Let’s be intentional about our self-isolating time

Let’s quickly talk about being intentional while the threat of Covid-19 continues. When I use the word intentional, I don’t mean productive unless that is what you want to be intentional about. The last thing I want to do is put you under pressure; I want to give you grace and a few tools to take this one day or week at a time.

While I’m a girl who loves a plan and to know what’s happening, I’ve decided to take it all one week at a time. It’s how I plan anyway and I’m reminding myself things change in an instant. I’m making a Three Things To Do Today list and that’s it. My three things usually have something physical/ creative, something productive and something connecting.

What would your Three Things list have on it?


Mentally

  • If you’re feeling anxious, stop and ask yourself, “what will make me feel less anxious?” If it’s something you can do something about, do it. Otherwise, severely restrict your social media and news time. I’m not an anxious person by nature and even I started feeling a tinge of anxiety, so I’ve been reducing my social media time.
  • Fill your head with affirmations (write them out on an index or Project Life card), encouraging podcasts and things that make you happy. Jennie Allen has a great book out (how timely!) called Get out of your head. I started the Bible plan a few days ago and so far, great!

Physically

  • If you’re working from home, make sure you keep specific work hours, and stick to those hours. It’s so easy to work all the time and because you’re naturally going to let your home things bleed into work time, you may feel guilty. Don’t do this. Work hard during work time, and then switch off (yes, use a reminder on your phone!). If you want, track your work time so that there’s no guilt about switching off when your day is over. This is an excellent tool for obligers especially, but will also work for upholders and questioners.
  • Get outside in nature and go for a walk or run, just not with other people. Find a form of exercise because when you get moving, you’ll feel better. There are plenty of free things on the internet these days; one of my favourite ballerinas, Isabella Boylston, is doing ballet from her apartment. A yoga teacher I know is doing virtual yoga classes. All of these are win-win; exercise for you, and you’re supporting a small business/ Dancers Emergency Fund.
  • Get plenty of sleep. I know it’s hard but some easy sleep hygiene is to get off your phone early in the evening, read a relaxing (physical) book and stop drinking caffeine at lunch time.

Organising projects

  • A fellow twin mom, a little ahead of me in the game, shared on her Instagram how their family is going to play all the board games they own while they’re quarantined. They will then decide to declutter the games they no longer like. I think this is an excellent idea, don’t you?
  • You know all those things you wrote on your list at the beginning of the year? If they still matter to you, now is an excellent time to tackle them. Involve the kids! This book might help! Print out the list 4 “things I could do in 2020” so there’s no pressure on you, and see how you go. I love to hear feedback – let me know and tag me if you’re on Instagram.
  • Download your customised Tendency to-do list here

What are the things that you’ve found to work well for you?

How to read more in 2020

If you’ve been reading around here or follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I’m a big reader. (I even started a bookstagram account late last year – marciareadsalot).

I read 97 books in 2016, 120 books in 2017, 112 books in 2018 and I finished on 108 books last year.

I hover around the 100 books a year mark consistently, and thought I’d share 5 ways that we can all read more. It’s not like I do nothing but read (I’m a full-time employee, parent to twins, wife, friend and coach/ speaker/ workshop facilitator) but I do prioritise my reading.

  1. Have a compelling to-read list

If you only have boring books on your list, you’ll be less inclined to pick up a book and read. Therefore, decide what you like to read and add some fun books (for you) to your list.

If you can’t wait to read a book, there’s a very high possibility you’ll read faster, and thus read more books.

Tip – I create a To read – January collection within my Kindle so that I always have a great list of books to pick from. If I own the physical copy, I download the sample, and leave that in the collection so I remember what I wanted to read.

2. Stop reading books you hate

This ties into number 1 above. If you are not enjoying a book, stop wasting your reading time and pick up a book you want to read instead.

Did you know that you don’t have to finish every book you start? Please start freely abandoning books. I abandoned 7 books this year (yay!) – the faster I abandon, the more I can read 🙂

3. Always keep a book with you

Even if you don’t keep a physical book with you, have an audio or Kindle book on your phone. I like to keep a non-fiction book on my phone that I can read a short piece when I have a few moments. Things that work very well are essay-type books, or 100 days to …… or 365 days of …………..-type books too.

4. First read, then scroll

I realised that I was grabbing my phone in the mornings instead of my book, so a couple of mornings I didn’t switch on the wifi for a whole hour while I read instead. I nearly finished my book just from reading first instead of scrolling.

If you’re having trouble focusing, set a timer for 20 minutes and start reading. 20 minutes is the perfect time for a non-fiction read, and I guarantee that if you give a work of fiction 20 minutes, you’ll get into it enough to either continue or abandon.

