this call several times, right. Sometimes you just got to do it. But

Kat Cuthbert 37:24
I think Yeah, as long as you you know, as long as you’re upfront about the fact that that’s the way that you run your business, I don’t think there’s a problem with that. I think as long as people know, and then you’re going to be attracting people to the business who work in a similar way to you, which is exactly what you want anywhere. Yeah, there’s kind of a way I talk about routine in that it’s, I say that it’s like the it’s almost like the clothes horse that you hang the fabric of your day on. So it’s not, it isn’t like, it isn’t everything, but it just gives it shape. It kind of gives you that, I suppose it gives you the flexibility to kind of move things around. But like you say, having a whole day open, I don’t know what I’m going to do. You know, if everything is completely free, I need to have a few things in whether they are like scheduled call for somebody else, or whether it’s Oh, you need to complete this bit of work today. It really helps to just fit everything else around. And if the rest of the day looks fairly flexible, then you know, that works. Brilliant. Yeah, it’s just figuring out those kind of, excuse me, those small ways that you need to move through the world, I suppose.

Ruth Poundwhite 38:23
Yeah, yeah. And and when we were talking about what we’re going to talk about today, one of the questions that you said you had for me was how do I run my business in a way that works with my natural tendencies rather than against them? And it just brought up for me one of the other ways that I do this is, and this is, I mean, when this episode goes out, people listening, if you go back a couple of episodes, I interviewed volume, a mass about building a team and outsourcing and honestly, that is so helpful, because it brings some, it brings a layer of sort of stability. And what’s the word? I don’t know, some sort of structure, it brings a layer of structure, but it so within that, you know, I have to get like my social media post to my social media manager, I have to get my work to my VA that she’s working on a course I’m setting up whatever forces me. So although this is kind of going against my natural tendencies, it forces me to be more organised. But actually, that, for me is best for me, like, that’s what I’ve learned. But I can do that my own way as long as they have it by a certain time. But that has helped me a lot. And I know that for some people, they might think that sounds like the opposite of what we’re talking about. But for me, it’s helped me so much. Basically, taking things out of my own head, helps me so much with my energy levels. And it helps me get in that flow state, actually, that we talked about earlier, having less stuff in my head and building a team. Definitely a good one for that.

Kat Cuthbert 39:54
It’s interesting that you talk about that. I’ve been looking a lot recently about how I suppose we get stuff out of our head, I think we hold a lot of stuff in our brains all of the time. And like working memory is notoriously unreliable. And I suppose maybe this is a bit of a tenuous link, but to kind of idea generation almost, you need kind of a free brain to think of new things and be creative. And brains can’t distinguish between something that you’ve actually gets to. Let me roll back a minute brains don’t like open tasks, you’ve got something that’s incomplete, your brain is going to keep going back to it and thinking about it. Once you complete that task, then it’s off your table, and you’re free to not think about it anymore. But brains can’t distinguish between things have actually been completed and things you’ve just written down and postponed for another date. And so I wonder, in a way, if you having this team was a little bit, you’re kind of postponing those things to them, you don’t have to hold them in your brain anymore, you know, you’re paying somebody else to have that in their brain, it gives you more space and freedom and flexibility, like we’ve been talking about to have your days, however you need them. Obviously, it takes time, you know, time that you would have been spending yourself on those things, too. So it just physically gives you more time. But it also frees up your brain a little bit, I think to start doing, you know, the bits that you are good at. And you can give the bits that somebody else is good at to them too. So it’s Yeah, it’s interesting that that’s kind of, I don’t know, it’s sort of related in my brain a little bit to what I’ve been thinking about around idea generation and freeing up space for ourselves. Yeah, in our brains.

Ruth Poundwhite 41:23
I mean, the the end goal, and what I was speaking about with philomene was like, basically, the end goal is for you to work within your zone of genius, or your zone of magic, and to have support for the other stuff. And obviously, not everyone listening and not me either is in that position where everything that you do is your zone of genius, and you get support with everything else. But that’s kind of the goal. And that’s what I think that because there’s a whole, like, there’s a lot of talk about doing less to like doing less than your business, and still achieving the things that you want to achieve whatever that looks like. And I think a lot of that is about being supported. I think that’s important part of the conversation, not necessarily because I know that having a team is not the goal of everyone. But definitely, certainly if you’re not having a team, it’s it’s certainly being really discerning about the work that you do. And like where you focus your time and energy.

