5 things I’ve learnt in the first 6 months of 2019

  1. I really love going on holidays. As it stands, we’re only now on our second holiday of the year. Usually we’re on holiday for the first week of the year, and then again in April/ May. This year the school holidays didn’t work to our advantage so we stayed put, and I reallllllllly felt the pressure in May and June.

2. I’ve met my goal and run four Four Tendencies workshops so far this year. I always knew I loved running workshops because it brings together many loves of my life – teaching, people, connecting and connecting dots for others, organising and stationery 🙂 However, I had forgotten exactly how much I love running workshops. After every single workshop, I’ve been on such a high for the entire evening. My remaining two workshop dates are: 7 September for the Five Love Languages, and 2 November for the Four Tendencies. Take 10% off if you come to both workshops.

3. I’ve learned that boldness can increase the more you practise. My word of the year is BOLD because I suspected that if I wanted to run 5 workshops this year, I’d need boldness to put myself out there. Somewhere between workshop 3 and 4 I realised that I’m not scared to tell people about the workshops anymore. Not that I was scared, per se, but it felt a bit cringeworthy to put myself out there and say, “yes, come, you will benefit from doing this”. Honestly, a lot of it was reminding myself why I’m running these workshops. I actually sat with a journal and pen before workshop 3 and wrote down what people get from coming to the workshops. And then I think I spoke to people from a true place of wanting to help them. What is your word of the year, and how are you living it out this year?

4. I’ve also learned that I should definitely not tackle multiple house projects at the same time. In my defense, one went over by a month, one took two weeks longer than the other and the only one that worked exactly according to plan was the third one. Thank goodness those are all done, and now we save towards next year’s maintenance items. Isn’t it sad that house things are never done?!

5. My kids wrote their first set of exams just over a month ago. Well. As two upholder parents with questioner and rebel kids, I can say the entire experience has been a steep learning curve for all of us. We will definitely start setting clear expectations much earlier next time instead of leaving them to it for a few weeks by themselves. Upholders would take the exam timetable and work backwards and then diligently start studying; we’ve seen now that the other tendencies just don’t have that same way of responding to the expectation of studying. What’s your tendency, and how did you approach exams when you were at school or university?

What are some of the things you learned during the first half of 2019?

PS do you know, I’m still sometimes writing the year as 2018!

My 5 best work hacks

Interestingly, I made a note in my bullet journal to write this post after hearing some work hacks on a podcast.

Of course, I thought that, as a full-time working mother, I should also talk about my own work hacks.

So here we go with mine, and I’d love to know about your own work hacks too.

  1. I hold fast to my end-of-work-week routines

I wrote a whole post about this year. If you haven’t read that post, give it a read – I’ve been following that new work routine for more than 18 months, and it’s honestly, changed my work life.

2. I make a daily to-do list (also known as my Eat the Frog list)

This is linked to number 1, but not quite. I started a day recently with 3 meetings and only got back to my desk after lunch. I realised towards the end of the day that I was feeling unproductive. Do you know why? I ended up working in my inbox instead of on my to-do list.

3. I reply to emails straight after reading if I can, and then file/ delete immediately

This is one of my best hacks. It’s like the one-minute rule but for your inbox. When you’re in email process mode (in other words, dedicated email time), read and answer, and then file or delete (I have always been in love with the delete button). Not all emails can get done quickly but if they can be attended to quickly, do so.

4. I make an agenda for meetings and circulate beforehand (preferably in the meeting invite notes), and I send out action points afterwards

It’s always useful to know why you’re attending a meeting and what you want to get out of it. Linked to that point, I try to make the meeting shorter rather than longer, and if I know a meeting is likely to run over due to chit-chat, I schedule it before another hard-start one, so I have a legit excuse to leave.

5. As far as possible, schedule days for deep work and days for meetings

I currently have the option to work from home occasionally and I protect that time for deep work. I probably get done on a work-from-home day what I get done on two days at the office.

It does mean that when I’m in the office, I usually have many, many hours of meetings, but I find that I’m more productive on a weekly basis than having meetings scattered on every day during the week.

I’d love to know what your best work hacks are so I can also add some tips to my arsenal 🙂

Do leave your comments, big or small, I want to hear them all.

 

My dreadful iPhone screen time stats

When Apple introduced the screen time monitoring stats on the iPhone, at first I resisted for a month or so. I always wait until the last possible minute to upgrade because I don’t like my technology to change!