I also want to point out my blog post from a few years ago where I recognised that with the 4 – 5 hours of phone time I have a day, I could easily read a non-fiction book once a week. See why you and I are not reading more books.

5. Join a book club

Most of the population are obligers and as Gretchen Rubin says, if you’re an obliger and you want to read more books, join a book club. A friend told me on instagram that she had a terrible reading year (14 books). She is an obliger so i suggested a book club. She is in a book club but they each read a different book. As a Four Tendencies facilitator, I’d suggest she join a book club where they all read the same book. My own book club reads the same book and we are mostly Obligers, with some Questioners, one Rebel and me, the Upholder, and this works very well for the Obligers.

Joining a book club is one way to read more and it’s a fantastic way to also build intentional friendships.

Are you reading more or less than you were a few years ago? How do you make sure you’re reading a lot?

{organising} One in, one out

One in, one out is a famous organising concept. It makes sense too in that for every one thing you bring into your house, you let go of one thing.

That only works if your house was streamlined to start off with and you’re very diligent applying this concept throughout your home, even with kids!

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I really like the idea of one in, more than one out just to try and keep on top of the stuff.

But let’s talk about where we could practically apply this concept:

  1. Time

Every time you add one more thing to your plate, unless that plate was very empty to start off with, think about what you can eliminate.

E.g. if you sign up for a new committee and it meets once a week, will your exercise routine suffer?

Money

2. Money

If you get an increase or a bonus, think about where you can be generous. Can you increase your giving at church? Can you sponsor a child through World Vision or Compassion International? Can you pay more money into your retirement savings or unit trusts?

Something fun to try – even if you need all your increase just to keep up with inflation, just buy a bag of rice or pasta every shopping trip and give it to someone once you’re outside the store, or pop into the donation boxes I see in many stores. Recently Dischem (a pharmacy franchise in South Africa) had a big donation box for sanitary pads. The cashiers asked as I was paying for my toiletries if I’d like to pay for a pack for the box. Of course I said yes. It was so easy for me and yet adds up to a whole bunch of goodness when donated to a school.

3. Digital files

It’s so easy to download freebie printable after freebie printable. I understand – I myself offer about 7 freebies when you sign up to my mailing list. But… for each thing you download, ask yourself if you use it? Or if you’re not sure yet, download, and then delete something else you know you’re not using.

It may help to have a folder called “freebie printables” so you can see them all together in one place.

When you download a new app, see if there’s another you’re not using and can delete.

4. Photos

We all take too many photos because it’s so easy on our smartphones. I therefore recommend the Daily Delete, which Becky Higgins made famous.

Every night, go through that day’s photos and delete, delete, delete. You don’t need 30 photos of the same event unless you captured 30 different things.

If you don’t have a chance to do this every night, then play a game with yourself and every time you wait for the kettle to boil, see if you can delete 10 pics.

5. Stuff

This is the most obvious part. Definitely get yourself trained to look through your stuff after each shopping trip. When I buy new T-shirts, I train myself to “joy check” the rest of them to see which I can donate. Sometimes I don’t want to donate a t-shirt, but I do see something else that can go, so out it goes.

I actually go so far as to leave my new things on the bench at the foot of my bed until I decide what will leave, because I simply never want to live an overstuffed life.

Which of these is easy for you? Which will need more thought? Do share your tips in the comments so I can learn from you.

Lovely things to do, eat, watch, try in 2019


I made this free printable a few years ago because I like to make a list of lovely things to do when I have a birthday.

It’s like a goals list, but super fun ones 🙂

Some of you will say that all goals should be fun; I disagree because we all know there are things you should do as part of being a grownup that aren’t necessarily fun (dental appointments, I’m looking at you!).

I didn’t get around to make my lovely things list in August but I’m going to do it with a twist for next year.

  • Lovely things to do read this year
  • 19 lovely things to do in 2019

Ideas for you:

  • lovely things to watch this year (if you’re a movie/ TV person – I am not)
  • lovely places to eat at this year (if you like to try new restaurants – I don’t like new restaurants but I do like working my way through some menus…)
  • lovely things to cook this year (I could get behind this idea)
  • lovely friends to see this year
  • your choice

Have fun with it, friends.

I’ve got good news – I’ve made these 7 printables and they’re ready for you to download here.

Care to share your lists? Please tag me on Instagram and tell your friends to sign up for their set of lovely lists too.

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.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Marcia Francois (@organisingqueen) on

  • 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?

Word of the year and 18 in 2018 update, 3/4 in

Here’s where I talked about my word of the year, fun.

Here’s my quarterly recap at the end of March.

At the end of June, I didn’t recap here on the blog but I did a little recap as part of my half-year review in my bullet journal.

This may speak to some of you but a key mindshift change for me was that I really don’t have to do what I don’t want to do. I’m in charge of my own life.

