{Marcia reads} How is your phone changing you?

I read a great book in February called, 12 ways your phone is changing you by Tony Reinke. I actually listened to this book on audio while driving to work but you might want to get it on Kindle so you can highlight and make notes.

Yes, it’s one of those where you want to take notes.

This book was great, so full of nuggets and things to think about.

I think the author is a questioner on the Four Tendencies framework.

What I loved is that there was no “this is how it must be done” but lots of facts, research, and questions to make you think about your own habits in each of the 12 areas. It had a very balanced view and is refreshingly full of solid Bible teaching without being preachy.

 

A few questions I wrote down while driving:

  • Are you reading more or less books as a result of you being on social media?
  • Am I a digital busybody or am I genuinely curious?
  • Does my digital art dim glory or reflect His glory? Sometimes we want our glory now instead of waiting for eternal glory.
  • Are we digital narcissists?

I actually feel like I need a re-listen, this time with a notebook in hand 🙂

Ultimately, this book is a call to live a more intentional and purposeful life in the arena of smartphone usage.

If you have a niggle that your phone might be taking over in a number of areas of your life, I’d urge you to give this one a read.

I have spoken before about how we could all be reading more, for instance, if we took just some of our social media time every week and used that time to read.

So this is going to make me think some more about my phone usage.

Where do you feel your phone usage is negatively impacting your life? Are you more anxious? Do you procrastinate on work? Do you default to your phone when your kids are annoying you? 🙂

Why you should have an essentials-only budget

  Now and again, I like to do a little financial experiment, which I call an essentials-only budget.

Usually I have a zero-based budget which means that every R is accounted for, whether to an actual expense like groceries or to a savings account.

Because of this zero-based budget, there is never any money left over at the end of the month and, in fact, I also have a little quirk where if there is some spending money left, I transfer it out of my account to my savings account so that there’s no “old money” left before payday.

Now let’s talk about an essentials-only budget.

If, for some reason, you or your spouse/ partner lost your job, your budget would look very different. Some expenses would fall away and you’d get back to basics, or essentials.

This is the essentials-only budget.

When I took a sabbatical from work four years ago, I worked off my EO budget. I stopped adding to my savings account because I was drawing down from my savings instead. I wasn’t tithing because I had no income except for a tiny bit from my online courses and interest on my savings accounts.

Our petrol usage reduced, groceries stayed about the same but because I had a closer eye on things, we weren’t buying a lot of junk, and I also reduced my personal care & clothes spending. The house and both cars were paid off, but we still had expenses like gym, insurance, school fees, and so on.

In short, my essentials budget ended up being about 35% of my actual budget.

So why would you want to do a budget like this while you’re employed?

  • It gives you a clear and accurate idea of what you actually need to bring in to live on
  • It also shows you how much you could do without
  • It gives you peace of mind – I’ve done this exercise every couple of years for about 10 years, and each time the amount is far less than I anticipate
  • If you’re planning an emergency fund (I highly recommend it, and it’s the reason I took the sabbatical in the first place because I had money saved), you have an actual amount of savings to work towards. The financial experts recommend 3 – 6 months; I recommend about 2 months longer than a recruitment agent thinks it would take for you to be placed 🙂

I recently did my essentials-only budget and this time, it’s 51% of my actual budget. That’s mostly due to the new house!

It’s still a very useful exercise to do, if nothing else but to set your mind at ease.

Over to you.

Do you budget? Do you do zero-based budgeting? Have you ever done an essentials-only budget?

Where are your yellow flags showing up?

One Sunday morning a few years ago I was enjoying a mug of tea while reading blogs.

I happened upon a friend’s blog where she mentioned her hard drive crashed and she lost everything. Fortunately for her, her husband backs up weekly.

Right there and then (I didn’t even finish reading her post!), I got up, fetched my external hard drive and backed up my computer.

You see, my computer had been running a bit slow and that, for me, is a yellow flag.

The next thing that would happen is that programmes would stop responding and one day I’d find a blue screen or something similarly scary.

I’d be kicking myself then because when my computer completely stops working, that’s my red flag.

We all have yellow flags in our lives.

They’re usually about much bigger things than just a computer (although that’s big in my life – the thought of losing all my lovely photos makes me feel physically sick).

