My annual birthday review

I started doing a review of my year that was a few years ago. This typically happens on the first free weeknight after my birthday.

I make a cup of tea, grab my bullet journal and sit down at my desk to do some actual writing.

It’s actually not important how you do it; just that you do.

I prefer to write so that I’m not distracted by the internet, notifications, etc. but if you don’t have that problem, by all means just type out your answer.

An aside – there’s no magic time to do a life review; I just happen to think my birthday’s a good time to take stock, but you can do it tonight! Tomorrow! This weekend 🙂

Here’s a post I wrote about this before.

Me, at 43

Again, here are some of the questions I used this time, but listen to your heart and write the questions you feel you need to explore. If you don’t have a clue where to start, start with these questions:

  1. what worked well for me this year?
  2. what didn’t work well?
  3. what do I need to stop doing?
  4. are there any relationships I need to let go of?
  5. how am I living out my word of the year? do I need to choose a new word?
  6. how am I living out my values?
  7. what do I want to focus on in the year ahead?
  8. what am I grateful for?
  9. how do I want to feel this next year?
  10. what do I want to give myself this next year?

A few notes from my birthday review:

  1. I’m very happy with my current work rhythms because I mostly feel on top of things.
  2. Some of my biggest joys this year were from learning my enneagram number and taking the Discovering You and Exploring you courses with Your Enneagram Coach, and from doing the Four Tendencies deep dive course with Gretchen Rubin.
  3. I’m happy tending to my current friendships while leaving enough space for spontaneity.
  4. We’ve had three amazing family holidays this year.
  5. I read 111 books from one birthday to the next 😉
  6. I’ve chosen to let go of situations that I normally wouldn’t, because it just didn’t feel worth it any more.

And now I’m ready to tackle 44!

Have you done a birthday or life review lately? What were some of your highlights/ insights?

Give yourself grace

I’ve been so busy during Birthday Season (all four of our birthdays happen in a less-than-one-month period) that I’ve let some things slide.

I started thinking that I need to catch up and get up to date, and all those Upholder-type things, but I decided this morning to give myself grace and just let those self-imposed expectations go.

I may be writing this only for me but I doubt it.

I think it’s meant for you too.

When you’re going through a busy season, let some of your commitments go. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to keep up. It’s good enough just to survive.

Here’s your permission slip.

Happy Sunday!

My monthly recap for July

I’m smack-bang in the middle of birthday season at the moment, so I’m not going to wait for the actual end-of-the-month before doing my monthly recap.

As an aside, can you see how this Upholder is breaking loose?! The Four Tendencies deep dive course really helped me to clarify why I do things and question whether I want to continue doing them. When I figure out Instagram TV, I’m going to do a little video on my learnings from the course.

Moving along.

Let’s talk about my highlights for July

1. Our family beach holiday. We were in Ballito for a week and I read 5 books, got to nap on the couch one afternoon, watched Wimbledon, and took many many walks on the boardwalk. Also, something weird happens to my body at the coast – I wake at 6.20 every day (I would wake at 9.00 if left to my own devices in Johannesburg)  – so I got to watch so many sunrises.

2. I’ve read 10 books thus far. I should finish on 12 for the month.

3. I crossed off something from the house to-do list which was to put in a shower in the kids’ bathroom. It came about in a really standard way for me which is I became irritated with having a messy bathroom every day when I got home from work as the kids used to use my shower. Dion and I are both very neat in our bedroom/ bathroom so I asked for a quote, changed the hardware out once and then paid the deposit and the shower was done.

4. I’ve done all the birthday planning. Two parties down, Dion’s birthday on Friday and mine on the 6th with a lunch on Sat 4th. Last year we had both the twins’ parties on the same weekend – mayhem – so this year we had 1 per weekend. Of course it feels like I’m entertaining for 4 straight weeks (which I am) but it’s been a whole lot more manageable. I’m only two parties in, but so far so good.

5. And for work, I survived the year-end madness 🙂 I was also up to date two days after returning from leave which is a feat that I’m particularly excited about.

