What a bullet journalling experiment taught me

A few months ago I decided to make a list of all the podcasts I listened to during that week.

I didn’t choose a particular week; it was simply a random week without any forethought.


At the end of the week, I totalled up the time spent listening and I had a big shock:

11 hrs 45 minutes

A few thoughts flashed through my mind:

  • I could have listened to 1 long fiction book or 1.5 non-fiction books.
  • I worked from home 3 days that week and about 3 hours a day is not unreasonable. I also listen to podcasts while tidying and organizing on the weekend.
  • Hmmm. What would happen if I tried some new things?

This is fascinating because I’m both the subject of the study and the scientist.

I also have a phone storage problem because I only have a 16 GB iPhone which means I have to delete photos off my phone twice a month. I actually don’t mind this because it keeps me in a good photo routine.

I also have to be diligent to only download one audio book at a time and only my subscribed podcasts.

Do you know what I decided as a result of all this thinking?

I unsubscribed from all but two podcasts.

No prizes if you guessed one of those podcasts is Happier with Gretchen Rubin. The other is the 5-word prayers daily with Lisa Whittle.

The other podcasts are still there but they’re below the subscription fold so I see them update but I only consciously download an episode when I’m ready to listen.

This decision…

1) freed me up because I don’t feel any podcast guilt (similar to Feedly guilt when you see 172 unread blog posts ;)) and in true upholder fashion,

2) I decide how much I want to listen to and when, and

3) if I don’t feel excitement about the episode, I don’t even download it. Before, the episodes would drop automatically and I’d feel almost compelled to listen immediately because of the aforementioned storage issue.

4) I’ve also listened to lot more audio books!

Yes, this post is about me listening to podcasts but it’s really about tracking behavior and making changes to align to your goals.

I have a few questions for you:

Have you ever tracked your time for a day or week? You’ll be surprised how much time you spend doing mindless tasks.

What have you learned as a result?

Is there something niggling at you? perhaps you spend too much time on Facebook or Instagram?

(our pastor said something this weekend that has stuck with me – people spend approximately 4 hours a day on social media, and other people are making money from those same people scrolling their feeds. Wow!)

A small thing that made all the difference

A few months ago, to my utter surprise, I finished ALL my weekly goals and got my daily to-dos done without much striving.

Do you know what the difference was?

I worked from home 3 times that week and left my diary and goals notebook open on my desk all the time.

How is that a big deal, you ask?

I agree!

I didn’t think it was a big deal either but clearly it is.

Seeing my goals and to-dos visible on a daily basis without having to open notebooks and take them from my bag or box on my other desk made the difference.

I generally pack up and clear everything all the time which means I’m not reminded unless I consciously open the notebook and look at the page.

The reason I don’t do it all the time is that our nanny is in and out of my study, and when Dion works from home, he lets the kids into the study (I don’t let them play in here – this is a workspace).

I’ve since thought of a solution. I can simply ask the nanny to sweep and mop on one day every week and not go into the study on the other days.

That way, I can leave my stuff open and visible without privacy concerns.

I shared this story with you because you may not be getting to your goals just because you’re forgetting them.

A tech-y way to do the same is to take a picture and save it as your lock screen on your phone. Change this every week/ month. Or type into your notes and save the notes screenshot as your lock screen.

There are ways to keep our goals visible and front-of-mind; we just have to be a bit intentional.

Has this helped give you ideas?

How do you remember your weekly goals?

What’s your organising style?

“You’re either born organised or you’re not”.

Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

I do believe that there are those of us who are naturally more structured and organised but I also know that anyone can learn how to organise or to improve their organising skills.

Interestingly, many professional organisers were once disorganised and learnt the skills in order to better manage their own homes and lives.

As for me, I do have a natural bend towards organising (I think this is mostly because I’m a J on the Myers-Briggs) but honestly, I figured a lot of things out once I had my own home. And I certainly developed my love for decluttering when we started moving house and I didn’t want to pay to move things I didn’t value anymore.

The key to organise your life effectively is to know your style so you can adapt any system to work with you, and not against you.

Today I want to talk about one particular facet of personality – structured versus unstructured organising.

