Weekly reflections 3

This has been a big week for us:

  1. We’ve made some changes at home and no longer have the 3-times-a-week nanny we had since the kids were 3. I had to arrange transport to collect my kids from school and drop them off at home. I felt a little silly telling the owner of the company that we are a mere 250m from the school gate but the truth is I don’t feel comfortable having them walk home and cross a very, very busy street by themselves and if they have after-school activities that end after 3, then it’s a 20-minute walk across two busy streets.
  2. Additionally, we used a cleaning service this week for the first time ever. It was excellent in terms of set up, payment, and knowing what was expected, but I realised on Thursday night that I hadn’t left enough during the day check-up time. We have booked the same cleaner weekly so I will brief better this week and then we should be good. But she was lovely and open, and did an outstanding job on the house overall.
  3. Work-wise was a bit crazy. I realised that I needed to put some boundaries back into place which I have now done, and by the end of the week, I ended on a good note.
  4. I finished reading two 5* books this week. As I type this, I realise how amazing it is to read not only two 5* books in a month, but in a week! Here’s my Goodreads list for this year. I finished Untamed by Glennon Doyle and Cosy: The British Art of Comfort by Laura Weir.
  5. And last but not least, I went back to Spanish this week. I was astounded by how my body remembered things my mind was sure it had forgotten. I honestly thought it would take me 1 -2 months to get back to where I was as I didn’t go back for the three months Spanish was in session last year (too much work with the promotion).

Do you still feel those New Year vibes? Or are those long forgotten?

How to choose your word of the year

If you’ve been around awhile, you’ll know that I have chosen a word of the year for a long time, in fact, every year since 2008. This is year 15! If you scroll down to the end of this post, you’ll see a list of all my previous words.

Gretchen and Elizabeth, on the Happier Podcast, use either a word or theme for the year. 

It’s all good; the idea is that your word will guide you, inspire you and motivate you.

So how do you chose a word? There are many ways – also, let’s be honest, sometimes my word has come to me in a flash, sometimes it’s taken a few weeks of pondering, sometimes I think I have it and I change it at the last minute when “trying on” my word doesn’t feel right, and sometimes I’ve known months in advance.


Here are some thoughts and questions which I hope will guide you.

  1. Your word can be more than one word; it can be a phrase or even a short sentence.
  2. Your word should call you to something (perhaps you want to create more of something in your life that is currently lacking)
  3. What do you need? What do you want? How do you want to feel? What do you think is lacking in your life? That may be your word.
  4. Your word doesn’t have to be cool or trendy. One year (the year after my twins were born) my word was consolidate (seemingly the most boring word of all) because I needed to get back to basics in myself, home and routines.
  5. Your word might feel like it is the exact opposite of who you are. Go with it. Last year my word was play. Playful is not who I am naturally but I needed some lightheartedness from the pandemic.
  6. Is there an area of your life that could use an extra boost? You might need a word just for your work or for your family.

(at this point, some of you already know what your word is but some need more help)

Here’s what to do:

  1. Reflect on 2021 – what worked, what didn’t, what needs to change, what do you want more/ less of?
  2. Write these answers down on paper.
  3. Look over your answers and see the words that seem to pop out. Or, see if any themes emerge (maybe there’s a lot pointing to health, or to taking charge, or boundaries).
  4. Write down all the possible words. Do you land on one that resonates deeply? Great. If not, keep looking. Check for synonyms in the dictionary.
  5. When it feels like you have your word, share it with a friend. Does it feel right?  Great. If not, maybe sit with it for a few days.
  6. Remember this is a moment in time. You can change your word anytime. A podcaster lost her dad and changed her word in September because she said, “now is the time of restoration for me”.

Please share your word with me; I love to hear everyone’s words!

Weekly reflection 2

hello friends, please enjoy a photo of stationery ๐Ÿ˜‰ My red Moleskine is in the middle flanked by my current bullet journal on the left and one I’ll use later in the year on the right.

Do you have a diary or a bullet journal to show me? I’d love to see!

