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?

{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

{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).

{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?

{time} So many pandemic changes – part 1

I first started thinking about permanent pandemic changes when we had a meeting at work and our boss said that even when “all this is over”, we will only be required to come into the office once every two weeks.

(not wonderful news for an extrovert but I can decide and create my own amount of connection with other people, so not entirely a big deal)

A few weeks later in another virtual meeting, a colleague announced that she’d bought a second computer monitor to ease her work from home environment.

And then, on Instagram, a fellow organising friend said that they’d caved in and bought her husband a proper desk for the corner of the bedroom instead of making do with a dresser.

There are many thoughts that I have on this (I quickly jotted down 8 main categories) so I’m breaking up this post into two sections.

1. Work

If I’m only going into the office 1 out of every 10 days, as an extrovert, what will I need to do to keep sane? How much people time do I need? How will I connect with clients, colleagues and the greater company?

If you’re an introvert, you might be asking yourself, how do I get enough alone time with a house full of people all the day long? Am I doing what I need for my mental sanity?

2. Routines

Do I have good work from home routines? How will I ensure that I’m taking enough time off for rest and holidays? In pre-covid times, we were used to taking annual leave only to go away on an actual holiday. We all still need rest and relaxation. I write this on a day I’ve taken “annual leave” and I’m sat at the dining room table typing this blog post. I’ve also pottered around the house, listened to a book and podcast (and will do more of the same while I cook later) and supervised people installing new carpet upstairs.

I am going to make actual appointments every day at 5 so that I stop working – Zumba, ballet, friend dates, etc. I’ve also planned out some leave in August and September, and I already can’t wait.

3. Storage

I was tidying my Tupperware cupboards about a week ago and realised I have far too much (for reference, it’s all not real Tupperware, but plastic containers) for someone who is only going to an office once ever two weeks. So I’ve started to slowly let go. I always share my spinach with Nanny S (my family are not fans) and today I told her to put her half in a container and keep the container ๐Ÿ™‚ When things don’t fit, I immediately add to the donate pile. This slow and steady approach works for me, or you could also go Marie Kondo with your stuff (I did that 6 years ago).

One of my coaching clients, P, a Questioner – she came to both the 4T and the 5LL workshops last year and started coaching with me soon after that.

4. My workshops and coaching

I’ll admit it – it took me a good month to get my head around not having people in my house but now that I’ve run three virtual workshops, I’m completely there. I had to remind myself that in the old days, I regularly ran teleseminars (the parent of webinars) and loved them.

I do like having a month of workshops and then a break, and then another month and then a break, both in terms of preparation and Zoom payments.

I’ve always had a mostly virtual coaching practice so there’s been no change at all. If you’ve thought of coaching with me before, a low-cost, low-risk way to see if we’d be good together is to attend a workshop with me first.

My question to you is this: have you considered all the ways your life is changing and started to adapt to the changes? Let me know how, if at all, you’ve made changes in the above categories.

{goals} Word of the year – half year update

My word for this year is light.

It’ll probably give you a good idea of how things have been going if I tell you it took me a good 5 seconds to remember what my word is.

My word for 2020 is light – here’s where you can read more about how I chose it.

In 2020, I want to feel lightโ€ฆ

  • physically โ€“ I need to lose 12 kgs
  • mentally โ€“ I want to let go of things quicker and not hold tight so long
  • emotionally โ€“ I want to lighten up with some things

I also want to look for the light more, in other words, get out my big camera and go make beautiful pictures. Honestly, Iโ€™ve gotten lazy and yet, itโ€™s something that brings me such joy and delight.

So how has it been going?

Physically – yes, I am lighter but I’ve not lost 6 kg yet. Still, I really do celebrate my progress because I feel fine in my clothes again and that was the motivator for the goal. It would be nice to have a specific number milestone but I honestly have bigger things to worry about right now than reaching an arbitrary number.

Mentally – the covid-19 pandemic has helped all of us let go of all the unimportant things, right?! I’ve had to pivot with my workshops and friend dates and all the out stuff I usually do, so I’m doing well here but….

Emotionally – well, this pandemic has been throwing me for a loop. I’ve cried more during the last almost 4 months (but nothing since 1 June!) but I’ve also experienced more love and connection from my family, which does add to that feeling of lightness of being.

One place I’m excelling at is looking for the light. I have been playing with my camera and iPhone, taking pictures of changing light, morning light, evening light, and as I suspected, it’s been bringing me such joy.

I have been bringing light (clarity) through my workshops, coaching, and speaking, hopefully, I haven’t been hiding my light and playing a smaller game.

If you’d like to experience the light of my workshops, there are 3 open workshops left this year – two Four Tendencies workshops, and one Five Love Languages workshop. Please book your place here.

I’ll give myself a 6/10 for my word of the year update, which feels like a 9/10 rating given the state of the world. I can do better though and this is my reminder to save my word on my lock screen to remind myself more during the next half of the year.

How has your 2020 word been working out for you? Has it been a good reminder? Have you been living it out? Have you forgotten your word?

{goals} Half-year 2020 goals update

We’re half way through the year and it’s a really good time to talk about goals.