It’s important to note that both of those descriptors are ways of organising yourself: you can organise yourself in a structured manner or in an unstructured manner. Unstructured people are not disorganised; they just prefer to organise themselves in an unstructured manner.

Structured

These are people who like clear goals and deadlines, they prefer closure, they love planning and following that plan.

Unstructured

These are people who feel trapped by deadlines, they are spontaneous and like lots of freedom and flexibility.

The really quick way I like to identify my clients’ styles is to ask them two questions:

1. do you work best with piles or files of paper?

Generally speaking, unstructured people work with piles of paper while structured people like files. Digitally, unstructured people have all their files in My Documents folders and structured people use (many) folders.

2. do you use the planning tools you buy or download?

This is a key indicator for me. If the person is a paper person (like I am), they probably have a diary. Do you actually use that diary or do you simply like the idea of having a diary? Open yours now and have a look… Digitally, do you merely download cool productivity apps or do you actually use them?

Of course, within those two really broad categories, there is a ton of variation.

I’m clearly structured but I’m a 7 in that I don’t lean very far across the scale. I love files but I keep them very sparse and thin. And electronically, I have one app I use… quite thoroughly, but only on a weekly basis. That’s the most structured I want to be.

Why is it important to know your style?

1. You’ll stop wasting money on tools that don’t work for you.
2. You can enjoy the freedom of being exactly who you are.
3. You can use your time more effectively.

Over to you.

Do you organise yourself in a structured or unstructured manner? What will you start or stop doing as a result of this knowledge?

What are your nos with books

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, I only read 7 books in May. That feels like a little and it is the least in any one month I’ve read for a long while. Still, I’ve now read 45 for the year, which is an average of 9 a month, and is not shabby at all.

Here’s the haul:

 

Non-fiction: Fiction 2:5

Physical: Audible: Kindle 3:1:3

Notable reads

  • Both non-fiction (I probably should write about those)
  • Something in common – Roisin Meaney

Something in common was a gorgeous, gorgeous book and I devoured it in a day and a bit. It’s very typically Irish fiction (not much is rosy and “perfect”, but is all very real, with a sense of hope and warmth woven through the pages).

If you haven’t yet tried the author, I always recommend The Daisy Picker but this one will be my new favourite to recommend. In fact, get whichever you like – I love them all 🙂

 

Book club mention

We read Behold the Dreamers in book club and I rated it 4 on Goodreads, but that’s a 3.75 pushed up to a 4. I wanted to like this book more than I actually did.

Have you read it? What did you think?

And now for the bookish discussion:

Anne Bogel interviewed Laura Vanderkam on the What should I read next podcast early this year.

It’s one of my favourite interviews primarily because of how well Laura knows the type of books that work for her and those that don’t.

I was so impressed by her self-awareness that I’ve started keeping track of the type of things that I don’t want to read about:

  • Abuse of children
  • Slavery
  • Suffering
  • People in mental hospitals
  • Historical fiction, esp. war settings.
  • Most blog to book titles (blogs and books are very different writing styles and most bloggers should not be writing books)
  • Fan memoir (where you can only follow along and appreciate the book if you’re a fan of what that person has done)
  • Most multi-generational books (exceptions are Maeve Binchy novels like Tara Road)
  • Weak protagonists – the person doesn’t have to be likeable, but they need to have something interesting – I need to care about them in some way)
  • Too much weirdness (Where’d you go, Bernadette and one of this month’s reads, The Time of my Life)
  • Too many viewpoints/ characters (I feel like I’m unable to care about them all…)
  • Titles described as “laugh-out-loud romantic fiction” (I usually don’t find them funny at all, and there’s usually gratuitous s*x
  • Nicholas Sparks 😉
  • Young Adult fiction (I can manage about 1 a year)

As Anne Bogel says, some books are not bad; they’re just not for you.

So tell me, what did you read in May? And what do you not want to read?

May goals recap and what I need to let go of

I did some instastories the other day talking about my freebie monthly review form. In it I said that that you should only review the month after you answer all the other questions otherwise your memory is swayed by recent events and not a true reflection of the entire month. On instagram, click any or all of the round circles underneath my profile to see the stories. But do start with the teal one that says Monthly Review. And if you still don’t have the free printable, get that here.