Things like our health, our relationships, our work, our finances.

Let’s talk about health.

Yellow flags are constant feelings of being stressed, headaches, pain, anxiety, etc.

They are indicators that we need to deal with something in our lives.

I was recently in a job that was very stressful for me. I knew I was feeling stress but a yellow flag for me was when my doctor picked up something in my bloodwork indicating the stress.

I tried to manage the stress as best as I could but when nothing had changed for me physiologically 6 months later, I knew I had to make a drastic change, so I left.

As a friend said to me, “you can always get another job – you’re smart and talented – but you can’t always get your health back”. Too true.

If you ignore these yellow flags, they could lead to a red flag where you’re forced to stop and take note of things, like a serious disease, an operation, and so on.

So have a think.

If you’re honest with yourself, are there any yellow flags in your life you need to deal with?

1. Constant feelings of stress and overwhelm?
2. An odd noise in your car
3. A relationship that needs tending
4. Finances that need to be looked at
5. Boundaries that need to be discussed

Can you identify any yellow flags in your life? How can you take a step or two to deal with it?

A goals reprieve – quarterly and seasonal goals

I wrote in this Instagram post “April is the new January”, partly as a joke but mostly because I really believe that any time you want to set goals is perfectly in order and just great. Please set any goals rather than no goals.

You know that I set annual, monthly and weekly goals so I’m firmly in the detailed goals camp.

However, today I’m talking to many of you who need permission to lighten up with your goals.

Maybe you want to set quarterly or seasonal goals instead?

Let me give you some ideas:

Quarterly goals

In my Let’s Do This workbook (you can still get it here) there’s a page for quarterly goals. I put this in the workbook originally because some things in my life (personal/ house/ holidays) happen very much in seasons.

For example, the first part of the third quarter of the year is all birthdays around here.

Can you think of what happens in your life in terms of quarters? Birthdays, work pressures, house projects, annual holidays? Perhaps if you set goals in quarters it would help you instead of making you feel overwhelmed?

Seasonal goals

We’ve all seen those summer lists on Pinterest and Instagram. I do some seasonal lists but definitely not summer (summer is not my favourite season as long-time readers know). I do make a Christmas list (which happens during our summer), autumn and winter lists though.

Here’s my current autumn list.

I find seasonal goals very helpful in reminding me to get to the things I do want to do, but if I don’t write them down and name them, they often go by forgotten.

E.g. in Spring, I always put jacaranda photowalks on my list. Our city is carpeted in purple blooms and it’s just gorgeous.

The co-host of the Best of Both Worlds podcast, Sarah, divided this year into quintiles (I had never heard of this before) but it made perfect sense because she was on maternity leave for the first two months of the year, and then the rest of the year is divided as she saw fit. Loved it – makes sense for her situation.

I re-read her post now as I’m writing this one, and I realized she combined the concept of quarters and seasons.  By the way, Sarah is an upholder 🙂

So try something different – grab a page or your bullet journal and write down a few autumn/ spring goals, or some 2nd quarter goals.

Has this helped you to reframe from the standard periods of annual and monthly goals?

Did you set some goals? 😉

The best book I read in March that’s still freaking me out

From Goodreads, in reverse order

March was a good reading month for me.

I finished reading 9 books, although my children told me that The Break by Marian Keyes was so long, it should count as two books 🙂

The breakdown was 6 fiction and 3 non-fiction.

My physical/ kindle/ audio ratio was 2/5/2.

But now, let me tell you about the best book I read last month.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova was a book club read, and in fact, it was on our list from last year, and I kept moving it forward on our list. I’m so, so glad we kept this book on because I loved it.

My standard practice is to read the book club read on the weekend before book club. I usually start on Friday night, and read Saturday and Sunday.

This time I knew it was difficult subject matter so I kept postponing my reading (!). I was cleaning, organizing, faffing, doing everything else possible but finally on Saturday night, I buckled down and started reading because I knew I needed to get on with it.

And I couldn’t put it down. It was utterly compelling, so authentic and real and just beautiful writing.

The reason I’m still freaking out about it? Because what do you have if you don’t have your mind… or words to communicate? Oh man!

I loved the narrative style because we could see the progression of her disease in her writing – it was all done so well.