  • I went back to work! It was not bad considering there was a bit of a deluge of emails as there always is after a break. Still, my word of the year for work, balance, is serving me well and I worked reasonable hours.
  • The kids went back to school on Wednesday. This is their last year of primary school ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Of course, there were books to cover but… I delegated the easy books and worked with them on the hardcovers so we were done in 40 minutes on night 1. No-one is more surprised than I am.
  • Speaking of back to ______, I went back to Zumba on Wednesday night too and was reminded once again why I never miss class. It’s awful getting fitness back after any time away. Thankfully, yesterday morning’s class felt much, much better so I’m hoping this Wednesday all is back to normal.
  • I finished reading a fantastic book this week called Mary Jane. This was the first book I read by this author and I can’t wait to dive into her backlist. If you like reading, I highly, highly recommend reading Mary Jane on audio – 5 fantastic stars. My reading goal this year is 100 and I’ve read 7 books to date. Here is my instagram post about this book.
  • I realised on my first morning back to work that a crick in my neck is actually from my laptop being too low on my desk. I have now raised it and bought a gorgeous wireless keyboard which I’m hoping will help.

How was your week?

My word of the year recap for 2021 – play

My word of the year for 2021 was play and for the most part it was a good word in that it invited me to hold things loosely and to choose play over work sometimes.

Let me share what play looked like for me in 2021:

  • I redid a photography course from 2012, Superhero Photo, and loved it. I also brought my big camera with me on holidays and intentionally played with it a lot. I also found some old cameras which I also used – sometimes it’s freeing to only have to focus on composition and how pleasing framing is to the eye, and nothing else.
  • I went on intentional photo drives during autumn and winter, my favourite seasons.
  • I read 152 books, 43 of them audio, which is a particularly playful way of reading for me as I so enjoy a well-narrated book. The question, “what sounds like play?” became very important.
  • On that note, I did Gretchen’s #read21in2021 and cleared 32 books from my non-fiction bookshelf. I’m going to write some more on this because I learned so many useful things about my project style.
  • We went on four holidays – Drakensberg, Clarens (twice) and Ballito.
  • I brought back 1:1 dates with the kids.
  • I watched the most TV I’ve ever watched in my entire life – Nine Perfect Strangers, Kim’s Convenience, Marriage Contract, Lula Rich, Mare of Eastown, and Grace and Frankie for the second time, amongst others.
  • I went to Zumba at three different gyms, chasing the most fun classes.
  • I did Susannah Conway’s three photo challenges – April Love, August Break and December Reflections, and Laura Tremaine’s May photo challenge too.
  • I went to the ballet with two friends – one of the highlights of my year.

All in all, a good year of play.

I have chosen a new word for this year and I will tell you all about it next week ๐Ÿ˜‰

How was your 2021 word? Do you feel like you lived it out enough? How can I help you more?

(I am planning to write at least one more blog post, maybe two, on how to make your word real to you in a practical way).

Weekly reflection 1 and a writing practice

First sunset of the new year!

I really want to get back to enjoying writing and blogging like I used to, so hopefully in addition to “proper” posts, I will also get into the swing of some fun posts like this one.

  1. Happy New Year! We were away from home for New Year’s which was different but also surprisingly relaxing. I did exactly what I do on a normal evening, which is go to bed and read, and fall asleep when I’m tired. I looked at my watch and it was 10:30 ๐Ÿ™‚
  2. I had a stomach bug when I got back to Joburg that knocked me out for two days. Annoyingly, I kept saying for days afterwards, “it’s so nice to eat food and have it stay down” but it really is good when bodies work how they’re meant to.
  3. Our dance classes are not fully back yet so I had to cobble together a dance class yesterday. On the bright side, I have already booked my classes for the week ahead. Yay!
  4. The minute I was better, I had three long and lovely friend dates – a two-hour chat with a neighbour, a four-hour chat with a friend (we usually meet on her birthday but I was away so said, “I’m taking a rain check because our date is always a highlight during the end-of-year period” and another two and a half hour phone call with yet another friend. As an extrovert, it was glorious!
  5. Our kids are now 12.5. Some of you will remember me doing half birthday celebrations in the old days when they were small. Since there have been no parties for two years, we took them for cake as a half-birthday treat.
  6. I’ve spent some good time in the last week putting away 2021 and refreshing my desk and notebooks for 2022. What does this mean? Putting up new calendars, my “22 for 2022” list and my “rest 22 in 2022” tracker. I also looked through my old bullet journal to see if there were any lists I needed to transfer to my new bullet journal (there were!) and set up my 2022 diary.
  7. The kids are back to school this week and… they did their own sorting out of stationery. I love pretty stationery, of course, but checking 8 ballpoint pens off against a list is something they can do for themselves. I delegated, handed over the labels and wished them well. The only things we had to buy were glue sticks (always glue sticks!) and reams of paper. I can’t promise that I’ll be hands-off with the wrapping of the books in plastic covers but this part felt good.

How was your week?

A tiny little update and … Merry Christmas!