So I’ve declined invites, changed how I do things here on the blog (have you noticed?), changed other things about how I do my full-time work, and so on.

Here’s a quick list of fun things I’ve done this year:

  1. Enneagram coaching course
  2. Four Tendencies deep dive course
  3. read good, discussable books in book club
  4. started a kids’ book club
  5. tending my friendships
  6. giving lots of gifts, many for no reason at all
  7. I gave a talk to a moms and daughters group
  8. reading only fun books during my birthday month
  9. listening to books on audio that I’ve already read, but knew I would enjoy again (The Happiness Project, Truly Madly Guilty, The Four Hour Workweek)
  10. changing the way I did Santa Shoebox this year (click to Instagram and then click on the red circle under my bio where I talked about this)
  11. danced in Zumbathons
  12. did seasonal photodrives
  13. used fun notebooks and stationery at work
  14. went to watch Crazy Rick Asians with some friends (I never go out at night and definitely not to the movies, so this was enormous fun)
  15. I did a Handyman Course – this was the MOST fun thing ever, possibly because I’ve always wanted to go on a course like this

And now for a brief 18 in 2018 update…

I’ve done 16 of my 18 in 2018 items, and I’ve just scheduled number 17. For some reason I’m getting stuck on number 18…. but there are still 3 months left 🙂

Over to you!

How are you doing with your word of the year?

You can always change your word if it’s not working for you. To be honest, I briefly entertained the idea of changing my word because I feel like my world’s getting smaller….. but then I realised that is precisely the right reason to have FUN as a word. Hopefully there’ll be a few more fun things to say YES to in the next 3 months.

And if you’re doing 18 in 2018 (there’s a free form you can get here), let me know how it’s going. I do hope Gretchen Rubin does this challenge again next year – it’s been such a fun way of doing goals.

 

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.

March recap and in-progress projects

Wow, this month was something else.

I haven’t been as overwhelmed with work in a long, long time as I have been this month.

Picture this – working on a Friday and telling yourself, I’m now up to date with last Monday’s work (almost two weeks behind). Basically that kind of thing times ten. As you know, I’m an ESTJ, enneagram 1, and an upholder, so you now know this being behind business doesn’t sit well with me at all.

I’m not out of the woodwork yet – who knows when that will happen? – but I set myself 5 mini work goals and I achieved those, so I’m feeling satisfied with some progress at least.

I’m planning to do exactly the same every month so that even though things are crazy, I can still feel somewhat accomplished. I’m also sleeping well and exercising to take care of my body, and of course, doing all my tricks.

exhausted and depleted!

On the whole, if I look at my entire life, not just work, it was still a good month, but it didn’t feel that way, largely because we spend so much time at work.

There were many life-giving things though – books read (more on this next week), house projects, connections with friends and family, and lots of fun. And at the risk of being superficial, I got my hair done and coloured this month, so that is awesome, if expensive!

Have you downloaded the monthly review sheet from my site yet? It has 6 questions and an “on a scale of 1 – 10, this month was a ____” to help you review your month.

You can write one word answers or a whole paragraph – it’s completely up to you.

You don’t even have to use the printable if you want; simply copy the questions into your bullet journal.

I honestly find it to be one of the most helpful tools I’ve ever created, and I want you to enjoy using it too. I’m focusing on a different question each month in these blog posts although I do the full review privately.

One of the questions on the printable is Do I have any in-progress projects?

This month my in-progress projects are:

  1. tons of work things (there is literally not one client who is completely up to date with everything). To that end, my mantra is “I let go of the need to be completely up to date, and to process all client requests according to my self-imposed, currently hugely unrealistic deadlines”)
  2. insurance claim for a leak in my house due to heavy storms a week ago
  3. getting us all into a new nanny schedule (we’ve reduced her hours)
  4. sell table, etc.
  5. weeding in garden!

I am thrilled that all the upstairs painting is done. The rooms spark joy every time I walk into them. This feeling is what I need to focus on when I think of the mess of painting!

What are your in-progress projects? House? Life? Personal?

3 ways to Konmari your digital life

You all know I’m a big fan of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

And I know exactly why she calls it life-changing – because then you start thinking of every area of your life in terms of sparking joy.

I have on my list to write about Konmari-ing your to-dos but for today, I want to talk about Konmari-ing your digital life!

Because we can’t see digital clutter as obviously as we can see physical clutter, we often don’t realise it’s there but believe me, it’s still affecting you, especially with distraction and overwhelm.

When you open your inbox, you feel drained at the sight of all those emails, your computer runs slow because there’s so many photos on there and when you go into Instagram, you can’t believe how much some people post because you were on just this morning and your feed is full again.

Sound familiar?