I want to encourage everyone to read this book if you haven’t yet. Even if you’ve watched the movie (which I will now do!)  with my favourite Alec Baldwin (!) and Julianne Moore, do read the book. The writing is just beautiful. It is such a heartwarming story.

I also highly recommend this for a book club read. We had such a fantastic discussion – I loved it!

I actually gave it 4.5* because of how I didn’t really want to read it and the reading was hard in parts, but since Goodreads makes you have whole numbers, 5 it is, since it was much better than “just a 4”.

One of my favourite parts of book club is how we all rigorously debate our ratings.

This photo was taken on the Sunday night, when I was well hooked!

Have you read this book? What did you think?

What was the best book you read in March?

PS here is my book club post on Instagram

Let’s talk about groceries and spending

One of the 18 in 2018 items on my list is to analyse our grocery spend because it feels like it’s out of hand.

Notice I said “feels” because I don’t know for sure.

I’m hearing lots around these days about grocery spend, money stuff, and so on, and so I decided to use the impetus on the internet to get this exercise done for us, and cross off that item.

A few bits of background:

  • We are a household of 4 – Dion, me, and our nearly 9-year-old twins. Most days, Connor now eats more than I do!
  • Our nanny is here every weekday and eats what we do for lunches (sandwiches and a piece of fruit) and the gardener is here one day but he doesn’t eat sandwiches so brings his own lunch.
  • The children grab a muffin or have a quick breakfast before school, take their school lunch with them, return home, have a small lunch/ snack and then supper.
  • I pack breakfast and lunch to take to work, and have supper at home.
  • D has breakfast at home, packs lunch for work and has supper at home too.
  • So we eat almost everything at home. All of that is considered grocery spend.
  • Cleaning products is also all “grocery” money as is toiletries for the kids. Specialised toiletries for the parents are for our own account, e.g. my shampoo, moisturizer, vitamins, etc.
  • We eat a lunch out on the weekends every second Sunday, and Dion and I have date afternoon once a month, but eating out comes out of its own budget. I don’t believe in takeaways so we never get food to eat at home unless for a very special occasion (Valentine’s Day).
  • I never waste food; I pack leftovers away and once a week we eat whatever’s there. No one is fussy in my house because the rule is “you cook for yourself if you get fussy”. I guess they hate cooking more 🙂
  • We shop weekly at Pick and Pay. I love the quality and I can get 98% of what I need. I have a tiny pantry. It’s smaller than at the previous house and I now consider it a game to use up all that food before buying more.

These are questions I’m asking of our household…

  1. what is our snacks vs real food ratio?
  2. are we shopping at too many stores? many people swear by this but that is precisely why the spend is astronomical, unless you are exceptionally self-disciplined and walk out with exactly what you wanted, and no more in quantity than you need. We have got into a habit of doing an “after church” stop at Checkers which is, on average, R300 a week. Thankfully we don’t go every week.
  3. have we used up all our food before buying more? Or are we lazy to get creative so we just keep buying?
  4. do I need to bring back a focused eat out of the freezer and pantry week every month?

What do you want me to talk about next in this series? 

Questions for you:

do you know what you spend on groceries? do you question whether it’s excessive or not? do you want to save money in this area or doesn’t it bother you?

PS The Frugal Girl writes a post every week on what we ate, what I spent. I love her blog – it’s mindful of money without being crazy over the top.

March recap and in-progress projects

Wow, this month was something else.

I haven’t been as overwhelmed with work in a long, long time as I have been this month.

Picture this – working on a Friday and telling yourself, I’m now up to date with last Monday’s work (almost two weeks behind). Basically that kind of thing times ten. As you know, I’m an ESTJ, enneagram 1, and an upholder, so you now know this being behind business doesn’t sit well with me at all.

I’m not out of the woodwork yet – who knows when that will happen? – but I set myself 5 mini work goals and I achieved those, so I’m feeling satisfied with some progress at least.

I’m planning to do exactly the same every month so that even though things are crazy, I can still feel somewhat accomplished. I’m also sleeping well and exercising to take care of my body, and of course, doing all my tricks.

exhausted and depleted!

On the whole, if I look at my entire life, not just work, it was still a good month, but it didn’t feel that way, largely because we spend so much time at work.

