How to get out of a reading slump

I shared in my newsletter and on Instagram Stories a few weeks ago that I’d been going through a reading slump.

What’s a reading slump?

It’s when reading feels more like a chore than a pleasure, and when you would rather do anything else than actually read.

What brought on my reading slump?

  • My standard reading life looks like this: a work of fiction started and finished on the weekend, an audible book in the car to accompany me on my daily commute, and a non-fiction read for weeknights.
  • I had a string of fiction books that I was not finishing in time so it was stretching into the week. My pace became really slow (5 – 6 days per book instead of 3 days) and my reading rhythm was thrown. Some of these books were book club reads that because of the internet noise, I’d been looking forward to, and were therefore disappointing (The Almost Sisters and Eleanor Oliphant). One was a book about a woman dying of cancer which was beautifully written but still, a difficult read.
  • In typical upholder fashion, even though I could have stopped when I saw that people weren’t joining in with Spring into Organising, I carried on relentlessly organising my home, going harder to try and inspire, but instead just burning myself out by doing more, more, more (17 spaces instead of the 9 planned). By the way, if you have suggestions for future endeavours, please let me know in comments what would work better in terms of getting people (or you) to play along. I have many ideas but I’m (honestly) scared to even try again.

I then heard an episode of the Currently Reading podcast where reading slumps were discussed, and when they asked readers to let them know how to get out of one, suddenly I realised what was going on with me and I was full of ideas.

Here’s how I got out of my reading slump:

  1. I decided to read one or two authors that I always enjoy reading (like Cathy Kelly) because I knew I’d read and not want to stop reading.
  2. The weather helped as we had one cold and rainy weekend, perfect reading weather.
  3. I chose a mystery book to increase my pace. I always read mysteries faster and I needed to feel like I was immersing myself in books again.
  4. I picked some fun audiobooks to keep me company on my way to work, not the “next thing” on my to read list, but just books that stood out to me. And yes, I flew through them.
  5. I chose to put down my phone. This was fortuitous as I upgraded and the iPhone helpfully told me exactly how much time I was spending on Instagram. 14 hours in one week is easily 2 – 3 books read, so that was an easy decision. This is not entirely accurate but I will write about this some more once I’ve gathered more stats.

Over to you.

When was your last reading slump? Do you remember what led to it? And more importantly, how did you get out of it?

And then, let’s talk about the books I read last month.

I read three physical books, my first in 3 months 🙂 and I’ll admit, readers, that it is really satisfying to occasionally hold a real book.

  1. I finished 10 books and I’m now over 100 for the year (101).
  2. Physical/ Audible/ Kindle: 3/3/4

I read some great non-fiction books this month.

The ministry of ordinary places – Shannan Martin

Shannan is an enneagram 8 which means she’s challenging in a good way and in this book, makes you think about what the definition is of widening your circle and doing ministry right there in your small, ordinary world.

I loved each essay and screenshotted (since I read on overdrive) many, many pages to remember some of her words.

The 360 degree leader – John Maxwell

Maxwell is the king of leadership books and this one was published in 2006 yet everything he says is still completely up to date, probably because leadership and interpersonal skills are timeless.

I was in a bit of a funk when I borrowed this one from Overdrive and listening to this book sorted me right out. I can lead right from where I am, no matter my position or title.

This really was a great book to inspire me for the last month of the work year.

I also have two fiction reads that stood out to me this month:

Rainbows never end – Cecilia Ahern

Coming out of my reading slump I was fully prepared to abandon this book if it was in any way weird. I say that because Cecilia Ahern’s books are a hit and miss for me – some of them are exactly my thing and then others (like The time of my life) are just too weird/ “imaginative” for my liking.

This one had me glued to the couch for two days. I remember picking Kendra up from a party and saying to her, “come on, hurry, I’m 20 pages away from the end of my book”.

This year it will be different – Maeve Binchy

I don’t usually like short stories but Maeve Binchy does short stories very, very well. Each story can be enjoyed with a cup of tea or over breakfast and this one is now one of my Christmas favourites. I’d been looking forward to a Christmas read that would leave me feeling warm and hopeful, but not too soppy, and Irish fiction is just that. Real, relatable, flawed characters with stories that have satisfying but not cheesy endings.

Tell me about some of the great books you read this month.

Why I no longer have a gift shelf

We’ve all seen the tip to keep some spare gifts on a shelf in case of emergencies.

This is a great idea if you often need a generic gift, and perhaps don’t know the recipient very well at all.