When I received my first week’s usage, I was horrified.

A few notes and insights, if you’re interested:

  • My time usage per day averaged about 5 hours a day with most of that time being spent on… Instagram.
  • I knew that I received many notifications daily. It turns out that number was 90 a day. WhatsApp notifications were more than double the next category, my calendar. I have no problem with my calendar notifying me because all of those notifications are self-imposed and, as you’ve read in my upholder posts, I use scheduling to basically run my life. The remainder of my notifications are all useful.
  •  Turns out I pick my phone up on average 100 times a day. That’s terrible. When you break it down it’s about 8 times an hour which is still bad, but then when I see that the two apps I use after I pick up my phone are WhatsApp (probably things I want to see) and podcasts (stopping, rewinding, looking for the next, etc.), that sounds about right, and not something I’m going to change very much.
  • This leads us to my most used apps – Instagram, Podcasts and WhatsApp. All consistent with what I said above. The thing is Instagram wins by a huge margin. A whopping 53% of all my screentime is spent on Instagram. Granted, I manage two accounts and post stories and so on, but still. Those 20 hours a week could have been spent reading 2 – 3 extra books.

  

Immediately afterwards, I decided to do what I could to reduce those hours.

  • I got into a good habit of closing apps immediately after using them. That helped a lot and reduced the phone usage down to high 3 hours – low 4 hours a day.
  • I was very conscious of all my social media time especially after I put a 1-hour limit on social media. Every single day of my life I exceed this limit (except when on holidays) but every time I tap “ignore for 15 minutes” I’m conscious that I’m now choosing to ignore my own self-imposed limits. #upholder
  • My pickups are now 60 a day after I turned off my Instagram notifications. I now also mute WhatsApp groups if I don’t need to hear all the chatter, which is most of the time.

What’s happening currently?

  • I still veer between an average of 4 and 5 hours of phone usage a day. In the weeks when I post a lot of talking stories on Instagram vs just pictures, my phone usage shoots up but that is not a true reflection as my upload time is super slow and I have to leave Instagram open and on stories to upload.
  • My lowest weekly stats ever have been when we’ve been on holiday and that’s because I’m reading a lot and there’s no wifi 🙂 In that week I only used my phone for podcasts while getting ready in the mornings, and while cooking, and to take photos and send the occasional photos to family. I averaged 2 hours that week and I was very, very proud of that 🙂 It’s nice to know I can use my phone less even if forced to do so through no wifi.

What’s next?

I’m still interested in reducing my phone usage in theory but the only app I really have a problem with is Instagram. I grab and scroll when I’m lazy or while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil, or while I’m thinking about an email… Mindless scrolling is so easy on Instagram.

I think I need to turn on my Downtime and make sure I adhere to it. It’s about getting more disciplined with Instagram, like posting my own photos early in the day, only checking at lunch quickly and then again quickly at night. Exactly as I do with email. It’s not like I do much of a “curated feed” so it should be easy to do once I decide what I want and how I will approach it.

We’re going on holiday in about 3 weeks which I think is the perfect time to break my bad Instagram habits.

Have any of you drastically reduced your Instagram or Screen Time usage? Please share your tips and tricks.

PS please note that I have no Facebook or Twitter usage. I feel very happy that I only have one vice 😉

 

 

 

It’s time for the Mother’s Day talk

I like to give myself a pep talk every year and I thought I’d share some of those thoughts with you too.

This is my 10th Mother’s Day and I’ll be completely honest with you – I have not had 9 fantastic Mother’s Days because I expected Dion to be a mind-reader.

Here’s a post I wrote when my twins were just under two.

I want you to have a great day, so here are 5 things I’d like you to consider in the days leading up to Mother’s Day:

  1. Get clear on your expectations

If you don’t know exactly what a good day looks like for you, think about it and get clear on exactly what you need/ want.

When my kids were young, there were a couple of years when I just wanted a 3-hour nap in the afternoon. No, it’s not selfish to ask for some time to sleep.

2. What are your love languages?

If you’re not sure, have a look at www.5lovelanguages.com and take the quiz. If you want to delve into the Love Languages some more, and you’re local, join me for a workshop on 7 September. Register and book your place now. If you’re not local, contact me for a Skype session.

