Quiet your house and your life

Many of you know that one of my teeny-tiny habits is that I tidy or clean something in the kitchen while I wait for the kettle to boil. You can do a lot in 2 – 3 three-minute stints daily.

One day I looked up at the mugs and things felt too busy. I then did what The Nester recommends and I quieted the space by removing all the mugs from the shelves. I had rainbow mugs up here for much of the year because they made me happy. I then swopped out the bright colours for the more muted tones above. They still spark joy but they spark quieter joy.

You know how this goes – when you start one thing, you start thinking about the rest of your life. I felt so calm with the mug shelf that I noticed my calendar felt too full.

It’s understandable that things have started to feel a lot busier for me due to the opening up from the intense lockdown to our current level 1 lockdown in South Africa.

I started going back to Spanish in September and went back to the gym last week. We’ve also been told that we’ll be required to come work at the office twice a week from November. From a schedule with no leaving the house to leaving five times a week is a big change.

It all feels a bit sudden while at the same time getting out is also welcome. I realised that I need to close all my open loops so that I don’t enter this busy season collapsing every night when I get back home from overwhelm. This is why I wrote this post talking about first doing something about your physical space and then considering what’s hampering your mental space too.

Which of your physical spaces do you need to quiet? And your mental space?

{time} How to get a head start on your day

There are many ways to have a great day. Having a good night’s sleep is one way but today I want to talk about how to get a head start on your day and feel like you’re winning before you even start.

Make a list the night before if you’re an owl, or make your list first thing in the morning if you’re a lark. I would also argue that if you make your list the night before, emptying your mind might help with good sleep too because you won’t be worrying about what you need to do. And we all know what an advocate I am for good sleep.

It sounds like a really simple thing to do and yes, it is simple, but it has huge impact.

If you’ve never tried it before, try making a to-do list for one week.

  • notice how you feel in the evening
  • notice how you feel in the morning already knowing what your priorities are

I always suggest no more than 6 things but if you’re new to list-making, try just 3.

(I put 6 things on my work list and 3 things on my personal list every week day, and they definitely live in separate places although I look at both lists throughout the day)

Remember if you do your 3 things every day, that’s 15 tasks over your work week. 15 is fantastic!

What might you put on your list?

Priorities. When I’m doing my weekly planning, I add my priorities/ weekly goals to my list (usually 6 – 7 per week). Last week, I had “write newsletter” on my list.

Scheduled plans. I count scheduled items as things too because otherwise I forget that I’m actually away from home for 90 minutes. For example, coaching appointments, exercise, friend dates, and so on. On Monday, I had Spanish dancing, write blog (this one) and finish book (I’m 87% through).

Fun things. Reading is the most common fun thing, but in the last week of the month, I also get to play with my goals. I’m working through a course now so that is one thing for five weeks.

Chores. I usually have a night of cooking every week when I’ll cook 2 – 3 meals, all at one time. On one evening twice a month, I update the budget.

reading

And….. some days I put a big, fat old line through all my items and write HEADACHE because that’s all that happened ๐Ÿ™

Do you make lists? If you don’t, will you try just for one week?

{goals} 2020: let’s talk about the last quarter

This year’s felt like the newborn stage for me – in parts it’s flown and yet I have many times had to take it day by day to stay sane.

I see many sentiments like “let this year just end” and “can we please just get on with next year?”, and I get that. We all want to escape a year absolutely none of us expected and move on with our lives.

A lot of us are also exhausted from working too hard, or worrying too much, or having too many bills and not enough money, or a combination of all of the above.

So I think it’s time that I had a reframe. I’d love if you’d join me too. I’ll share one thought for each question to give you an idea. Write out the prompts in longhand, use the notes app in your phone or maybe talk it through with a friend.

  1. What do I want for this last quarter of the year?

I want to continue with my reading streak (I reached my goal on the weekend), I want to eat better again so I can get to a certain number (nowhere near my actual physical goal, just a mental goal) and I want to start slowly integrating back into the “new normal” of getting out and about.

2. Is there anything I want to start doing?

I had these two things on my original 20 in 2020 list and I can do them so I should. I have started just one session of Emily P Freeman’s Discern and Decide course (it was a pre-order bonus when her book, The Next Right Thing, released last year) and I want to finish that. I also want to read The Path Between Us, an enneagram book on relationships by Suzanne Stabile, that I also bought last year.

3. How do I want to feel at the end of the year?

Like I survived this period with grace, determination and my sanity intact. If my relationships are as good as they were or better, I’ll consider that a bonus.

