Scheduling and tracking important but not urgent items

Clearly my system for catching questions is not great because Laura left this question for me ages ago.

I have a question relating to calendars.

Do you have a system for regular things that you would like to but don’t want to schedule per se? So, for example, your walks. Let’s use the scenario that you want to go for four walks a week but you don’t want to schedule them all out in advance, you just want to do them at any given time during the week.

I know one option is to write when you have already taken a walk. But what kind of chart/note/system might help you track things like this? Now when I use the example of a walk, it could be anything- eating more fruit, three handwritten notes a week, declutter one room per week, etc. Just about anything that you want to do but don’t necessarily know a month ahead what exact day you want to do it. (this comes into play daily for me in my work with the dorms – snacks to give out, kids in for one on one time to play, kids in to eat a meal with me, sleepovers, etc.). So I know I want to give out snack 4-5 times a week but I don’t want to schedule the days a month ahead. It’s when I have the money/time/energy/food available.

I want to point out something very important here:

These are all important things (to you) but are not urgent. No-one’s going to say, “oh! you didn’t declutter that room” or “why didn’t you go for your walk this week?” which means they’re your goals.

In Gretchen Rubin language, these are inner expectations and if you know your tendency, people who don’t have any trouble meeting inner expectations are Upholders (I’m an Upholder) and Questioners. Obligers and Rebels have the most trouble with inner expectations, and let’s face it – no rebel reads my blog 🙂 So really, I’m talking mostly to obligers, and others looking for a tip to improve their already strong goals game.

I have some ideas, but you’ll need to ask yourself a question first.

Do you do weekly or monthly planning?

Laura mentions weekly a lot so I’m guessing she’s a weekly planner like I am 😉

When I read the question, I immediately thought of three examples from my life: reading goals, friend goals and blog writing goals.

Reading

Because I know I’m a weekly planner, I know I need to read one book every week, and at least two others over the month, to reach my monthly goal of 6 books.

I ask myself: when am I most likely to get this done? That is definitely on the weekend.

So this item of reading a book goes on every weekend to-do list (you can go back and check my instagram – you’ll see :))

I do read every day so to get in another book every two weeks is not difficult for me.

Friends

I like to connect with at least 5 friends a month. There’s usually a group (more than 1) one in there, so in my mind, I have to have a plan once a week, usually during work lunches, or a tea time just after work.

I don’t mind when so when I do monthly planning, I will reach out and schedule something every week.

Blog writing

My goal is always to write 3 posts a week even when I only publish 2, specifically for those times when things come up and I have no chance to write.

While I prefer to write on Monday evenings, it doesn’t always work out, but the item is on my weekly list, so I check in on my energy levels and when I feel like it, I’ll write the post/s.

Some weeks, I’m not particularly motivated, but I remind myself that (1) I’m unlikely to want to do anything intellectually strenuous on the Tuesday (I have two dance classes), and that (2) my energy from work is likely to flag as the week progresses, so I just need to start (that’s usually enough for me because once I’ve made a start, I’m good).

To summarise:

  1. Know when you’re most likely to be able to do it
  2. Work with your energy/ capacity and when you do have the time and energy, use it.
  3. I don’t schedule these tasks on a specific day (unless it involves another person/s) but I do have weekly goals.
  4. I write these on my weekly goals list. Just glancing at my list on a daily basis helps to keep me focussed. You may be the same if you’re an Upholder. If you’re an Obliger, get yourself some external accountability.
  5. If you’re a monthly/ daily planner, basically the same things apply except glance at your list every day and see which you can add to that day.
  6. If you have a daily habit that you’re tracking, like to eat 3 pieces of fruit daily, then I suggest a separate page in your bullet journal, or write a line item in your weekly goals page (there’s one in my freebie Time Management pack) with 7 spaces and tick it off daily. You may have to set a reminder at the same time every day, or multiple times per day to get you going.
  7. Don’t freak out if you “fail”. It only means you need to try a couple of other things to find what works for you. There’s definitely something out there.

How do you schedule the important but not urgent things (your goals)?