If you think about your love languages, you’ll get a very good idea of what will satisfy you. My love languages are acts of service and words of affirmation, so I like tea in bed (so I can read for 30 minutes) and cards from the kids. And, of course, a clean kitchen once I get up. This year, I’ve asked them to come on a photo walk with me.

3. Ask for what you want

Your husband and kids are not mind readers. If you don’t ask them for what you want, don’t be surprised if you feel resentful during the day.

Some will say, “how boring to be so explicit”. That may well be but better boring and content, than surprised and resentful.

This might also be a good time to say what you don’t want. I said to my husband to please not buy me more pyjamas – I love pyjamas but all mine are still good 🙂

4. Lower your expectations

I know I just said to ask for what you want, but still, lower your expectations. If you usually decorate the tea tray and make it beautiful, don’t expect that level of detail from your family.

Same with gifts – it will not be wrapped like you do, so relax about the details.

And last, but definitely not least…

5. Stay off social media on the actual day

Facebook and Instagram are good for many things but one thing they’re not good for are these sorts of holidays.

You don’t even like perfume but I promise you’ll get jealous of someone else’s perfume, etc. And don’t get me started on the “to my wonderful husband” posts 😉

So… remember, stay off social media and you’ll be much happier.

Which tip resonated most with you?

Also, do share your love language(s) with me in the comments below.

Credit: Photos in this post were taken by Jeanette Verster in 2011 🙂

Consider making a life admin list

On my #19in2019 list, I have a number of house maintenance items. I googled and had a number of people out to the house to see the work and provide quotes.

Do you know what a frustrating process this has been? You would assume people would want the work but I’ve had to call/ WhatsApp people three times to just come out, keep hounding them for the promised quote, and on and on. I’m much more bored by this state of affairs than you are, trust me 🙂

With all this back and forth, because I couldn’t keep it all in my head, I announced to Dion, “I think we need to make a Life Admin list”.

A life admin list is a fancy name I like to use for a master list that has all the things you need to get done listed on it.

So I made the list, took a photo of it and emailed it to my husband.

Interestingly, he said he felt overwhelmed when he first looked at it but I felt much calmer because the noise in my head was louder than the actual number of items on the page (only 10).

Does a big to-do list make you feel overwhelmed or calm because you can now see what needs to be done?

Here are some benefits to making a life admin list:

  1. you’ll get the noise out of your head
  2. you’ll easily be able to categorise items (phone calls, internet research, errands, etc.)
  3. you can prioritise and see which you feel able to attend to right now, both emotionally and financially
  4. you’ll feel able to tackle them in appropriate time blocks
  5. you can easily delegate/ make a separate Honey Do plea

I attended to 3 of those items fairly quickly: followed up on a start date for the one person who was actually professional in his dealings with us, sent a WhatsApp to another to say something like “thank you for your interest, but we’ve decided to go with someone else” and for the third, I emailed to accept the quotation and suggest a time for the work to happen. 

All that took about 5 minutes.

I share that not to wow you with my productivity, but to show you that we often make things much bigger in our heads than they need to be.

It’s exactly what a Power Hour could be used for. Just get on the phone and sort a few things out, or send a few quick emails. Once things are scheduled, that’s half the battle won.

I promise you – you can do it!

Hit REPLY and let me know when you make your Life Admin List. I’ve posted mine on Instagram; if you post yours too, use the #LifeAdminList and I’ll pop by to say hello.

Update on The Four Tendencies workshops


Well, friends, I’ve now run 3 workshops and I’m enjoying them so much. My last workshop was a full one with 10 participants – 7 obligers, 1 questioner and 2 rebels. I also had my youngest participant who was only 19 years old. Don’t you wish you’d known at 19 what you know about yourself today?!

I’m also keeping a careful eye on the stats because so far, my stats are different to Gretchen’s survey. I wonder if that is due to the South African slant? 🙂 I have had way more than the 41% obligers but interestingly, my upholder % is far less.

As you know, one of my #19in2019 goals is to run 4 of these workshops, so that’s 75% done. 

Registration is now open for the next Jhb workshop on Saturday, 1 June. Check out the testimonials and reserve your place.

Use code FRIEND to get R50 off each of your tickets when you register two or more people. Bring a friend, spouse, sister, mom…

Here’s the link to read more to see if it’s something you’re interested in, and then to reserve your places. Space is limited to just 10 people, and this is the last in-person workshop this year – don’t miss out.