Noteworthy mentions of the organising kind

  • I made updated travel lists and have put them in an A5 flipfile right down to which little travel pouch to use for my bedside table stuff. I’m super thrilled about this tiny little task that took about 10 minutes because now I don’t need to THINK every time I travel. I will just whip out my little flipfile and follow my lists.
  • We used Uber for our holiday again and it was great.
  • I ran a little giveaway on Instagram for Mandela Day and while I thought there’d be a lot more people putting up their hands for a free coaching session, I only had 4 takers, which means those 4 get 17 minutes each 🙂

Tell me about your highlights and organising mentions this month.

This is how we feel about beach holidays 😉

 

Books I read in June, the best book so far this year and one I don’t want to tell you about

In May I read 7 books and last month I read 8.

But best of all, I read two fabulous books.

Have I mentioned before that I consciously set my goal lower than last year? I wanted to feel like it was more fun – in other words, not feel like I need to get stuck into the next book 5 minutes after finishing the last one and also read longer books without concerning myself that it was taking days and days to read.

Here are the 8 books I finished:

Fiction/ Non-fiction: 6/2

Physical/ Audible/ Kindle: 0 (how is this possible? I don’t know either!)/ 3/5

Two books received 5* from me on Goodreads:

  1. Three wishes by Liane Moriarty. This is my second reading of the book – this time I listened to it on Audible and LOVED it even more. Highly recommend especially if you have multiples but certainly not necessary.

2. The Ensemble – Aja Gabel

I certainly don’t want to gush and put you off the book but do yourself a favour and get this one. And then sink into it over a weekend with a day or so on either side. This book drew me in and would not let me go. I didn’t even want to leave my couch the entire weekend. It is utterly wonderful and the best book I’ve read thus far this year. I actually can’t believe this is her debut novel.

The Ensemble

And then a book I read while Dion was driving us back from our holiday in the Drakensberg… that I almost don’t want to tell you about (insert “shocked face” emoji here)

The life changing magic of not giving a f**k – Sarah Knight

I bought it on Amazon sale because I was intrigued enough but not willing to spend “proper book money” on it.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k: How to stop spending time you don't have doing things you don't want to do with people you don't like (A No F*cks Given Guide) by [Knight, Sarah]

Here’s what I wrote on Goodreads:

I thought the actual concepts were really good. She gave good examples of the four areas – things, work (this section alone is worth the read!), friends, acquaintances and strangers, and family.

This book is going to be really, really useful for all obligers (on Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework).

However, my rating is lower due to the overuse of the f-word.

I didn’t find this book to be making fun of Marie Kondo’s book at all. The author and I are both huge fans of Marie’s method and her overall question, does this spark joy?

So, definitely if you’re an obliger and you don’t mind excessive use of the f-word, get it. It will empower you and help you to work with those inner vs outer expectations.

Now tell me, what was the best fiction and non-fiction you read this month? And seeing as we’re half way through the year, dare I ask – are you half way through your reading goal?

PS I first found out about The Ensemble on Modern Mrs Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide and it is the first of three books that I want to read this “summer” (it’s winter in South Africa ;)) I want to read 8 books overall but 3 of those before the end of August.

Here is my winter fun list if you’d like to take a look.

Do you know how much sleep you need?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This week’s coaching challenge for you:

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

On being intentional with internet usage

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

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

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

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

What this has done for me:

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

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

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

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?

{Marcia reads} How is your phone changing you?

I read a great book in February called, 12 ways your phone is changing you by Tony Reinke. I actually listened to this book on audio while driving to work but you might want to get it on Kindle so you can highlight and make notes.

Yes, it’s one of those where you want to take notes.

This book was great, so full of nuggets and things to think about.

I think the author is a questioner on the Four Tendencies framework.

What I loved is that there was no “this is how it must be done” but lots of facts, research, and questions to make you think about your own habits in each of the 12 areas. It had a very balanced view and is refreshingly full of solid Bible teaching without being preachy.

 

A few questions I wrote down while driving:

  • Are you reading more or less books as a result of you being on social media?
  • Am I a digital busybody or am I genuinely curious?
  • Does my digital art dim glory or reflect His glory? Sometimes we want our glory now instead of waiting for eternal glory.
  • Are we digital narcissists?

I actually feel like I need a re-listen, this time with a notebook in hand 🙂

Ultimately, this book is a call to live a more intentional and purposeful life in the arena of smartphone usage.