Did something particularly resonate with you? Care to share?

Do you set goals weekly or monthly?

My new bullet journal – a grid notebook

I’m on my third bullet journal for the year, my sixth overall.

For this year, I’ve had a lined one, a dot grid one and then I was undecided between another lined one (a pretty purple one) or a grid notebook.

I decided to go with the grid notebook because I wanted to try all the versions of notebook (last year I used lined paper for two of them and then a blank notebook) paper so I could see what worked best…for me.

And the verdict?

I’m loving this grid notebook.

  1. It’s a Fabriano A5 grid notebook – made in Italy. South Africans, I bought it at Exclusives for R23. Yes, you read that correctly. They come in gorgeous, bright colours for such a great price.
  2. They had a spiral bound version about twice the thickness (and double the price – I think R48?), but since this one is travelling in my handbag on a daily basis, I didn’t want the spirals to get messed up, and I definitely want to finish using it by the end of December.
  3. I’m using my Staedtler triplus fineliners and the only Schneider Topliner I own because the paper is a nice firm 80g/sm that can hold these fineliners.
  4. I think a combination of the pen plus the grid makes my handwriting look neater.
  5. Also, I love making little blocks of exactly one grid next to my to-do list items.

There is possibly only one thing that could be better, and that is to have a non-scuffable cover. I’ve wrapped it in plastic to protect it.

What should you consider in a bullet journal?

size – I love an A5 size, but I’ve seen people use smaller and bigger notebooks

thickness – I like to change mine all the time so I love the 80-page notebooks because they last about 3 months. If you want one for the entire year, go bigger

paper – choose your paper depending on the size of your handwriting, and whether you naturally write in a straight line or not. Is that even an issue for you? It is for me? (I have since discovered I’m not a fan of light dot grid notebooks; I may be convinced if there are ones with a darker dot that I can try)

pens – on the more Kraft-type paper (the slightly brown paper), a gel pen works beautifully because it “sinks” into the paper. On a whiter type of paper, like this one, I find the staedter fineliners work beautifully. Of course you can use any pen on any paper (there are no rules!) but I know that I prefer a certain look to my handwriting with a certain pen on a certain paper 🙂

Tell me how you decided on your bullet journal

PS If you’re South African, pick up one next time you’re at Exclusives and let me know which colour you chose 🙂

5 ways to manage the stress in your life

Years ago when I first researched the topic of stress, I learned that there’s good stress and there’s bad stress.

The good stress works for us when we need a bit of a boost to get things done on a deadline or when we need to perform in whichever way, like speak to a group, give a presentation, and so on.

But then you reach that point. The point where you’re so fraught with nerves, you literally just snap at the slightest thing.

For some of us, this only happens as we approach the end of a long year without a holiday but for others, it might feel like we’re permanently frazzled and on edge.

That’s not good.

I generally manage my stress well but I’ve learned to check in with my body regularly, especially when I notice that I’m snapping at people and generally being unreasonable and not myself.

The key here is to acknowledge that some parts of life are going to be stressful. Your personality, life stage, and career will generally dictate what is stressful to you.

However, the trick is to incorporate enough of the stress busters below into your daily routine so you de-stress regularly.

  1. Exercise

Research shows that regular exercise is a good, healthy stress reliever. Find out what kind of movement works for you. There are dance classes, walking, running, swimming, cycling, kick-boxing, and of course, working out at the gym. From personal experience, I can tell you that a boxing class is a great stress reliever to take out your frustrations.

  1. Get enough sleep

Research also shows that most people need between 7 and 8 hours’ sleep every night. Just like babies, when we don’t get enough sleep, we get crabby and everything irritates us.

I set a goal to have an average of 7 hours 30 minutes of sleep every day. The lovely thing about an average is that you can’t only sleep well 2 nights out of 7. It’s got to become a habit.

  1. Learn to say “no”

Many people are stressed because of built-up resentment due to their inability or unwillingness to say no. Trust me – it gets easier the more you say it.