It’s the same for me in May.

Before I sat down to do my review, I thought it was a so-so month because I’d just had a day on the weekend sick and “nothing got done”. I wonder if my body just needed to rest?


Anyway, I did my review and looked at my goals and realized …. it was one of my best months this year! 97% goals reached.

So there you are – real live goals action in progress.

The things that didn’t get done since I’m sure you’re curious? I read only 7 of the 8 books I’d planned, and only 1 of them was an audio book. And I didn’t make a Friday lunch date with Dion at his work. We’ll try again this month.

Now, onto our question of the month. What do I need to let go of?

The need to keep everything perfectly in order during busy times. Classic upholder/ enneagram 1 problem and I know this about myself. The trick is to keep reminding myself of that truth.

I made an autumn list with the 4 photowalks I wanted to take and I didn’t get to them. I got to only one on my list. BUT I had a wonderful photowalk when we were in the Drakensberg last month, took two photodrives (the photos in this post is from one of them – here is the other), and had a completely unexpected walk with a friend at the end of May. So I’m letting go of the self-imposed pressure to complete my autumn list.

What do you need to let go of as we step into June?

And how was your May? Was it better or worse than you thought? Have you downloaded your freebie printable yet?

You have more than enough time

This post might rub some of you up the wrong way but the truth is we all have 24 hours a day. The President has 24 hours and we have 24 hours. The only difference is how we choose to use it.

Our lives are a product of the choices we make with our time.

If you choose to relax for 4 hours each day watching TV, interacting on social media and so on, then own your choice. Don’t complain that you have no time to read books, cook healthy food, organise your home, go to gym, do your hobbies, or play with your kids.

Rather say, “I’m choosing to spend my time relaxing”. There’s nothing wrong with that if you’re being intentional.

People ask me how I get all the things done that I do and my answer is always the same – I prioritise and make time for certain things over others (like watching TV).

I have a friend who doesn’t seem to need much sleep because we email at 11 pm, sometimes even at midnight, but then she gets up really early in the mornings and is out for a walk at 6 am while I’m sleeping.

I don’t condemn myself for that; I choose to get 7 – 8 hours of sleep every night instead of exercising that early. I’m owning my choice. She chooses to exercise instead of spending a lot of time sleeping.

Now, let’s roll up those daily hours into a week.

24 hours in a day means 168 hours a week. 168 hours feels much more expansive for me. It always feels like there’s time to do everything I want and there is enough time; it’s just how we frame it.

I sleep for 52.5 hours a week. That leaves 115.5 hours for work, family, exercise, cooking, organising, reading, photography and so on.

When I put it like that, doesn’t it seem like there’s enough time to do everything in the world? There is.

We’re just not aware that there’s that much time because we think we only have two hours at night after the kids go to bed.

Start thinking of the hours before work if you’re an early bird, the hour at lunch time, and the hours once you get home but before bed.

I calculated once and realised I have 4.5 hours every night once I get home from work at 06:00 before I start my bedtime routine, and I even get an extra hour some days.

If we average it out, 5 hours then seems like plenty of time to cook, connect with Dion and the kids, eat supper, work on my business and blog, read and yes, even to exercise.

But only if I’m intentional about it.

Your coaching challenge
• Stop. Realise that you have an abundance of time for everything you want to do.
• Think about how you currently regularly spend your time.
• Is there something you’d rather have in your life?
• Consciously decide to make a different choice for at least one day during the next week.

I wrote a book called 31 days of enough time with small steps to help you move towards a life of time abundance. That’s the first step if you recognize this as a need in your life.

Otherwise, if you know you’d like to work with me privately to maximize your time usage, contact me for a 1:1 laser coaching session or weekly coaching sessions.

{Bullet journal} – what I’m bullet journalling these days

It’s been a while since I wrote a bullet journalling post so I thought I’d check in to:

  • tell you that yes, I’m still bullet journaling
  • share some of the pages in my current bullet journal (there is one page that deserves its own post so look for that next week)

Quotable quotes

I still think of my bullet journal in terms of planning pages and “useful lists” pages.