Word of the year – quarterly review

I find it very useful to review my word of the year at least quarterly to make sure the word is still serving me and that I’m still using it as a guidance point in my life.

If you haven’t read my post where I announced my word and why I chose it, here is that post.

So how am I doing after 3 months?

workshops

Well, I picked this word because I needed to be bold in order to start running regular workshops again. Interestingly, it wasn’t the workshop delivery I was concerned about because teaching is my sweet spot, especially when paired with personality frameworks and how we are all created unique and special.

It was the marketing. The whole “will people get tired of me talking about the same old thing?” and unfollow (perhaps and yes). But I got to a point with my very first workshop this year where the workshop was not full, and yet I knew I’d asked and reached out to everyone I could. I’d done my bit and that was enough. And there was a peace about it.

Interestingly, that very same Monday morning, one of the people I’d reached out to said she couldn’t come although she’d love to, but would I please put together a proposal for her team at work. I did, and that led to my second workshop, this time a corporate one.

The boldness was working. And here I am, 10 days before my third workshop, but feeling more and more bold every time I talk about it.

I know and have personally seen 18 people leave changed in their work, in their understanding of themselves, in their relationships, in their level of freedom to be exactly themselves. It’s so great to see. I need to post more of the testimonials I’ve received but here are the first two testimonials that were sent to me.

work

Bold has also seen me speak up more about difficult things. Sometimes there really is no point to raising something but if I’m honest with myself, that is not really me. So, I’ve had two hard conversations and no, nothing will change, but I do feel better and more authentically me for having spoken up.

personal

In some of my personal relationships too, I have been bolder about what I want, and don’t want, reaching out even though it’s vulnerable to say things honestly….and the world has not fallen apart.

In summary, I’m about 4 out of 10 on the boldness scale of where I want to be, but I am realising that it’s a muscle that has gone unused and I need to awaken and strengthen it through regular exercise.

How are you settling into your word of the year? Is it working for you? Do you need to revive it again? Do you need to change it? Let’s talk in the comments.

{living intentionally} Intentional friendship update, one year later


At our last book club lunch last year, one of the members said, “we all just want to connect with another human being”. So true.

For years I almost didn’t want to admit to myself that I actually wanted to have friendships because it seemed like no-one else was talking this way and it felt…too vulnerable.

But I’ve gotten over that and now I freely admit that I want, and need, good friendships.

I also used to bemoan the fact that the organising/ logistics to get together seemed to lie with me, but I’m also over that, due to two things:

  1. D told me I need only do what I’m comfortable doing. This might seem like an obvious thing to some of you but I’m an enneagram 1 (we feel like it’s our job in the world to fix anything that is broken) and an upholder (friendship is important to me therefore I need to put systems in my life to support that) so it has always felt like I was responsible for everything.
  2. I actually largely prefer to organise things because I feel in control of things more 😉

Last year I wrote about what I was doing to create intentional friendships in my life as an upholder, and how each of the other Four Tendencies types would do this too. You can read that post here.

To comment from an upholder perspective again, we work best with the strategies of scheduling, monitoring, clarity and pairing.

Clarity – I am clear on my comfort levels and how much I want to try to pursue/ “open the door” before calling it quits and letting things just flow. I’m also clear about what a life-giving friendship means to me.

Scheduling – this strategy has worked so beautifully over the last year. Our book club meets on the last Saturday of every month, and I have 5 standing friend dates every month. Of course this doesn’t work with everyone every month but it sort of evens out so that I have good 1:1 connection time with about 5 – 6 friends, because I also have some other friends who I have again scheduled once every 2 – 3 months. I realise this sounds terribly unspontaneous, but as Gretchen Rubin says, “something that can happen anytime often happens at no time”. Here’s where I “go with the flow”  – I let cancellations and such happen, and somehow at the end of the month, I find I’ve still had my 5 – 6 friend connections. It’s weird and wonderful all at the same time.

Monitoring – I still keep my friend spreadsheet and diligently update it at the end of every month, and then add friends to next month’s goals to keep it all ticking over. Try it, even if you don’t use an actual spreadsheet. You could have a list in your bullet journal with a date next to each friend’s name.