If you have a niggle that your phone might be taking over in a number of areas of your life, I’d urge you to give this one a read.

I have spoken before about how we could all be reading more, for instance, if we took just some of our social media time every week and used that time to read.

So this is going to make me think some more about my phone usage.

Where do you feel your phone usage is negatively impacting your life? Are you more anxious? Do you procrastinate on work? Do you default to your phone when your kids are annoying you? 🙂

Where are your yellow flags showing up?

One Sunday morning a few years ago I was enjoying a mug of tea while reading blogs.

I happened upon a friend’s blog where she mentioned her hard drive crashed and she lost everything. Fortunately for her, her husband backs up weekly.

Right there and then (I didn’t even finish reading her post!), I got up, fetched my external hard drive and backed up my computer.

You see, my computer had been running a bit slow and that, for me, is a yellow flag.

The next thing that would happen is that programmes would stop responding and one day I’d find a blue screen or something similarly scary.

I’d be kicking myself then because when my computer completely stops working, that’s my red flag.

We all have yellow flags in our lives.

They’re usually about much bigger things than just a computer (although that’s big in my life – the thought of losing all my lovely photos makes me feel physically sick).

Things like our health, our relationships, our work, our finances.

Let’s talk about health.

Yellow flags are constant feelings of being stressed, headaches, pain, anxiety, etc.

They are indicators that we need to deal with something in our lives.

I was recently in a job that was very stressful for me. I knew I was feeling stress but a yellow flag for me was when my doctor picked up something in my bloodwork indicating the stress.

I tried to manage the stress as best as I could but when nothing had changed for me physiologically 6 months later, I knew I had to make a drastic change, so I left.

As a friend said to me, “you can always get another job – you’re smart and talented – but you can’t always get your health back”. Too true.

If you ignore these yellow flags, they could lead to a red flag where you’re forced to stop and take note of things, like a serious disease, an operation, and so on.

So have a think.

If you’re honest with yourself, are there any yellow flags in your life you need to deal with?

1. Constant feelings of stress and overwhelm?
2. An odd noise in your car
3. A relationship that needs tending
4. Finances that need to be looked at
5. Boundaries that need to be discussed

Can you identify any yellow flags in your life? How can you take a step or two to deal with it?

A goals reprieve – quarterly and seasonal goals

I wrote in this Instagram post “April is the new January”, partly as a joke but mostly because I really believe that any time you want to set goals is perfectly in order and just great. Please set any goals rather than no goals.

You know that I set annual, monthly and weekly goals so I’m firmly in the detailed goals camp.

However, today I’m talking to many of you who need permission to lighten up with your goals.

Maybe you want to set quarterly or seasonal goals instead?

Let me give you some ideas:

Quarterly goals

In my Let’s Do This workbook (you can still get it here) there’s a page for quarterly goals. I put this in the workbook originally because some things in my life (personal/ house/ holidays) happen very much in seasons.

For example, the first part of the third quarter of the year is all birthdays around here.

Can you think of what happens in your life in terms of quarters? Birthdays, work pressures, house projects, annual holidays? Perhaps if you set goals in quarters it would help you instead of making you feel overwhelmed?

Seasonal goals

We’ve all seen those summer lists on Pinterest and Instagram. I do some seasonal lists but definitely not summer (summer is not my favourite season as long-time readers know). I do make a Christmas list (which happens during our summer), autumn and winter lists though.

Here’s my current autumn list.

I find seasonal goals very helpful in reminding me to get to the things I do want to do, but if I don’t write them down and name them, they often go by forgotten.

E.g. in Spring, I always put jacaranda photowalks on my list. Our city is carpeted in purple blooms and it’s just gorgeous.

The co-host of the Best of Both Worlds podcast, Sarah, divided this year into quintiles (I had never heard of this before) but it made perfect sense because she was on maternity leave for the first two months of the year, and then the rest of the year is divided as she saw fit. Loved it – makes sense for her situation.

I re-read her post now as I’m writing this one, and I realized she combined the concept of quarters and seasons.  By the way, Sarah is an upholder 🙂

So try something different – grab a page or your bullet journal and write down a few autumn/ spring goals, or some 2nd quarter goals.

Has this helped you to reframe from the standard periods of annual and monthly goals?

Did you set some goals? 😉

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