4. Are there any projects I’ve started that I can finish well?

Yes, I want to run two sessions of a new workshop I’m yet to name but will help us all end this year well (whatever well looks like for you) and prepare for next year. It’s going to be the equivalent of a large part of my end-of-the-year coaching sessions but so much cheaper.

5. Is there anything I need to finalise or end for my own emotional and mental comfort?

Well, had I written this blog last week, I’d have talked about ballet. I did it though – I’ve been dithering and yet I knew I was not comfortable going back anytime soon (in fact this revelation came to me while doing session 1 of Discern and Decide). So I wrote the owner an email last week and formally resigned. I can always go back but at least she’s not left wondering about me.

Bonus – if it feels right for you and you want to make a list of 3 for the next three months, go ahead. I wrote more about quarterly goals here.

And remember, it can be as small as drinking 2 L of water a day or reading for just 20 minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be “write a book” ๐Ÿ™‚

Who of you are joining me for the workshop on 21 November? Book your place now. It’ll be $29/ R450 but there’s be a discount for the early birds until 7 November!

If you prefer to work through these things privately in a 1:1 session, I’m offering the same content in a 75-minute coaching session for just $50. This will be for a limited time only until mid-December.

PS this is post number 2000 on this blog! Wow! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

{organising} for spring according to your personality

It’s spring in Johannesburg and many of us like to do some spring cleaning. I like to do cleaning throughout the year otherwise the thought of all that deep cleaning will probably drive me deep into a book never to emerge.

I do love organising though and there’s a bit of cleaning involved there.

But whether you prefer cleaning or organising, there’s a way to approach it to suit your Tendency.

Let’s go through the Four Tendencies. If you’re not sure of your Tendency, take the quiz here.

Upholder

Think about your home. What do you want to do and why? Make a list of the things that you feel like tackling over the next month, keep it visible, schedule a couple of tasks into your diary/ calendar (actually, block out the time in your weekly schedule) and attack your list as planned.

Obliger

Which areas are important for your family to function well? If you’re not sure, ask them. Then announce your plans to them and to a friend who will hold you accountable. Block out the time and go for it. Bonus tip – follow a few cleaning accounts on Instagram (@jottiesjournal and @lynsey_queenofclean) for inspiration but remember that watching Instagram stories will not get your own house organised.

Questioner

First figure out why you want to do what you want. If you want to declutter spaces, first ask yourself why a space matters to you and what is important to you about that space. Once you get really clear on your why, you’ll be able to start and stay the course. Questioners get demotivated when they can’t see the point of doing something.

Rebel

If it’s important to you to have a clean and/ or organised home, then go for it in your own way. Do not follow any of the plans you see on Instagram or Pinterest. Definitely don’t sign up for one of those monthly challenges with a different section every month, or if you do, jump around and do as you feel like you want. Perhaps have a cleaning caddy handy and, as the mood strikes, clean or organise whatever you feel like doing, in your own way.

I would love to know what your Tendency is and if this helped you in getting your head into spring cleaning/ organising gear.

I also offer 1:1 Four Tendencies coaching sessions where we talk about your Tendency and more importantly figure out how to harness it to address any challenges you currently experience in your home, personal or work life. $60 for a one-hour session. Book your session now.

{organising} How to store and organise your masks

What a strange world we’re living in where I’m writing a post about how to organise and store your masks!

In my mind, there are three steps to this mask-wearing business:

  1. storage of clean masks
  2. where to put dirty masks before laundry day
  3. having a mask ready to wear

Let me tell you what we did before and then what we currently do because the first way was driving me crazy. Hopefully you can get a few ideas by thinking the flow of masks through in your own home.

Before

We had a pile of clean masks on the sideboard in our dining room which is about 4 steps from the front door.

The idea was to wear the clean mask and walk straight into the house to put the dirty mask in its place. I set out a lidded plastic container on top of the washing machine labelled “dirty masks for washing”.

Very soon I noticed that only the adults were observing the rules; the kids would toss their masks anywhere once they entered the house. Soon I didn’t know if a mask was dirty or clean and if I wasn’t sure, I tossed the mask into the wash.

Currently

  1. The masks are now stored in each person’s bedroom in a pouch (this is my pouch) . A big, deep pencil bag also works very well. Dion has a drawer for his masks because he has the space.
  2. The dirty masks still go into the plastic container on the washing machine (it’s nothing special but it works). We each have at least 5 masks so we should be able to wash them once a week as none of us leaves the house more than three times a week. We leave the elastic as is once we find a good fit and wash them exactly as tied.
  3. When we’re ready to leave the house, just as we’d grab a sweatshirt/ handbag/ wallet from our bedrooms, we now grab a mask too. I keep a mask ready in my handbag and replace it before I put my handbag back where it belongs.