The planning pages I have in this bullet journal are the following:

  1. Monthly review
  2. Goals brainstorm
  3. Weekend to do list
  4. Work from home list (it’s a daily to-do list I use once a week)

When I had a quick squiz through a bullet journal post I wrote last year, I noticed that everything is still 100% accurate and…. that I probably need to start a life admin page again. On the bright side, there is nothing I need to put on the list for my car (insert dancing lady emoji here) 😉

Another change is that I have a separate small notebook (just a bit bigger than A6) for my weekly goals accountability chats with Beth. I used to always keep a separate notebook in years past and I must say, I love having my goals in their own special book 🙂

Bullet journal

Some other pages I’m still using are:

  1. Blog ideas
  2. Podcast club notes
  3. Quotable quotes
  4. Things to talk to ______ about (I have a ton of phone friend dates and if I want to remember to ask/ tell my friends something, I refer to this list to be sure to ask about something we spoke about before)

One big change is that I now have a dedicated notebook (just an 80-pager) for all things books and reading.

I have a monthly page where I write down the books I’ve read (I still use Goodreads but it’s easier to take this notebook with me to book club or to use for my monthly reading recaps here on the blog), notes on the book club book, books to read for book club and I need to update my favourite authors’ pages again.

Bullet journal

Why the separate book bullet journal?

I like a thin bullet journal so I currently go through about 3 – 4 notebooks a year. I found that I constantly had to ferret out old bullet journals to reference my reading lists. It’s not a huge problem because I have a specified shelf in my study where they all live but it was a bit too inconvenient for these lists I reference very often.

(if you look at my Instagram stories, I often post snapshots of how this list changes throughout the month)

Now I’d like to hear from you.

Are you still bullet journalling? How do you use your bullet journal these days? Has anything changed from when you first started?

Do you know how much sleep you need?

On a recent episode of the Best of Both Worlds podcast, Laura mentioned something about how her sleep is always around the 7 – 7.5 hour mark, on average.

I was slacking on my bedtime a few days last week but interestingly, when I checked my Fitbit stats, I realised I’m almost always around the 7.5 hour mark. And that it’s been that way for the last 2.5 years.

Yes, it takes discipline to actually go to bed because I’m a night owl and my natural tendency is to stay awake later because my brain is most awake then.

Yet, no matter how early I go to bed, I still fall asleep at roughly the same time unless I’m not well, and I wake after about 7.5 – 8 hours. I actually only set an alarm for two days every week. The rest of the time I wake around 7.

 

The trick for me is to stop doing other things to allow for reading time so that I can be sleeping by 11:30.

So my rule is – computer off by 10:30.

After the reading post published the other week, a reader asked why I need all my rules. The thing is I’m an upholder and discipline is my freedom. This might not resonate with any other type but other upholders will definitely understand.

I found I’d be getting to bed at least 30 minutes later when I didn’t enforce my computer rule because I forgot about tidying the desk, doing my bedtime routine, etc.

Do you know how much sleep you need? Do you get enough sleep? 

Most adults don’t get enough sleep and we’re all functioning (or not) at below-par levels of productivity and simply, life enjoyment.

Sleep helps our bodies to work better, helps us with weight loss when we’re trying to lose weight, helps us have clear, functioning minds and of course, helps us rest and recharge from day to day.

Gretchen Rubin has written and spoken on the podcast about bedtimes. She said something interesting in that once you set a bedtime (we now know mine is 11:30), if you ignore that bedtime, then you’re consciously choosing to do what you were doing instead of going to bed.

This week’s coaching challenge for you:

– What is your usual wake-up time?
– Work back at least 7 hours. That is the time you have to be asleep by.
– How long do you need before falling asleep? Subtract the amount of hours.
– Also subtract time for your bedtime routine – face, teeth, reading, etc.
– For the next week, set an alarm or reminder in your phone or computer that says “go to bed”.
– Keep track of your productivity the following day as you start getting enough sleep.

On being intentional with internet usage

I have spoken a little about this on my InstaStories but we are now on router number 5 in the last 7 months.