I know it’s been so quiet around here.

I’m here but I’ve just been working way too much and too hard. I finished work yesterday which means I finally have mental space to think about the other parts of my life that also bring me joy, like this blog.

If you want to keep up with mostly daily updates, follow my personal, organising or reading accounts on Instagram.

I’m toying with an idea of writing for 5 – 10 minutes for every day in January just to get me out of the habit of not writing. It will take 3 days at this rate to create a blog post but that’s fine; there’s nothing wrong with the outcome happening slower.

On another note, did you hear Gretchen Rubin’s podcast on Wednesday? The 2022 challenge is on rest – perfectly, perfectly timed. And I may just kickstart it with a little writing which is restful for me.

I want to tell you so much – how the 2021 challenge went, how my 2021 word of the year went, what my 2022 word is, and so on, but there’s plenty of time for all that in the next couple of weeks.

For now, thank you for being you, thank you for reading and let me wish you a very, merry Christmas!

A tribute to my friend, Suzanne

Outside the Old Town Jail in Stirling, Scotland

On the night before we went on holiday last month, I saw an email linking to a Facebook status update.

I tapped through and read that my friend, Suzanne, had died. Of course I couldn’t believe it – we are the same age and she was SO full of life. How can this be? I kept asking myself.

Suzy’s mom and I are instagram friends so I sent her a direct voice note to check my understanding because the message was (typically) Suzanne and maybe (hopefully) I’d misinterpreted the odd message. But indeed, Suzy had died from the Delta variant of Covid-19.

Instead of wallowing in the sadness that is the enormous loss of her life, I thought I’d write about the Suzanne I knew.

  1. Suzanne was one of my first real friends that I made on the internet in the good old days of blogging when we would actually reach out to strangers after commenting on each others’ blogs.
  2. She was a veteran podcaster and her first podcast was called Let’s Talk Organizing (in the old days, we listened on our computers).
  3. One day I sent her an email, announced that Dion and I would be visiting Scotland and if she was ready for her next visit, maybe we could spend a few days together. She crunched her numbers and we made it work. We met up in Stirling, Scotland for 3 wonderful days in 2008.
  4. We wrote a free ebook together with Beth Dargis and Ariane Benefit, 100 Surefire ways to organize your busy life, and Suzy and I wrote a course together too, How to be a professional organizer.
  5. My favourite piece of organising advice from Suzanne is “don’t put it down; put it away”. I wrote more in this post.
  6. Four years ago, she interviewed me for her new podcast, So Suzy. Here’s the post. Fun fact – after I appeared on the podcast, she sent me a thank-you pack of so many pens and that is how I was introduced to Papermate Inkjoy gel pens ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ I still have a few of the pens from that original pack.
  7. I also had the opportunity to give her some advice. Here’s her desk after she took up my challenge.
Typical Suzy ๐Ÿ™‚

More than all that, I knew Suzanne to be a happy, optimistic and extremely fun person who always made me think I could do things and encouraged me when I wasn’t sure. She also taught me through her own life that changing your mind and moving onto new things don’t have to be scary but are often necessary actions for growth.

We had some hard conversations too but she always had a can-do attitude and was a great problem-solver.

I am so glad and honoured that I had the opportunity to meet and know Suzanne, and I’m thankful that I can still connect to her through her mama!

Thanks for reading, friends. Do any of you remember Suzanne from the good old days of blogging?

Loch Lomond – so cold and so beautiful

How to use the one-minute rule at work

We’ve spoken before about the one-minute rule. We also talked about ways to use this rule at home.

What about at work?

Here’s how you can use the one-minute rule…

with your emails

  • if you’ve opened and read the email, and don’t need to refer back to it, delete it ๐Ÿ™‚
  • if you need to delegate, forward it so that other people can work on it while you go through the rest of your inbox
  • decide there and then on your next action step and quickly type into the beginning of the subject line READ/ MEETING/ TALK TO ___ so that when you’re ready to work, you know exactly what to do next

in meetings

I like to write my meeting notes on the top 70 – 80% of the page and leave the bottom section for actions, OR sometimes there’s so much being said, I just write notes and later as we summarise, I allocate actions and I write the initials of the person in the margin. Now for the rule…

  • do your quick actions in one-minute bites immediately after a meeting
  • many actions are multi-step actions but you can always do the very first step even if that first step is just to allocate a block of time to work through the actions (“actions from XYZ meeting”)

with daily or weekly planning

  • if you’re a daily planner, start the next day’s to-do list page and keep it ready
  • as things pop up, add them to your list so you don’t have to keep it in your head or on random sticky notes in your notebook
  • the same principle works for weekly planning but since I don’t know if I need two more pages to close off the week or eight, I use a long post-it note for next week’s actions. When I’m then ready to make my actual weekly list, I have all my priorities in one place.