There were many life-giving things though – books read (more on this next week), house projects, connections with friends and family, and lots of fun. And at the risk of being superficial, I got my hair done and coloured this month, so that is awesome, if expensive!

Have you downloaded the monthly review sheet from my site yet? It has 6 questions and an “on a scale of 1 – 10, this month was a ____” to help you review your month.

You can write one word answers or a whole paragraph – it’s completely up to you.

You don’t even have to use the printable if you want; simply copy the questions into your bullet journal.

I honestly find it to be one of the most helpful tools I’ve ever created, and I want you to enjoy using it too. I’m focusing on a different question each month in these blog posts although I do the full review privately.

One of the questions on the printable is Do I have any in-progress projects?

This month my in-progress projects are:

  1. tons of work things (there is literally not one client who is completely up to date with everything). To that end, my mantra is “I let go of the need to be completely up to date, and to process all client requests according to my self-imposed, currently hugely unrealistic deadlines”)
  2. insurance claim for a leak in my house due to heavy storms a week ago
  3. getting us all into a new nanny schedule (we’ve reduced her hours)
  4. sell table, etc.
  5. weeding in garden!

I am thrilled that all the upstairs painting is done. The rooms spark joy every time I walk into them. This feeling is what I need to focus on when I think of the mess of painting!

What are your in-progress projects? House? Life? Personal?

Quarterly recap of my word of the year – FUN

these flowers look so fun to me

Since we’ve now finished three months of the year, I thought it would be fun (no pun intended!) to do a little recap of my word of the year.

Here’s where I wrote about why I chose the word “fun”.

Some fun things that have happened so far this year:

  • I participated in Gentle January on Instagram. This was such a great ease into the year after all the rah rah rah on the internet in December.
  • We went on a family holiday to the Drakensberg.
  • We had three book club meets that were SUPER fun. Interestingly, two of the books were not favourites read but the discussion around them and hearing from intelligent, funny women was what made it so much fun.
  • I loved listening to the audible version of The Happiness Project. So much fun!
  • I’m listening to more of the That Sounds Fun podcast. I particularly enjoyed her January rhythms series.

  • I participated in a Zumbathon a few weekends ago and I tried a new dance class which was great, but doesn’t work for my schedule. I would only be able to go to 20 minutes before I’d have to leave. Maybe I should just go for the 20 mins?
  • We’ve been watching The Amazing Race as a family every Wednesday for the last 4 weeks. This is huge, mainly for me, because I don’t watch any TV. None. As my husband jokes, I watch one movie a year and if I really break loose, two!
  • I’ve read 27 books thus far and should finish on about 29/ 30 as there’s a week of March left.
  • I got the painting done! That has been a lot of fun for me. I love taking risks in the house. Thank you, Nester.
  • And last but not least, I’ve had 19 socials and seen 34 friends in the 3 months (book club is the reason for the large second number).

What was your word for the year? How has that worked out for you this quarter?

these nests also look whimsical and fun to me

Let’s talk about my house’s to-do list

I’ve spoken before about how my house has its own to-do list. It was a very popular post actually – either my readers are curious or having a house to-do list is unusual?

Here’s that post I wrote nearly a year ago

I thought it was time for a little update.

When I was approaching the end of 2017, I looked over the list and realized we were moving SUPER slowly in closing those gaps.

I asked myself one question – what will make me feel really happy that is also fairly easy to execute on?

1.The answer was my floors. We didn’t have enough money saved to do everything I wanted, so we installed laminate flooring in our 3 small rooms and it was the best decision ever.

I love my floors. If you follow my OrganisingQueen Instagram feed, you’ll see my floors in many of the bullet journal or planner background pics.

I chose the colour, had to pay a bit more because they only had the more expensive wood in stock and I wanted it done within days, not in six weeks’ time.  Worth it! This is how I roll – I take a bit of time to decide to do something, but then I want it done yesterday 🙂

I flew to Cape Town on business for two days and my floors were installed while I was away.

2. And then we’re currently in the process of painting three rooms upstairs – my study and Connor’s room are both complete, and the pyjama lounge’s ceiling has been primed for painting… white!

I’ll share photos on Instagram and Instagram stories once it’s completely done next weekend.

As I write, the rooms are a mess (and I’m taking the3 opportunity to quietly dispose of junk) but I love how clean and fresh everything feels.