Kat Cuthbert 42:16
Absolutely. It’s figuring out the things that you know, those states where you are more likely to get into a flow state, but also, if you know if it’s the right way, and you can figure out all of those smaller things without another person that brilliant, maybe that’s the right way to run a business for you. There’s another point I’ve been making I’ve completely it’s completely off the top of my head.

I’ve lost it difficult,

Ruth Poundwhite 42:40
maybe never comes back. But yeah, no, I think it’s really, really useful to talk about all this. And I think, is there anything else you want to say on the general topic, subject of this? Because I think I’ve asked all my questions. But yeah, on the general topic of working around your own tendencies, is there anything else you want to add for the people listening?

Kat Cuthbert 43:00
I think you know, what we’ve talked about a lot with kind of journaling, and really listening to that gut instinct around things is super important. But also kind of zoom like, in a bigger way, figuring out your motivations behind things can be super helpful, too. Because sometimes, you know, for example, most days, I need to take a nap. But perhaps if I am one of those days where I’ve somehow zoomed in on a thing that I’m super passionate about, I can spend the entire day like hyper focused and going with that. So figuring out the ways that you need to work as opposed to figuring out the ways that you need to work. But it’s also that kind of figuring out what your motivations are, what the bigger kind of picture is, and that why around things. And so sometimes that’s, you know, you’re going to have to shift. And maybe it’s a bit of give and take kind of compromise with those needs occasionally as well. It’s allow yourself to be flexible, and figure out what is important, I suppose are the big two, like, wider bits of advice I have.

Ruth Poundwhite 44:01
Yeah, yeah. I love that. And, and like you said, I think that journaling has been like instrumental for me in figuring that stuff out. So, so important.

Kat Cuthbert 44:09
It’s a really great way to kind of gradually learn to get in touch with yourself. And absolutely, you know, I’d had therapy and seen psychiatrists and stuff. And so for so long, I was very much like, I don’t need to do that. You know, I know all this stuff about myself. But it really is putting it in your own words in your own way. And learning what your own kind of signals that you need something different. That’s something that no one else can teach you. That’s something you’ve got to figure out for yourself. Yeah.

Ruth Poundwhite 44:33
And what you said about gut instinct, I cannot tell you how many times I can like I’ve been going with my gut feeling on stuff lately and it has been paying off and it’s just like, I’m really really interested by the whole gut feeling stuff and I’ve tried to find like research about it and there is like research that says you know it is it isn’t just like magic. It comes from you know, your own experience, but it it obviously takes a certain level of self awareness. And self trust to allow yourself to firstly access that gut feeling. And secondly, actually go ahead with it, like, based on Choose your action based on it. But yeah, it has, it’s like quite fun actually. I’ve just been like, what’s my gut telling me about this? I just go with it. And it’s like, yeah, that’s the right thing. Or, you know, it’s just so interesting.

Kat Cuthbert 45:18
It’s like, it’s that kind of like combination of experience. And you know, what you’ve experienced in the past? Yeah. comes to you as this gut feeling, as it were, you know, we can talk about intuition and stuff. That’s a similar thing, I think. Yeah. Whenever I’m, like struggling with gut instinct stuff, I come back to a lot of the stuff that you’ve written and go, okay, we can do this. So I’m going to figure out a way of doing it. Because I’ve just never done it before I’d spent my entire life completely ignoring my gut instinct, because it was what I was told I needed to do. Yeah. And then so to kind of spend time trying to listen to it, it feels really vulnerable. It’s a really, you know, it can be a jarring experience. But it’s really like, if you’ve never done it before, it feels so strange.

Ruth Poundwhite 45:56
But I think it feels dangerous. If I think it can feel dangerous. Yes, yeah. Yeah. Like, or what’s the word? Silly.

Kat Cuthbert 46:07
Yeah. Silly to her. I think also, because we describe things as intuition. They tend to be kind of like, female coded, I suppose, feminine as it were, which can sometimes, I don’t know, feel a bit dangerous, I think getting more recently into kind of like the EU side of things as well. And that has that same kind of silly feeling. Yeah. But it feels super important to do at the same time. Yeah, I think because we, you know, we value like logic and reason. Yeah, above other things. And so to kind of say, Oh, well, I’ve gone with my gut instinct feels really opposite. So it does, yeah, it can be an interesting thing to try out.

Ruth Poundwhite 46:42
And the thing about logic, and reason is that your brain can be very logical about things that actually are not facts. If you saw me like, okay, I want to start a podcast or something, your brain can come up with lots of valid reasons to not do the thing that you want to do. So money, and sometimes the gut. So basically, what a gut feeling is, is is your body saying something to you before your brain? Like

Kat Cuthbert 47:07
unflattering talks about it? Yeah,

Ruth Poundwhite 47:08
exactly. It’s actually very useful in many ways. And your brain is not always right.