If it’s really difficult for you to say no, start with small things like refusing a second helping or declining to have a perfume sample at the mall. Then you build up to saying no to parts of projects or to invitations to events you don’t care for.

  1. Practise self-care

Self-care is not only taking a bubble bath to getting a manicure or a massage. I actually feel that it’s knowing what works for you and incorporating daily or weekly parts into your life. Part of my self-care is reading every day and getting outside for a weekly walk. My self-care also includes having strong boundaries like saying no. The main thing is to do something for YOU on at least a weekly basis, preferably daily.

  1. Use your support system regularly

When you feel overwhelmed or frazzled, call a friend, family member or colleague, either just to talk or to help you!

Stress assessments online test whether you have a person in your life to talk to when you feel stressed. Find such a person for yourself. You don’t always need answers; it’s just to talk through things.

Which of these ideas will you next put into practice for better mental health?

7 ways to use project life cards aside from project life journalling

If you don’t have project life cards, you could quite easily cut cardstock to size (4 X 6) and use these same tips.

1.Labelling craft kits

I have, occasionally, put together some beading kits and once, an easy craft for kids. I bought wooden letters and packs of buttons from a craft store, added a jar of craft glue, and gifted that to some of my kids’ friends.

The project life card is the perfect size for a label on the one side, and one or two sentences on the reverse.

2. Gift tags

They are particularly lovely to use as gift tags on presents.

3. Conversation notes

This might confirm that either I’m super weird or very intentional. Let’s go with the latter, okay?

I sometimes use PL cards to keep notes of things I want to remember to chat to friends about so when we meet for tea/ lunch, I have a visual prompt.

I’ve also twice had meetings with teachers and I use a project life card to write down my thoughts so I don’t get sidetracked in the meeting. I hope I look organised and invested in the meeting 🙂

4. Speech preparation

My kids have started to do little speeches at school.

They’re allowed to use a card with keywords, so they use a Project Life card.

5. Scriptures/ affirmations

One of my kids was quite fearful about going to bed for a month or two, so Dion wrote out a scripture to be kept next to the bed.

If I want to be reminded about something, like “I can only do what I can do; I can’t control other people’s work”, then I write these not-so-little things on a PL card.

6. Labelling shelves

I change things in my house all the time. Not furniture, but the way things are organised. For instance, when the kids were at pre-school, we had a lot more space dedicated to casual clothes, because that’s all they wore.

These days we have a shelf each for school clothes because of the uniforms. And they only wear casual clothes for 3.5 hours every afternoon, and on weekends.

PL cards are easy to use, change labels and just stick on the shelf with Prestik.

7 . Love notes

Kendra just piped up from the lounge that we also use them to write love messages for each other 🙂

How do you use Project Life cards for non-Project Life purposes?

PS I really like this lady’s idea for a running list!

How my whole planning system fits together

This year I have three diaries/ notebooks going. I know what you’re thinking and I agree, three is probably too many but I’ll explain the intricacies below.

Shining Planner

Moleskine weekly diary planner

Bullet journal

  1. Shining Planner

I use the shining planner to review the month that’s just passed, and to set goals for the month ahead. It has a really thorough review and intention-based process. I use one of the pages not as it’s intended because I just do a list of all my goals for the month on that page.

I also love these prompts at the start of every week:

  • this week I want to receive…
  • I want to give myself the gift of…
  • I want to feel …
  • I am grateful for …

And your top 3 priorities  – personal and work – for the week.

For the rest of the week, I put in anything that has a scheduled time but that’s it.

—>>> Goals for the month, setting intentions for the week and top 3 work and personal for the week. These top 3’s are usually taken from my goals for the month, or something urgent that’s come up, like a geyser thing we had a few weeks ago.

This planner stays on my desk at home because it’s too bulky to carry around with me.

2. Moleskine weekly diary planner

This is my preferred diary format – a weekly horizontal down the left and on the right, lined paper for my lists.

(do you know how few diaries have a horizontal weekly layout? I’ve seen only 3 – this one, my beloved Legami and another spotted on the fly – I should do an instastory from Exclusive Books!)