I kept a gift shelf for many years and I was very glad when my kids were in pre-school and attending 10 parties a year for various little classmates.

We used to do a gift on a theme every year so it made good sense to buy 10 colouring books, 10 packs of my favourite colouring pencils and 10 pencil bags, for example.

But very quickly, once the kids started school, I realised that they’re not getting invited to as many parties anymore as the parties become smaller (in most cases) and “close friends only” invites.

In fact, Kendra (9-year-old twin girl) reminded me the other day that she has only been invited to three parties this year and it’s already November.

So there is no longer a need for a gift shelf.

When I realised this fact, I decided to clear my gift shelf by gifting what I’d been keeping to all my Santa Shoebox kids that year. It’s actually really fun for me to stuff those shoeboxes as much as I can. And I love having the extra space at home!

These days I do have a few things I might buy in advance for our own kids’ birthday or Christmas presents (usually books found at a sale, activity books for holidays, or a cute T-shirt).

The great thing is I decided on my limiting container – a clear plastic box the size of a photocopy paper box – and my self-imposed rule (I’m an upholder) is that I’m not allowed to exceed the container.

And for actual friend gifts? I ask the child what their friend would like, we discuss where to get it and then we go buy it. Easy.

This year (my kids turned 9 in July) one of the gifts for a boy was two Horrid Henry books, and some gifts for girls were 1) a beautiful hardcover prompted crafting/ doodling/ sketch book in a nice carry bag and 2) unicorn pyjamas with a set of unicorn notebooks.

If you keep a gift shelf, perhaps ask yourself if the gifts have passed their sell-by date (your kids are older and the gifts are for a younger audience) and you need to move on, or if the convenience of having the gifts on a shelf are not an issue anymore. There may be things on your shelf you’ve had for years.

One thing I’ve done this year for my own friends is if I’m out and about and I see something that is perfect for a specific friend, I buy it whether it’s their birthday or not, and gift it next time I see them. No waiting for birthdays or forgetting where I’ve hidden it! And the best is that people are usually surprised which is super fun!

Do you keep a gift shelf? Why or why not?

What I learned from Spring into Organising

I ran (or tried to run) a Spring into Organising challenge during September.

It was mostly a failure in terms of getting other people to play along, but I thought I’d share what I learned from personally doing the Spring into Organising challenge for the 5 weekends in September.

  • Konmari has served me very well. I did the full Konmari in August 2014 and while I believe that you do have to do a little refresh now and again, it has been life-changing for me. Spaces are super quick to sort when you mostly have things that spark joy in your home.
  • I am happier with a leaner, streamlined home. I am not one of those people with a “we’re making memories and that’s why we have a messy house” mindset. I fully own that I like clean, orderly, clutter-free spaces because this is what brings me peace.

 

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  • Dedicated projects motivate me. I made a plan at the start of weekend 1 and I did all those spaces and then some. I ended up sorting out 17 spaces and it felt wonderful.
  • It sucks when you feel like no one else is doing a challenge along with you, even if they are. Just being honest.
  • Things are coming into our homes all the time (gifts, updates to clothes, etc.) so they need to leave all the time too. Someone asked me once on Instagram why I always have a couple of areas to sort, and my reply is still the same – I live with other people (D, the kids, and the nanny is here 4 days a week) and so even though most things just take a 5 – 10 minute tweak every couple of months, it’s still necessary. Just last night, I returned medication to our medicine cupboard and it was messy so it needed a sort. Popped on a podcast and got to it – 20 mins later, order was restored, old meds tossed out and all was well again.

It occurred to me that spring is not over yet so I’m continuing with organising bits and pieces around my home.

The printable is still available for free here – please do avail yourself if you want to get your home in order.

How do you tackle spring cleaning/ organising? On a schedule or as the mood strikes you?

Just start – how to overcome procrastination


I’ve been doing the Spring into Organising challenge for the past three weekends and even though I know this, I’m reminded all the time that I need to just start instead of feeling overwhelmed or procrastinating.

It’s spring here in South Africa (although it feels like summer) so the weather’s hot and that could be my excuse. Or it’s book club next weekend and that could be my excuse.

But I’ve been tricking myself in my usual way and saying I only need to do 15 minutes. Which, in most cases, means I do carry on with the task. But in other cases I actually get the whole space done in that time, especially if I’m not doing instagram stories at the same time 😉

Have you tried just starting? Before you know it, you’re doing something. You take out the chopping board and next thing you’re cooking an entire meal. Or you open a browser on your computer and you’re scrolling Facebook an hour later.