Kat Cuthbert 47:13
Yes, no, often, often brains are wrong. Unfortunately, they’re very good at coming up with logical reasons why you shouldn’t do things very, very good. Sometimes. Yeah, exactly. Listening to like gut instinct that comes in before your brain can give you. Yeah, a bit more of a gauge on what it is you actually feel about the thing before you’re then covered up with plenty of reasons that you shouldn’t be doing anything?

Ruth Poundwhite 47:33
Definitely. Okay. Right. I’m going to ask you a final question. I picked this question at random. And it is, when was the last time you cried and why.

Kat Cuthbert 47:43
The last time I cried was yesterday. And we had a chat about this, and so on your Instagram stories.

So it’s, excuse me, it’s the first time I’ve been a bit candid about that in a while, I think I had had a good morning, I had got some decent worked. And I’d written some notes for some meetings that I had coming up. And then I tried to. I tried to create social media posts, and my brain had just been like, Nope, not doing this. I think I was having what I termed a particularly autistic day, in that some days, my brain just really does not deal with change at all. And it doesn’t like when things aren’t rational. My other half had noticed that was getting a bit snappy, because like, I had wanted to do three hours of work in between nine and 12. So obviously, that makes perfect sense. But you know, life happens, you’ve got to go make a cup of tea or like the postman comes, or, you know, so I found myself getting more and more frustrated, and which turned into me having a big old cry about why wouldn’t things work the way that I wanted them to work. And a large part of it came from the social media stuff. Because I had all of these ideas. I couldn’t put them. I couldn’t make them into a thing. So it was a cry of frustration, a productive cry, and afterwards I did no afterwards. I didn’t feel better, but this morning, I feel better. I think sometimes you’ve kind of just got to let it leave your body physically.

Ruth Poundwhite 49:04
Absolutely. Yeah. Crying literally is stuff like home. Yeah, something right. Leaving your body.

Kat Cuthbert 49:12
Like Yeah, there is a theory that it’s that I for me, I say that it’s it’s just emotions, because I don’t necessarily have like, they’re not always nuanced. Sometimes. They just come out with my eyes. I don’t know. with them, you know? But um, yeah, I love I want to read more about that, actually, because I think it is, like hormones coming out. It’s almost like your body has too much stuff in so we’re going to shove it out your eyes.

Unknown Speaker 49:31

Ruth Poundwhite 49:31
Thank you. Thank you for sharing so openly about that and about everything. I think a lot of people are going to resonate with this say thank you.

Kat Cuthbert 49:39
Thank you. It’s been lovely.

Ruth Poundwhite 49:41
And if you want to find out more about cat and her work, you can find her on Instagram at books of notes, and at books of notes dot code at UK. Thank you so much for listening to another episode of creatively human. If you have a moment I’d be so grateful. If you could rate In Review the podcast it really does make a difference. And if you’d like to carry on the conversation or ask a question for a future q&a episode, there are three ways to connect with me on the Facebook group on Instagram at Ruth Poundwhite or my personal favourite, my behind the scenes newsletter. Just go to Ruth poundwhite.com forward slash newsletter to subscribe and keep doing what you’re doing because your work really does matter.

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Show Notes

Today I’m chatting with Kat Cuthbert all about working with your own tendencies. Kat describes herself as a messy-brained planner, writer and mental health advocate who helps other messy-brained, imperfect humans find space to breathe in their work and life through online courses, workshops and workbooks. Her approach is rooted in gentle, realistic self-development and creating a life with plenty of flex.

We chat about planning and working in a way that puts your unique needs at the centre, working with chronic illness and disability, and creating flexibility within a structure that works for you. I know a lot of you will resonate with this conversation, and I hope it gives you permission to choose your own way of planning & doing business.

“It’s not a bad thing to know where your limits are” – Kat Cuthbert

Some of the things we talked about:

  • On planning & doing business differently
  • Acceptance of & working with chronic illness
  • Becoming aware of & supporting your unique needs as a human
  • Navigating the energy & expectations of social media
  • Creating flexibility within a structure that works for you

Links from this episode:

Other episodes you might like:

“What works for you & how you work is an ever-changing thing – Kat Cuthbert

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When you subscribe to updates you get access to 3 bonus episodes of the podcast – exclusively for email subscribers – that dive behind the scenes of my business (I talk about failures, money, community & more!)