Let’s look at 3 places where you can Konmari digitally and then add some joy into your life again:

1. Free printable downloads

We women like free things, don’t we? As a result, we download anything and everything we can find that’s for free. If it’s free, it’s got to be good, right?

Actually, it’s not all good. Not only are you cluttering up your computer but you can’t possibly use all the things that are out there because we now live in an information-overload society.

I’m not immune. At one point I had about 6 different grocery shopping lists on my computer, all of them free downloads.

What I do these days is honestly ask if I’m going to use something. If not, I don’t even download. And when I clear out my document folders, I ask myself if that cute printable really sparks joy. If not, I delete.

Also, here is your permission to delete my free stuff too if it no longer serves you. I know it works for me but we’re all different.

2. Emails and email notifications

My organizing clients need help with email more than any other thing in their office, and paper’s a close second. That’s because email’s so fast and because we don’t use it correctly.

Get familiar with the delete key (my favourite key on my physical and phone keyboard) and start deleting. Delete immediately once you’ve replied to an email and don’t file unless you absolutely have to. Sometimes you need to keep an attachment but not the email.

If you’re trying to save money or (as in my case) not buy books, unsubscribe from all the deals emails. If you really need to know about something, trust that it will still come your way (like through Instagram stories, in my case!)

Something I personally do is delete from and send quick replies “thanks for the payment” on my phone, but I answer emails that need longer responses from a computer.

Disable all the notifications from Facebook, Instagram and the like. I only get friend requests, messages and notes on my wall in my inbox. The rest I’ll see when I log on once a week or so. I’ve long disabled Facebook and Messenger from my phone – best decision ever.

Here again, decide on your comfort level for emails and make sure you process until you feel joy again. For me at work, that’s when I can view all my emails on one screen.

3. Instagram

How many people are you following on Instagram? Are you aware of how long you take to read all of those posts every day? Do you set a limit for yourself or is it only the upholders among us?

I’m as guilty as you are even though my Instagram use has shortened dramatically over the last two years.

Just this weekend, the same thing popped up from a number of people in my feed.

Stop scrolling through everyone else’s lives and run the race set before you – Christine Caine

Take some time to go through and declutter the feeds of those you tend to skim over. Get to know your comfort number. I still try to create before I consume any content but yes, it’s hard, especially when you’re tired.

I read another great quote on Lara Casey’s site last year – “idleness … is different than truly resting”. Often we tell ourselves that we’re resting but really, when we’re done scrolling Instagram, do we feel truly rested?

I feel like this is just the start of an Instagram conversation because I have More Thoughts but please tell me how you feel about Instagram.

What are your biggest battles? Do you use it to escape or when you’re bored? Or is it true inspiration, connection time with friends, or build your business time?

Your coaching challenge for this week should you take me up on it is to work on one of these three areas, and come tell me in the comments which you’ll do, and give us feedback when you’re done.

What energised me in January?

Well, we’re four weeks into the year and it’s time for the first monthly review of 2018.

I know, I can hardly believe it myself.

What I’ve decided to do differently this year is to focus on a different question on my monthly review sheet (do you have yours yet? Sign up here to get your copy) and share that one question with you here.

If I get tired of doing it that way, I will stop now that I know about upholder tightening 🙂

So let’s get to it. For the record, there are 6 journaling-type questions and then the “on a scale of 1 – 10, this month was a ____”. I’ve printed the two-page PDF as is if I want it in A4, and if I want to glue/ washi tape it into my bullet journal, I print using the horizontal setting in Adobe so that it prints in A5 size. Like the pic at the top. Get your copy here.

Interestingly, I often find that my number changes if I write down the number first before doing the proper work of unravelling the month.

What energised me this month?

This is a new question I’ve added to my review sheet after I heard an episode of The Next Right Thing where she talked about life-giving and life-draining lists.

  • holidays with amazing views and cold, mountain air

I posted some of those views on Instagram and they were truly soul-nourishing. I also loved the cooler weather for most of the holiday, and even on the hot days, the mornings were cool for a couple of hours.

  • book club

We read a book called The hate u give this month and the book discussion was lively with varied opinions.

  • reading many, many books

I’m in the middle of 3 books right now but I’ve already reached my goal for the month. One notable energizer was a re-read (or rather, a listen to) The Happiness Project. When I read it 6 years ago, I gave it 4*; this time when I listened, it got 5*. Truly fantastic.

  • times of connection with my family

take four people out of Joburg and have nothing but nature, board games, outdoor games and you have some really good family time.

  • friend dates

besides book club, I managed to have 3 friend dates this month which always energise me.

and it wouldn’t be my blog if I wasn’t 100% honest with you – doing a full and thorough review of 2017 and setting goals for 2018 energised me so much. Now I’m ready for the year ahead 🙂

What energised you this month?

If you care to share, did anything drain you?



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