You see, Newton’s Law of inertia works both positively and negatively.

Newton’s Law of inertiaAn object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Let’s be those “objects” that start in motion and continue staying in motion.

 

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What are some of your excuses? Which stories do you tell yourself about why you can’t start or get something done?

Lovely limitations

Many years ago, The Nester wrote a 31-day series on lovely limitations.

To be honest, I had never thought of limitations as lovely before that but I’ve since come to see the beauty of having boundaries – physical, time-bound, and digital limitations.

They force you to be more creative with what you have, and for an upholder like me, I love having some self-imposed rules.

Physical

If you have a basket to store magazines, the basket is your boundary. Ideally (and something I LOVE) is using the physical boundary to help me make decisions to declutter. When the basket is too small for the magazines, I declutter til they fit again.

I’m definitely better about this in some areas than others – I have small bathroom and kitchen cabinets so I see it as a goal to see how little I can get away with keeping, especially for consumables like toiletries and food.

I’m always working on mugs and glasses 😉

Some ideas for physical boundaries in the home? Baskets, trays, bowls, plastic containers. If you’re not yet following me on Instagram, check out the page anyway because I share many on-the-go solutions in my very own home. And I save many of them in my highlights (the circles under my bio).

Time-bound

I do something with meetings which is a lovely limitation. If I have a meeting in an hour’s time, I might make a meeting with a new client in the hour before that to keep us both on track and so that I have a legit reason to leave a meeting promptly. I’m an extrovert so it’s very easy for me to get chatty.

You can do this with personal events too. Make a tea date with a friend that has a hard end time. I find that I’m much more likely to want to keep up with recurring dates if my dates are 1.5 – 2 hours in length.

Digital

This happened purely by chance. I had an iPhone with only 16 GB of storage space. Because it was so limited, I had to delete photos all the time. It was annoying at first but I loved cultivating the habit of the Daily Delete (I first learned of this tip from Becky Higgins). I’ve since upgraded to 64GB of storage but I still do the daily delete and remove my photos every month. It’s a great habit to prevent overwhelm.

I mentioned my upholder tendency above. I made myself a rule that I have to read 4 books from my Kindle every month but I usually read more than 4 Kindle books. I find that that helps to keep my buying of books under control. I automatically stop buying unless I’m reading enough. For the record, up to the end of August, 64% of the books I’ve read have been on Kindle (41 books).

Where do you need some lovely limitations in your home, on your schedule or digitally?

Spring into organising with me (even if you’re going into autumn)

Long-time readers will know that I’ve split out my weekend in 3 ways for a very long time. Those 3 categories are

1) out and about

2) house stuff/ productivity and

3) relaxing.

Depending on the season or what’s going on, some categories will have more tasks than others.

I post my weekend list every weekend on Instagram and the last couple of weeks I’ve been noticing a not-so-strange urge to Sort Everything Out.

We call this Spring Cleaning.

I tend to follow these urges because when the mood strikes, everything is more fun and fun is my word of the year.

However, I thought it might be fun to work on some spaces together.

Enter Spring into Organising 2018!

It’s a super-simple organising challenge that you can participate in wherever you want – privately, on your Facebook page, on your Instagram grid, stories or both (my preference, since Instagram is so visually appealing), or in person with a friend.

  1. Simply download the printable here and print it out.
  2. Choose your 5 spaces and decide what you want to do in each space. A space can be as small as your wallet, handbag or a drawer, or as large as a room.
  3. I test-drove the concept this weekend and sorted my master bathroom in about 15 minutes. Moved out a bath mat we never use to the poolroom, moved some liquid soap to the kids’ bathroom, tossed out a few old magazines, replaced the reed diffuser, etc. Focussed pottering!
  4. I will post some of those pics on Instagram during the week to inspire you.
  5. I’d like to encourage you to document your challenge on Instagram for three reasons:
    • the organising community is VERY encouraging
    • it’s motivating to you to see what you can do (I know you can do it; but sometimes you doubt it) and have a record of progress
    • when you use the #springintoorganising2018 hashtag, you reach people I don’t, and I really want as many people as possible to feel that lovely feeling of an organised space
  6. Please save the graphic above and post to indicate your intention to join. Whether you do one space or all five, you’ll end up being more organised than you were before!

I can’t wait to see all your spaces.