I write those same scheduled things from the Shining Planner down the left side of this diary (standard things I would write out for the month, like Tues 6pm Barre, 7pm Spanish). If the nanny’s off work, I would note that down here, or if I’m working from home, I also note that down here. In other words, all appointments with others or with myself (upholder!)

The right side is for my personal and blog goals. Beth and I chat every Thursday night and set goals for the week ahead. So on a Thursday night of one week (say, 5 October) I write things down on the next week’s page (week starting Monday 9th October). Meanwhile, I still complete (mostly!) the current list for the rest of this week. If this is confusing, sorry about that. It makes complete sense to me because I’m just “pausing” the current week for 30 minutes to think about next week, without actually starting next week until it arrives. Make sense?

I usually put no more than 4 – 5 personal and 3 blog goals for the week ahead. These are all from my monthly goals. Sometimes they’re carried forward from previous weeks – it’s all okay.

If other things crop up, I can easily add it to either of the lists (I leave space) without feeling overwhelmed. Other non-goal things I add are usually appointment-making things.

3. Bullet journal

The only real planning that goes on here is my weekend to-do list and the daily to-do list I write when I work from home. That’s really it.

If you read this post, you’ll see I mention the goals review and goal-setting here too. This is just for a quick brainstorm, key points, etc. to jog my memory.

My weekend lists are my favourite things ever – I like a combination of out and about (I’m an extrovert), productivity (either in the house or on computer) and true relaxing (reading/ photos, etc).

The items on my weekend list are sometimes carried over from the Moleskine (finish a book, or finish editing photos, for instance) but are mostly new things. I never put house stuff on my weekly list because I work full-time and the only time I get to potter and organise is on the weekend, unless it’s to do a quick 10-minute organising project.

Then the whole thing repeats every week, and at the end of the month, on Goals Night, I do my monthly review and goal-setting.

And that’s it!

All that said, I’m already excited for next year because I decided I’m not ordering the shining planner so I’ll only have my diary (it’s looking like a Moleskine for now) and my bullet journal.

Has this helped anyone? Please let me know.

How does your planning system fit together?

How do I control all the paper?

One of the most popular questions I get is this:

How do I control all the paper?

I understand this question completely because I have a big yellow desk and when I get lazy, that’s the first area that goes out of control for me too.

The first thing you have to do is make decisions on what next for every piece of paper. I like using a timer because I’m naturally competitive (anyone relate?) and that inspires me to take action, and quickly too!

Before you start, gather the following items:

1. a timer (use the timer on your phone)
2. wastepaper basket
3. brightly coloured pen (I like a nice thick red gel pen)
4. notebook and/ or planner
5. post-it notes (the originals, not the cheap stuff)

Right, now you’re set!

There are only four actions you’re allowed to do once you’ve looked at each piece of paper. Don’t take longer than 30 seconds to scan the page.

1. Dump it

Throw it in the bin. The more ruthless you are, the less you have to file. Win-win!

If you only need one piece of information, write it down straight in your notebook or diary, and then throw the piece of paper away. Some of you are hyperventilating – you’ll be okay.

2. Delegate it

If someone else has to attend to it (husband needs to phone), write the action on the paper itself or on a post-it note and put that in a separate pile.

3. File it

Please do yourself a favour and only put paper in this pile if you absolutely need to reference it again. Just a quick statistic before you add anything to that pile… only 20% of filed papers are ever referenced again. Ahem.

Use your post-it pad for different categories. For example, when I’m doing my weekly paper sorting session, I use Household, Marcia, Dion and Kids as my categories.

4. Do it

Here I apply the two-minute rule. If you can do it in two minutes or less, do it right there and then. When I say “do it”, I mean either action it or schedule it to action later.

For example, if you’re working on your papers at 10 pm and need to make an appointment, you can’t phone right there and then, so write it on tomorrow’s to-do list or add it to your phone as a reminder. That’s within two minutes and it counts.