Pairing – I really only use pairing in a couple of instances. When I see clients in Pretoria, I always contact a Pretoria friend to see if she’s available to have lunch after my meeting. And I have a client in a part of Joburg whose offices are near another friend’s workplace. I always just reach out and ask if she’s available. What’s the worse that can happen? They’re busy but at least you’ve asked and they know you’ve reached out.

If you’d like to understand better how to harness your tendency with regards to your friendships, please join me for my next workshop, coach with me or take Gretchen’s deep dive course?

How are your friendships going? Are you happy with them?

The thing that delighted me most last year was this: I met a friend for lunch and she said, “let’s eat quickly. I know you like to walk and take pictures so I’ve planned a walk for us.” Well, that was just magnificent!

{reading} How I track my reading and January books read


So let’s talk about book tracking.

This is a big deal in the bookstagram world, and if you know me at all, you know I love tracking anything and everything. I learned since reading The Four Tendencies that upholders do well with monitoring, which is really what tracking is for me.

I first started tracking my reading straight after my last matric exam. For those outside of South Africa, it’s your last school year. That day was on 18 November and on that very day after my Biology exam, I went to the library, took out all the books I could and started tracking from that day nearly 27 years ago.

At some point once I’d started working, I started keeping an Excel sheet.

Fast forward to when I discovered Goodreads, and little by little but only back to 1998, I entered most of that notebook into Goodreads.

Well, how do I currently track my reading?

I track in 3 ways:

Goodreads (if Goodreads ever goes away, I don’t know what I’d do)

I use Goodreads for recording books I’ve read and to check when I’m at the library or bookshop whether I’ve read a certain book before borrowing or buying it. After thousands of books read, I can’t keep it all straight in my head 🙂

There’s an app which I use for on-the-go tracking, but I write reviews at my laptop as I need a proper keyboard.

Excel spreadsheet

I track my monthly goals on an excel spreadsheet. In the past I’ve done an exercise at the end of the year to see how many fiction vs non-fiction reads I had, and other such interesting stats, which took me hours. Hours of pleasure, but hours nonetheless. Then I got clever. So since 2017, as part of my monthly goals, I also track the numbers of non-fiction vs fiction, physical/ kindle/ audible books and so on. It’s so much easier to enter the totals in less than a minute every month and my Excel sheet is set up to total, and do % of goal, etc. so I have the annual totals quickly too.

Bullet journal

This year I started writing down the month’s books in a special notebook I call my book bullet journal. I also have notes at the back of books I want our book club to read, books I want to read on Audible, books I need to borrow through Overdrive, and so on.

It’s really lovely to have a beautiful, fun notebook, and to physically write down books I’m reading again, especially since I haven’t done so for about 15 years, if not longer.

How do you track your reading?

And as for the books I read in January…

I finished 10 books – 5 of them during the first week while I was on holiday 🙂

My final tally is 8 fiction; 2 non-fiction with 5 physical books, 1 audible and 4 Kindle versions.

Favourite reads of this month: The Friend – Dorothy Koomson (my first 5* read of the year!) and The Sunshine Sisters – Jane Green

What were your favourite reads in January?

{time} Your ideal weekend

On a Monday a couple of weeks ago, a colleague at work asked me how my weekend was, as you do, and I said, “it was a really great weekend”.

“Oh,” they said, “tell me more”.

And then I realised that nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

I’d had a friend date on the Friday afternoon, hosted my kids’ book club, gone to Zumba and church, did some pottering around the house and read a book.

Kind-of standard things for me, but a really great weekend I realised because it had MY three ideal elements in the correct ratios.

  1. People/ out and about stuff
  2. Productivity
  3. Relaxation

It got me thinking that having a great weekend is completely within my control because I can control all of those components.

I’d been feeling a bit blah lately and when Dion and I unpacked my feelings, I realised I hadn’t had enough people time. As an extrovert, I’m energised by spending time with people.

My happy number is about 5 – 6 friend dates every month. Book club happens automatically and my friend dates are set up on a schedule, but when they get cancelled, I’m not upset (life happens) but I feel it later in this low energy state. What I need to do is then possibly reach out and just connect with a friend by phone.

We were at book club recently when one of our introvert members explained to two of us extroverts that it’s nothing personal but they just don’t feel the need to spend time with people. I must say, I was a bit surprised but I had an aha moment about friendship right there and then.

Over to you.

What does your ideal weekend look like? And are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does this play out in your weekend plans?



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