From these photos you can see how we fold them, and then I face them towards one another so the bigger sides are spaced out. The pouches we use can each easily hold 6 masks.

Once the laundry is done, each person takes their pile of masks and puts it back in the pouch.

The kids went back to school on Monday and part of getting ready these days is having a mask next to the school bag so they’re ready to go.

Do tell me – what’s your process for storing and cleaning masks?

{goals} Monthly, weekly, daily goals – how they all fit together

I was looking through the blog’s archives for this post I’m about to write and honestly, I can’t even imagine why I haven’t written it yet!

SheilaJo, a recent participant on both of my workshops, asked me: how do you fit your monthly, weekly and daily goals all together?

Monthly goals

My monthly goals process is split up into three sections. I usually do all three sections over two evenings, the first evening being Goals Night and the second evening simply because I get carried away and it gets too late.

Here are the three sections:

  1. Monthly goals review – this is the big picture thinking about how the month went. Since I naturally want to dive into the detail, reflecting on the big questions first helps me to be a healthier version of myself.
  2. Tracking on my goals spreadsheet – I use roughly the same spreadsheet year after year (I think this is year 6) and I track the number of goals set and achieved, average sleep, steps, number of workouts, which friends I’ve seen, books I’ve read and their breakdown, etc. I also then check my Books Read Notebook and update anything I’ve missed. See this notebook in the 2019 or 2020 highlights on my bookstagram account.
  3. Setting goals for the month ahead – this is the fun part because the month stretches ahead, full of possibility ๐Ÿ™‚ I set clear, actionable goals in the categories of Family, Fun, Finances, Fitness, Friends, Four Tendencies/ Five Love Languages.

Weekly goals

My weekly goals happen in two stages.

  • On a Thursday night, Beth and I set goals with one another for the week ahead. I write these goals down in the Priorities section on my weekly plan (picture below).
  • I incorporate some of those goals into my weekend to-do list. When I do my weekly planning on a Sunday for the week ahead, I will then schedule the other items that still need to get done, and write them down on the actual day in my diary. This would also be the point at which I’d check on details, like if a friend and I had a “to be confirmed” plan, that’s when I’d send a quick message to make sure we’re still meeting, etc.

Daily goals

I don’t really do daily goals but I do have the scheduled appointments like Zumba, friend dates, coaching appointments, etc.

Based on how full my diary looks, I then will plan to do the other bits and pieces around my scheduled tasks. For example, I might do some photo editing (no thinking needed) on a night I do Zumba, but I’d probably only schedule the newsletter for another night and do nothing else (it’s a thinking task and has multiple pieces to its completion).

And of course, my biggest tip is this – I never put too much on one day. Spread out your goals over the week so you don’t get overwhelmed. That’s why God made a week with 7 days.

In terms of time, I spend about two hours a month (but I should time myself next week) on my monthly goals, Beth and I chat for 30 minutes (but probably 10 of those minutes are actual weekly goalsetting), and then I spend 20 minutes on my weekly planning, and less than a minute a day looking at my daily list and updating here and there.

That’s 120 + 30 + 30 + 30 + 30 = 240 mins a month which is about 8 minutes a day, a highly profitable use of my time because it yields hours of non-wastage ๐Ÿ™‚

Do you do monthly/ weekly/ daily goals planning? How much time do you spend?

{mindset} What are the three things you need right now?

It’s already starting to feel like spring in Johannesburg and as we approach the new season, I thought this might be a good time to remind all of us (I love seasonal reminders) to think about 3 things daily, 3 things weekly and 3 things monthly that we need.

3 things daily

Every day I ask myself, “which 3 things do I need to or want to get done today?”

On Sunday, my three things were to update the budget, cook two meals and finish reading my book.

On a workday, it’s usually the most important work tasks and will sometimes include a load of laundry or making a phone call.

Is there a habit you want to build in daily? Name it and write down just one.

3 things weekly

Those of you who’ve been here a while know that I’m a weekly planner. I love weekly planning because if I have one terrible day full of work surprises or an unexpected headache, it doesn’t derail my entire week. I can get back on track and will usually get those things done another day.

I usually have 3 main weekly tasks – this week that was to 1) write a newsletter, 2) write a blog (this one!) and to 3) send out a final note to all the people on my interested list of the last EVER Four Tendencies workshop.