There you have it – the only four things to do with paper. If you stick to making decisions and taking action continually, your paper will be beautifully organised in no time at all. But remember, there’s no shame in the paper getting out of control now and again.

Is paper an area in your life that you battle with?

Is it the decision-making part, the sheer volume, the fact that you’re scared you may need it again? Tell me more.

Bullet journal 101 – most useful pages

If you haven’t seen the last post on bullet journal, have a read here to find out all the pages I use for planning.

Today, we’re going to discuss three of the most useful pages for me:

When I last
This is a page I picked up from browsing the #bulletjournal hashtag on Instagram. I took a screenshot immediately and kept it on my phone for a few months before trying it.

Basically, it’s to remind you of things you need to keep track of, but that don’t happen daily, weekly or even monthly.
I track when I colour my hair (I should do that monthly, but I do it when I can’t stand it anymore) and when I have my Brazilian Blowwaves done. I also started tracking Connor’s haircuts.

Any ideas you have for this page? Or ideas for me to use this page more?

This is not my reading goals page but just my monthly reading list 🙂

Reading goals

This is one of my favourite pages in my bullet journal.

I wrote out these goals at the start of the year when I thought of how I wanted my reading life to look this year.
I’m happy with the amount of reading I do but I wanted to get intentional about a few other things – books to re-read, how many Audible books, etc.

So I look at my list at the end of each month and I see how I’m doing. And then, of course, I make adjustments for the month ahead.

If you’re a reader, I highly recommend a reading goals list.

What were/ are some of your reading goals for this year?

Favourite author lists and the books I already have

This page started as an action from my reading goals page. And then I accidentally bought a physical copy of a book I have on my Kindle, and the page morphed into one where I tick off the books I own, and I highlight them once I’ve read them.

I’ve now trained myself to not buy books until I’ve checked my pages just in case I own a copy.

It’s so useful. If you have a bad memory for books that kind-of sound the same, make yourself a list of your favourite authors and the books you need to read from your physical or virtual bookshelves.

How do you keep track of the books you need to read from your favourite authors? Goodreads? Page in your bullet journal? Notes in your phone?

Which are some of your most useful pages in your bullet journal?

How I do menu planning, and what I cook for my freezer

Have you read my post on why you should consider menu planning?

 

I do my menu planning weekly but if you’re more of an all or nothing person, you might want to just plan a month’s worth of meals and get it all over and done with at one time.

Weekly or monthly menu planning for you?

I feel like I’m doing that thing with my kids where I say “cucumber or tomatoes?”

IMG_0929

A couple of ideas on ways to approach menu planning:

  • have a theme for each day: mince on Mondays/ chicken on Tuesdays/ vegetarian on Wednesdays/ fish on Thursday/ easy Friday (pizza/ eggs/ soup)
  • cook a certain number of nights and use freezer dishes for the rest
  • delegate certain nights to your spouse

How I do it

1. Generally, D does supper on Tuesdays and Sundays. The trick when you delegate is you are not allowed to say a single thing except “thank you for the lovely supper”. They will stop if you nag about anything. Tell yourself the kids will be fine without vegetables for 1 – 2 nights. I don’t write anything on my menu plan except “D”.

Sundays is usually toast with peanut butter, cheese, etc. and this is (sadly) the kids’ favourite meal of the week.

2. According to my daughter, we always have rice on a Monday (I checked my menu plans and turns out, she’s right 🙂 I haven’t intentionally planned it like that, but I do like rice/ pasta/ rice/ potatoes/ bread-based within my 5 meals.

3. We very rarely go out for supper because 1) I can whip up a pasta quicker than us getting ourselves sorted and to the nearest place and waiting for our meal 2) we prefer lunches out

4. I cook a lot on the weekends. Not every weekend, but about one or two weekends in a 5-week period. That feels about right to me. I may make 3 meals but I cook double so that’s 6 nights’ suppers sorted.

5. Leftovers. Don’t discount the leftovers. Those meals I cook on the weekends last longer than I anticipate because often we don’t have to have the 5th meal of the week because there is enough leftovers. Sometimes I’ve had supper out, sometimes D only wants half of his supper because he’s home later, and so on.