Our routers keep getting struck by lightning. We do have one of those lightning surge adaptors but, to be honest, when I follow the instructions on the pamphlet, the internet doesn’t work, so obviously something’s going wrong.  I then attach it how it makes sense to me (which is also incorrect).

After the last new router, I just decided I cannot go on like this so now I manually switch on the router and insert the phone cable every morning. And when I go to bed, I do the same thing in reverse.

When it starts raining and there’s lightning, we switch off everything and so far, so good – the router’s still working.

What this has done for me:

  1. Intentional living because when it does rain, I actually get real things done in the house instead of getting caught in an internet coma.
  2. Better sleep because of not scrolling a screen before bedtime
  3. More real reading at night especially as the evenings cool down because I just switch the internet off early realizing that I’m probably not going to want to get up later to switch it off.
  4. Less mindless scrolling in the mornings when I wake up and many mornings, I just grab my book to read and only switch on the internet an hour or so later because I have to physically get up and out of bed.

The only thing is – I often get to my phone and see 18 or 25 WhatsApp messages. I actually just get to those whenever because as you know, I’m not a big fan of responding to anything on demand 🙂

Is there anything currently in your life that is technically an inconvenience, but yet holds special positives too?

Feedback on my groceries experiment

Pictures taken before Easter, hence hot cross buns 🙂

I wrote last month about how I wanted to analyse our grocery spend as we hadn’t done this for at least four years.

Interestingly, my husband was far less concerned about the spend than I was and it turned out that his instincts were correct.

  1. We are well within what we budget for food which, I’m learning from these posts on the blog and on Instagram, is far below what many similar-sized families spend.
  2. We shop at Pick and Pay every week and about once every 2 – 3 weeks we do a Checkers run to top up on small fruits (for the kids’ lunchboxes) and buy chicken (I know, but there’s a certain chicken my local P&P doesn’t stock so we just go get that at Checkers).
  3. I still feel like we buy too many snacks (chips, nuts, chocolates, biltong) but as my husband reminded me, it’s really our only vice as we don’t drink alcohol or smoke or eat out a lot, and… we still keep well within the budget. Fair enough.
  4. Some things I found shocking from actually looking at the receipts is the price of cottage cheese (R30 a tub; 4 years ago R18,99), tissue refills (80 sheets for R15; 200 sheets for R22) and cereals (R40 a box!). A reminder to me that just because one option was better at one time doesn’t mean it’s still the better option – we will now be buying the full box of tissues.
  5. I used to shop the pantry and eat from the freezer in a fairly disciplined way but it slipped a bit over the years. Now I inventory the freezer before making my menu plan for the week and most meals are designed around using up bits of food so it won’t go to waste.  If you’re not intentional, you can keep buying without actually using the food already in your house.

I don’t purport to know your situation but if you’re looking for 3 quick takeaways, here you go:

Make a realistic menu plan. Don’t plan to cook 7 days if you’ve only cooked 3 meals a week for the last year. Maybe set a goal to cook those same 3 meals, but a double batch. And obviously don’t buy more food than you actually are going to cook. Maybe you’re being a fantasy cook?

Watch your food wastage. Be realistic about what you will, and not just intend, to use. I caught myself doing exactly this the other week when I thought about all the lovely winter veggies I wanted to buy. When I looked at the actual menu plan, we only needed two veggies and not four like I wanted to buy. I literally count the potatoes and buy exactly what we need (6 medium potatoes or 4 large potatoes). This goes without saying but shop with a list, on a full stomach.

Plan for easy nights. My goal is that we eat a cooked meal only 4 of the 7 nights. Fridays are eggs/ soup/ toasted sandwiches. One night is leftovers from everything before…. and the last night is usually beef burgers or fish fingers on a roll with lettuce/ tomato, and oven chips. Mondays are my longest days so that is always a freezer meal defrosted. When you only plan to buy what you realistically will cook and eat, you’ll automatically save money.

How has your grocery spending been in April? Is there a specific category (cleaning materials is usually a hot topic, or school lunches…) you’d like me to go into more detail on?

If you’d like individual help on managing your finances better, please contact me. Due to the personal nature of each person’s finances, I can’t hold a workshop where these things are discussed but I do individual or couples’ financial coaching.

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