3. The other thing I really want to get done is to sell some furniture, especially my Oregon pine kitchen table and chairs. I still love it but it is about 30 cm too long for the space so it’s been in the pool room while I bought this new table.  That is going on my to-do list for autumn along with my search for the perfect armchair for our pyjama lounge.

I actually bought one last year, it wasn’t right for the space, and I had about 3 weeks of “pain” trying to return it and get refunded, so I’m a teensy bit scarred by that experience.

If you see a good reading chair around, do let me know!

Tell me about your house to-do list.

What’s on it, what have you managed to get off the list, and what are you currently looking for?

(I will keep an eye out for you too).

PS the very bright side of a slow-moving to-do list is that I checked our bond statement the other day and we’re now paying about 50% more than our minimum payment, and if we only just continue at this rate, we’ll cut off 5.5 years of our bond. Yay! My goal is still 8 years 🙂

This is how I make my house run smoothly

Life is such a whirlwind, isn’t it? If you’re anything like me, it often seems like the weeks go by in a blur of activity…and then it’s weekend again. Or the weekends go by so quickly and when Monday comes around, you feel like you’ve just started to relax and the week is upon you once again.

The problem with this is that we never have a sense of peace, calm and control. A feeling that we are directing the course of our own lives.

I’ve been going through a really hectic couple of months so I thought I’d share some of the systems I’ve set up to make our lives easier:

Household calendar
We have one household calendar in our kitchen where we mark off any commitments like church, school meetings, book club, socials, and so on. I also mark off the recycling pick-up days, when we buy electricity, and when the gardener needs to be paid.

I couple this with weekly planning. I look at my diary on a Sunday and put in my appointments for the week. I also add any tasks that I need or want to work on, like writing blogs, the newsletter and so on.

When you write down everything, and you see your calendar full of events, it’s easy to see where you need to cut back.

Menu planning
I love menu planning because it saves me time. When I say this to people, they think I’m crazy because “how can all that planning save you time?” It’s quite simple – it takes me about 10 to 15 minutes every Friday (if I’m on the ball) or Saturday and that planning saves me time from Monday to Friday, when I need it most. No more standing in front of the open fridge wondering what to make for supper.

The great thing is you can still be spontaneous within the plan. I plan meals for the working week but if I don’t feel like a particular meal that day, I change it around and cook another day’s meal. Like if it’s very hot and I planned to have baked potatoes with a topping, I may postpone that to another day and make a pasta salad instead.

Here’s a detailed look at why you should consider menu planning and  how I do menu planning

Regular decluttering and organising
I tackle 1 -2 areas in our home every weekend. Let’s face it – if we are constantly buying things and bringing them into our homes and lives, clutter is constantly building up unless we get rid of some of it. I agree with Konmari (here’s my take on the Konmari method) that you do a once-off thorough tidy, but if you’re buying things regularly, you need to declutter regularly. I’ve even taught the kids this principle with a glass of water and how it overflows if we keep pouring water in.

It doesn’t have to be a huge exercise. While you’re busy cooking or baking, you can sort out a cupboard or two. I have a tendency of burning rice and carrots so I stay in the kitchen whenever I cook these and use the time constructively to sort out a cupboard or drawer, plan my menus, write out my shopping list, etc.

When you factor in just 15 minutes’ decluttering and organising per space every weekend, you can easily maintain your home if it is already organised. Of course, if your house is nowhere near where you’d like it, I would suggest 15 minutes every day. Download 31 days of easy organising solutions for plenty of ideas.

See the little nook next to the door?

Launch pad
Do you know the place in your house where you dump your bags as you enter? Flylady calls this a launch pad. I like that term because it reminds me of action. We have a little nook just inside our front door that I use for our launch pad.

Mornings are one of the worst times in most families – you can’t find your keys, wallet, bag, etc. Frantic running around and screaming happens and that is just not fun.

The point is that we use our launch pads to ready ourselves for mornings. Every evening I pack my handbag and laptop, and they are left here. In the mornings all I do is grab and go. Literally once I leave the bedroom, I walk to the fridge to get my lunch bag, grab my keys on the way to the launch pad, get my bags and I’m out of there. Two minutes tops!

Over to you. Which systems can you implement to make your life easier this month?

 

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