What are your weekly tasks? Is it to make a menu plan and shop for groceries, to make sure there’s enough clean clothes, to make a weekly phone call to a loved one?

I usually have house tasks, personal tasks and work tasks on my weekly list.

3 things monthly

I want to talk a little more about this because it’s about being honest with yourself. I’ve been working too much and I realised that I don’t seem to have an off switch, because the laptop’s right there….

 1. I need to consciously work at shutting off and not popping into my email to “quickly check things”. I’m going to have to set a reminder on my phone to stop working and perhaps pack the laptop away until I break the habit.

2. I also need to move more regularly; I do have my regular Zumba classes but I could easily add another class to the weekly schedule. I’m happier and calmer when I move my body.

3. Last but not least, I need to focus on what I can do, not what I can’t. I can’t run the workshops I ran last year, but I can run a virtual workshop. I can’t connect with people in person but I can coach on Skype and Zoom. I can’t go eat out at a restaurant like before (we are still being very careful, e.g. we went on my birthday), but I can try many, many recipes right here at home to experiment with ingredients and new flavours.

What do you need right now? 

Do you need to work on drinking more water, getting more sleep, having a set start and stop time for work, connecting with a real life friend instead of scrolling Instagram, switching the TV off at a decent hour every night…?

There’s something powerful about speaking it aloud to yourself or comment and I will see it.

{goals} 3 things to consider if you want to create a habit

We all thought that while we were in lockdown, we’d have all the time in the world for all the things we wanted to add to our lives. But we forgot that we’d need to work longer hours, guide our children with their schooling, cook, clean and do more laundry and dishes than we ever dreamed possible.

Sometimes it amazes me that even though I’ve been creating (and breaking!) habits for years and years, I still don’t think through and plan things properly when I want to create a new habit.

And yet, when I do take just a few minutes to plan, it works out so much better than just winging it.

Some habits are more long-term like creating an exercise habit, some are medium-term like working on a project consistently for a determined period (building a website or getting a writing project up and running) and others are for a short time like a month (the photo challenges I participate in on Instagram come to mind).

Think about a good habit you want to build. 

Let me now share 3 things to consider if you want to create a good habit in your life:
 

1. Frequency
What is a realistic frequency to consider?

For a new exercise habit, 2 – 3 times a week might work better at first in starting to build a sustainable habit. Decide what would be an easy enough frequency to incorporate into your existing life, not your fantasy life. It is easier to increase frequency later once a habit is already established than to find the motivation to start up again if you burn out from going too hard too soon.

2. Energy
When is my energy highest for this type of activity?

If you want to create more time to make delicious meals, consider your energy levels. You might be willing, able and excited on a Saturday afternoon, but not on Wednesday evening after a day of meetings. Consider also the different types of energies required for the various activities – writing a blog post or reading requires a different energy than exercising, for instance.

3. Pairing
Which activity already occuring regularly is something to which I can attach my new habit?

Susannah Conway’s August break is now upon us. It’s one of my favourite parts of the entire year because for my entire birthday month, I get to be mindful and introspective. My natural flow is to move forward quickly but I’m a better me when I slow down occasionally and reflect. When Susannah announced the challenge a few weeks ago, a commenter mentioned that she always starts and then forgets after a few days. I couldn’t help replying with a tip that works really well for me – I screenshot the prompts and save the picture as my lockscreen. Whenever I then reach for my phone, I see the prompt (pairing something good with something automatic) and I start thinking about what to post. I have another pairing habit later at night – when I have my evening cup of tea, before I start reading my book, I quickly post my prompt.

If you have a habit you want to create, might I suggest that you put just a few minutes of thinking into it so that you set yourself up for success. You can do it!

Bonus tip

It probably goes without saying but using your Tendency’s strategies for success will help you embed habits in your life. If you’re not sure of your Tendency, or you do know but you’re not sure how to use it with regards to successful habit formation, either come on the last workshop with me, or book a private Four Tendencies coaching session (currently $60 for 60 minutes).

{goals} Two fun, intentional birthday traditions you may want to consider

I just celebrated my birthday – this is 46! It’s the strangest thing; I’m writing these increasing numbers and I don’t feel 46 at all. I feel strong, vital and full of energy yet I know intellectually that I’m now middle-aged ๐Ÿ˜ฎ and that other people see me like that.

I had a very lovely birthday indeed. You can see more in the Instagram post below.