PS My birthday gift to you is still valid for another two days until midnight on Friday. Use the discount coupon MARCIA in the shopping cart for
for 31% off any of my products or books. Check them out here.

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?

In April I realised how I prefer to consume my books

Let’s get all the book stats out of the way because there’s something I want to discuss with you.

I had a good reading month in terms of number of books read, but only a few really good ones.

Books read in April

Books read: 10

Non-fiction/ fiction: 3/7

Physical/ Kindle/ Audible *: 4/4/2

*there’s a little story about the one Audible book

I listened to most of Chasing Slow on Audible but I really wasn’t enjoying it at all and I realized that the author might be coming across more whiny due to the narration. So I switched to the Kindle version (I bought the Kindle version on sale first and added $2,99 for the Audible narration) and I actually enjoyed the last 30% much more.

As at end April, I’d read 38 books for the year. My challenge is 80 books.

The little teashop of lost and found – Trisha Ashley

Now let’s talk about how I prefer to read my books.

I have a general rule where I read non-fiction Monday – Thursday, and then I read fiction Friday to Sunday. This is purely for practical purposes so that I actually get enough sleep for work. I have zero discipline when it comes to putting down a book so this is my Upholder way of making sure my life works for me.

So this month, I read two fiction books outside of my rules, in other words, during the week.

The reason is also very interesting to me – I didn’t have any non-fiction books that were calling to me on my physical bookshelf, and I didn’t feel like reading on the Kindle either. Remember one of the reasons I read a lot is that I always have a lot of good books to read. This is why I said in this Instagram post I probably need to declutter this bookshelf because if I don’t feel like reading them, perhaps they should go to someone else.

This is the story of a happy marriage – Ann Patchett

I then picked up fiction because I wanted to read those, but because I can only read a bit before bed every night, it took me probably 5- 6 days to finish a book I usually finish in 2 – 3 days.

And, here’s the thing, when I take that long to read a work of fiction, I just don’t feel like I can immerse myself fully in the story and fully enjoy it.

I don’t mind taking weeks to finish non-fiction because I like thinking through what I’m learning, but I want to dive into fiction and be done with it.

Isn’t that interesting?!

Does whether you read a book over a shorter time affect your enjoyment of that book? Do you have book rules for yourself? (I do realise this is a very “upholder” thing to do) 

So that’s what I learned this month:

  • I need to stick to my rules for the week
  • I need to declutter that bookshelf and have compelling non-fiction (it’s one of my 18 in 2018 goals actually)
  • I need to dive into fiction first thing on a Friday night to be sure I finish by Sunday afternoon 🙂

Did you learn anything new about your reading life this month?

You’re not alone when you ask this organising question

There’s one question I get asked by clients, friends and readers more than any other question.

It’s a question that makes me empathise with them so much because I know exactly where they’re coming from.

Marcia, I want to get organised but it’s all so overwhelming.

Where do I start?

There are different ways to approach this question but before we even start with the practical aspects, you need to do this:

First of all, relax and take a deep breath. Then get your mind in the right space.

Realise that organising is a process and that you won’t have a totally organised home in one hour, despite what you see on television.

Remember the home makeover shows have many organisers and stylists behind the scenes making the space look beautiful. You only have you (or if you’re really blessed, a friend or family member to help you).

Now that we’ve got that part settled, let’s talk practical.

1. Start with the area of your home that bothers you the most.

This is usually a space that you see when you first walk into your home, or it’s a space that you use all the time. If you feel drained when you enter your living room, start there. If you can’t bear to choose clothes every morning because your wardrobe is too cluttered, then that’s probably a good place to start. The benefit of choosing this area is that when you feel overwhelmed by the rest of the house you can go to this one space, look at it and feel inspired.

2. Decide what you want to have happen in that space.

Do you only want clothes in your wardrobe, or do you want shoes and handbags in there too? If you’re not sure what you want, it’ll be easier to let your standards and boundaries slip and, before you know it, you have a disorganised space once again.

3. Declutter

You can’t organise clutter. Get rid of everything that shouldn’t be there. You may need to move some things to other rooms and some things may need to move right out of your house!

4. Organise what’s left according to your personality and style

Not everybody is a minimalist. Some of us need to surround ourselves with our treasures. It’s all okay.

Your system works as long as you can find what you’re looking for relatively quickly (within a minute).

5. Maintain

Last but not least, do a quick, 5-minute maintenance session in each major space every week so that your space remains organised.

So tell me, where do you think you should start?

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