How do you already use the one-minute rule at work? Can you think of where you could use it?

How to use the one-minute rule at home

Have you heard about the one-minute rule? Even if you haven’t heard it referred to as such, I’m 100% sure you know of it.

What is the one-minute rule?

You take one minute to do something now rather than putting it on a list (mental or physical) to do later.

Why does the one-minute rule work?

It is quicker to take the time to do it now rather than in the long run because you have momentum.

Yes, it is sometimes annoying to take 60 extra seconds but I love thinking about my future self not doing something later ๐Ÿ™‚

Let’s talk about some examples in your home:

Kitchen

  • Put food items away and wipe down the counter before having your meal
  • Take freezer items out when you think about your evening meal
  • After your shopping is packed away, take your reusable bags to your car or put next to the front door immediately. Don’t expect to remember them later – we all have friends with 27 bags in their kitchens that keep buying more when they’re at the grocery store.

Bathrooms

  • Spray down your basin and give it a quick clean with a sponge or those new-to-me cloths with microfibre on the one side and a scourer on the other.
  • While you’re at it, give your toilet a quick swish and swipe (a la Flylady)
  • Hang up your towels and put your laundry in the hamper immediately after showering rather than later

Lounge

  • Take a minute to straighten the cushions and put the remotes and coasters back in position rather than having to straighten up the following day.
  • Take all the mugs and glasses (and plates, if you allow eating in the lounge!) back to the kitchen.

Where do you use the one-minute rule at home currently? Can you think of some examples where this might work for you?

Are you using your Tendency?

If you follow me on Instagram, especially on my bookstagram account, marciareadsalot, you’ll know that I’m doing a project called #read21in2021, Gretchen Rubin’s 2021 habits project.

The idea is simple – you read every day for 21 minutes. The execution is not always that simple though.

Let’s talk through the Tendencies on a high level and see how each tendency might approach a project like this:

Rebel
If the Rebel decides that they identify as a reader, and they want to read more, they will change the project to suit them. My son told me it sounded fine but he would read for 25 minutes a day, not 21 minutes. He didn’t even keep it up for a week at first but he reads nothing for a week or two… and then he’ll read one book every day for weeks on end. Swings, roundabouts ๐Ÿ™‚

Questioner
This person will need to understand why they’d want to do something like this project. If they can’t see anything they’d like to change about their reading life or why they might want to do such a project, they wouldn’t even start.

Obliger
The Obliger will stick with the project if they do it with someone and hold each other accountable, or if they buddy read specific books with a friend. If left to their own devices, they might battle with justifying the “me time” for reading.

Upholder
Upholders love a project. Since this project comes with 365 little boxes to cross off, even better. Once an upholder decides how they would approach this project, they would figure out the best time of day and get to it.

I’m an upholder. Upholders also need to constantly check in with themselves that they’re still enjoying things and that they’re not blindly following along.  

This year Iโ€™m reading non-fiction from my physical (mostly) and Kindle shelves.

Do you know why this is working for me?

I change the type of books – dense, action-oriented, memoir, Christian non-fiction, etc. – and never read two of the same type of non-fiction one after the other.

I also read for exactly 21 minutes and not a minute longer (I set a timer! isn’t this very upholder-ish?!) unless a few extra minutes will result in a finished book. This means I never get bored and the task doesnโ€™t feel overwhelming.

 I swop around between physical and Kindle. If I look through my physical bookshelf and Iโ€™m not in the mood for anything on that shelf, I check my Kindle. Sometimes I even check Scribd – there may be a book I own which is in an audio format that I might prefer.

 In the 9 months I’ve been doing this project, I’ve already read 22 (of 113 total) books. I hope to make it 30 by the end of this year, and continue into next year to finally finish all the non-fiction on my actual, physical bookshelf.

Did you spy this book on the shelf above? ๐Ÿ˜‰

This is a post bout a reading project but it’s really about any project or habit.

If you want to get anything done or create a habit, it’s important to eliminate your own stumbling blocks and figure out what might get your project/ habit moving again.

I do offer laser coaching Four Tendencies sessions so if youโ€™re interested, email me and let’s get you set up.ย 

Meanwhile, do tell me how you’re using your Tendency in your reading life. I love to talk books and reading, and I love to hear from you!

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