  1. Do a birthday review

I wrote two posts here in 2016 and here in 2018, and you can download my free birthday review printable here.

2. Make a birthday list

I used to make a 36 things, 37 things, 38 things list…. and then they got too many to do once I hit 40. So now I do a lovely things to do list and I only make 20 items ๐Ÿ˜‰

This year my list has things that are very doable within my immediate environment. I have not entirely completed it yet, but a couple of the categories include:

  • workshops (I want to develop a new one to replace Four Tendencies – let me know if there’s something you can think of, but I am definitely doing a goals/ planning workshop)
  • photos and photography
  • reading (obviously – did you know I started a bookstagram account during the last year? See more @marciareadsalot)
  • cooking/ baking
  • family and friends

What are some fun things I should add to my list?

{mindset} So many pandemic changes – part 2

We started talking about all the changes that we need to consider due to the pandemic last week. Read part 1 here.

And a huge disclaimer – I know that we are fortunate that our jobs have been secure thus far. If your income has been affected, I’m sorry – that completely sucks.

5. House/ external environment

I’ve told myself, since we’re not travelling, we might as well spend some of that money on our house so that we’re as comfortable and happy here as we can be.

To that end, I’ve had a handyman in to fix 6 little things, a plumber came to sort out some minor annoyances before they become big things, my garden is looking good for now (Jhb has no winter rainfall so the garden is decent) and my house is fairly deep-cleaned as my domestic worker is back for 40% of our pre-covid arrangement, which is actually why I can blog and am not cleaning!

We sealed some windows and had carpets replaced (two years later than I planned!) and now I just need a painter to come and paint my downstairs and I think we’ll be good for a while again.

More importantly than projects, we’ve moved things around in the house so that the entire space works better for this new C19 life. That couch on the left is no longer there – I needed it there for the workshops but since those are no longer happening, we’ve moved it upstairs to the pyjama lounge so the kids can relax near us while we’re working.

Zumba in my study

6. Exercising

In the beginning of the lockdown, exercise was a substitute as we waited for “things to return to normal”. Now that we realise this is how it’s going to be for a long time, and things are not going to return to normal for a long, long time, and we’re working from home so are far more sedentary, I have personally realised that I need to either get happy about my methods of exercise, or change them.

Zumba has been keeping me sane, I’ve found I really do not like ballet via Zoom though (I really do go for the whole sensory experience) and I love going for a walk to clear my head some evenings after work, especially now during autumn and winter. I’m under no illusion that when it gets too hot in Jhb, I’ll hate walking again and may have to do more Zumba classes, or maybe ballet will start looking exciting again ๐Ÿ˜‰

thank goodness for kindle books and scribd

7. Spending

Oh, this is a big one. I’ve had a couple of discussions on Instagram because I’m honestly fascinated by all these people who are saving money.

Yes, we’re not spending as much on petrol but our food has increased so, so much with all of us here all the time, snacking, eating, treating ourselves with food and the occasional takeaway.

We’ve had to upgrade our internet and with that comes an increased monthly expense – the speeds are not sufficient with two people working full-time, in meetings, and two children trying to also access the internet for their schooling.

I’m going to deal with clothes properly in a separate post but is there a need to buy clothes any more? I have to probably keep four work outfits for summer and four for winter, and even that is plenty. I have bought some clothes during the last four months – a sports bra, slippers and socks, so I clearly have enough clothes.

So what am I spending some money on? Scribd, Zumba, books and some toiletries.

Our repo rate (the rate that the banks loan money to people for houses) has dropped a number of times since lockdown to aid the economy. I’ve been sensible and increased our bond payments every time. I let the actual payment the bank requires go off on the 1st of the month, and then we pay in extra on the 14th. Let’s face it – things could change any day and it would be good to have a bit cushioned away for an emergency.

This photo was taken in February, and I’m so glad we made time to get together when we had the chance.

8. Socials

I would almost always rather meet up in person than spend time on a call, but calls and Teams/ Zoom meetings have been a delightful way to connect with my friends.

I do have some concern for some of my friendships because I’ll be honest – it does feel rather like I’m stoking an awful lot of friendship fires these days.

Even our bookclub has taken a knock – the nice thing about not everyone pitching is that you can really connect better with the ones who are there (and this is what I tell myself). The bad thing is it is an anchor during the month to connect with many friends at one time and if those friends don’t pitch, I don’t always have the time or inclination (or, enneagram 1!) feel like it’s my job anymore to always be the gatherer. I’m not sure if anyone can relate?

Tell me, how has the pandemic affected these four areas of your life?

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