If you haven’t seen this post where I ask if there’s even a point to goals anymore, take a few minutes and pop on over. There’s a lot of different ways to think about this time and still feel a little bit accomplished.

Let’s talk about my original 20 in 2020 list

I took some time to update my list this weekend and much to my surprise, I’m on track with exactly 10 out of 20 of those goals done. Much of the things that are undone involve travel and people things, so I’m under no illusion that I’ll even end on 15 but here’s to the half-year mark.

Thankfully I was able to pivot with the workshops so I had two in-person and 3 virtual. There are three workshops left – two Four Tendencies and one Five Love Languages. The Four Tendencies workshop on 22 August will work for those in South Africa, Europe and the USA.

Now, let’s talk about my 19 in Covid-19 list. A few things to note:

  • I actually put 20 things on the list
  • I made a list that does not depend on people or travel.
  • It may be a more boring list, but it’s all within my control.
  • I made the list on 18 April and (naive Marcia!), believed that it would only be needed for up to 3 months. We now know there’s a new normal we all have to get used to (more in the next couple of posts) but I’m still aiming to finish by 18 July.

Here’s a picture of my list…

And the good news is I’m up to nearly 17 out of these 20 that are complete. I’ve read 4 books from my bookshelf; and 28 overall as at the time of writing, but will finish those last two books by 18 July.

I have two questions for you, friends:

  • How are you going with your 2020 goals?
  • Did you make a 19 for Covid-19 list, and how is that going? Did you make your list to replace the 2020 one or just for a specific period like mine?

(for noting, I’ll have to make a list for the remainder of the year again – this is the first year I’m making THREE goals lists :))

A few posts to help with your pandemic goals

{Covid-19} How we do meals during lockdown

Let’s talk about lockdown and meals. I have been responsible for all but 4 – 5 meals during the last 83 days. The 4 – 5 meals were when we ordered in.

Part of that is a control issue (I do like to plan and cook the meals, and make sure than we don’t eat the same thing too much), part of that was a logistics issue (I am better at getting things done in the short time after work and when we want to eat) and part of that is a planning issue (at the start especially, there was so much that wasn’t available and food needed to be used up to make sure nothing went to waste).

Very soon though, I realised that after more than 8 hours of sitting at a desk, I enjoyed the chopping and slicing, combining, and flavouring. Doing things with my hands enabled me to use other parts of my mind and body. Is it the same for you?

Breakfast

Everyone is on a different schedule so does their own thing. I have noticed that during winter, my husband’s been preparing enough oats for him and the kids (I don’t eat any mushy food – I like my oats toasted and hard, like in granola). Friends, if people take over tasks in the house, say nothing!

We have variations on cereals like all-bran flakes, muesli, yoghurt, toast, etc. Nothing fancy or cooked.

Lunch

I usually loosely plan lunches – sandwiches with tuna, eggs, cheese, ham (when it was warmer), sometimes leftovers, etc.

I usually make the kids’ lunches – they are quite capable but I am not a fan of cleaning up after them as they don’t see all the crumbs, etc.

Suppers

I definitely make a menu plan. The menu plan is loose so I often swop meals around within the week, or abandon something altogether if I’m not in the mood to cook that meal.

Of course, as always, I run a very tight freezer inventory because I hate forgotten food and I love using up things. I’m a finisher.

On the weekends, I prepare that evening’s meal plus at least one extra. E.g. while I’m cooking pasta, I’m assembling enchiladas for the freezer. Sometimes the extras even run to two extra meals, which really helps during the week when I don’t have much time. Long-time readers will know that I always advocate cooking a double batch. When I did those enchiladas, there was enough filling for two meals – yay!

Working during this pandemic has been relentless and I’m afraid I’m not very good at switching off (yet) without a hard deadline like a Zumba class, so it helps when there are healthy meals in the freezer.

I always love cooking during winter so it’s been fun to experiment with the occasional new meal and to try desserts.

One thing I will say – I have not once baked banana bread or even been tempted to make a sourdough bread ๐Ÿ˜‰

What’s been your lockdown meals situation? Have you been eating out of your freezer and using up food? Would you say you’ve eaten better (healthier) or not so much?

{Covid-19} 5 things I love and 5 things I’ll miss about lockdown

As we close out this month, and there’s more talk of opening up, I thought I’d share my 3 lists of 5 things. Do join me. This is great for your own Covid-19 journalling ๐Ÿ™‚ or your bullet journal.

5 things I miss (more here)

  1. Freedom
  2. Seeing friends face-to-face
  3. Going to the gym
  4. My dance classes
  5. Kids going to school

5 things I love

  1. No traffic going to work
  2. Not having to colour my hair
  3. Seeing the daily winter sunsets (I would usually still be at work or driving home)
  4. Everyone is doing their own laundry
  5. Seeing the kids relate to each other like they did when they were little

5 things I’m grateful for (more here)

  1. Zoom Zumba and our core group of workout buddies
  2. That my husband and kids love being at home (I think this family can take only one of me!)
  3. Audio books accompanying my cleaning
  4. Cooking healthy meals and using up everything so there’s no waste
  5. Excellent sleep (I’ve averaged 8 hours for the last two months)

What are some of the things you miss and love about lockdown?

PS if you want to do a monthly review, download your monthly review pack here

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