Meals that freeze well

Some people think potato or pasta doesn’t freeze well. I have done both and the meals are still perfectly fine. I think the trick is to not let it thaw forever out on the counter because your food will get watery (yuck!). I put it in the microwave to defrost it a bit for about 6 minutes (that’s two presses of the quick defrost button on my microwave) and then straight into the oven to crisp up.

  1. Cottage pie
  2. Baked pasta dishes. When you cook one dish to have “fresh” on the night, do another dish for the freezer. Put it in the casserole dish, put some cling wrap (Saran wrap) on the top, and into the freezer.
  3. Rice
  4. Curries
  5. Bolognaise
  6. Chicken a la King
  7. Taco mince
  8. Chilli con carne
  9. Chicken and broccoli casserole
  10. Soup and the rolls 🙂

and so on (share your ideas in the comments please)

IMG_0930

Do you menu plan? Weekly or monthly?

Do you cook freezer meals? Which ones are your favourites?

Why you should menu plan

I was chatting to a friend a few weeks ago and I told her that when things feel like they’re going off track, there’s one thing that I need to do: make a menu plan.

Today, let’s talk about why I do menu planning (I’ve been menu planning for 11 years now), and why you should consider doing so too.

Do you menu plan?

Good reasons to menu plan

  • it saves you daily decision time
  • saves you money when you use up all the food in the freezer and pantry, and stops you buying foods you don’t need
  • no stress about what to cook every night as even if you don’t feel like eating what you put on your menu, you know there’s at least 4 other options to choose from

I play a little game with myself and aim for sticking to the menu plan 4 out of 5 nights. Remember I’m not a perfectionist. Good enough is better than perfect.

How do you start menu planning

Note – please do this before you go to the shops to do your grocery shopping 😉

1. Go to your freezer and cupboards to see what food you have that you need to use up, and make a list.
2. Write out a menu plan for a week (if you do weekly shopping) or longer, using recipes to use up that food. Get creative.
3. Add any items that you need to your weekly shopping list and do your shopping. You may have some pasta and cans of tuna so in order to use them up, you might need a few cans of tomato.
4. Stick the menu plan to your fridge.

Now you don’t have to rack your brain every night wondering what to cook because you have a plan.

Another tip that will save you lots of time is to cook something on a Sunday afternoon. This meal is not for eating that day, but for freezing. I heard a podcast recently (I don’t know how she does it – an Aussie podcast) where the lady said she makes all the lunches for the week on a Sunday afternoon and while she’s doing that, she bakes muffins or bread. Brilliant!

When you have a busy day it’s easy to just defrost the meal and have a healthy supper on the table in minutes.

We went through a stage where we didn’t buy any meat for two months while we finished everything in the freezer and started on the cupboards. You see, we all get into a habit of buying the same groceries every week without checking if we really need it.

If you’re not already menu planning, I’d like to encourage you to at least start. Do so for at least a month, give it a good go and see if it doesn’t save you time and money.

And if you already do menu planning, then your challenge for this week is to only buy perishables and eat from your freezer and cupboards.

Are you menu planning?

Is there anything you’d like to change about your process? Do you have any special tips?

PS Look out on Thursday for how I do my menu planning and some freezer meal ideas

5 more favourite posts about … goal-setting process

Guys, you know I love talking about goals.

I’m actually so excited that I’ve found like-minded people on my @OrganisingQueen instagram page who like to see so much talk about goals 🙂

I did think, though, that I should round up some of my favourite goals posts again in one place, so here you go.

Bouncing back from a not-great goals month

These 3 things will get you halfway to your goals

Goals for kids

Two great goal-setting questions

Put your goals back on track

Tell me about your goal-setting history.

Do you set goals comfortably?

Do you want to set goals but don’t quite … get around to it?

Are you scared in case you don’t reach those goals?

Do you feel like it would be too much pressure?

Tell all 🙂

P.S. If you need help, do email me to set up a goal-setting session. I’d love to help you.

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