How strong are your foundations?

Often when it feels like things are getting a bit out of control, I find that it’s useful to stop and take stock of my foundational basics:

1. Sleep
Are you sleeping enough? I’m constantly surprised by just how many people don’t sleep well and expect to function at top productivity. Our bodies weren’t designed to go on and on without enough rest. 

If you’re feeling sluggish or like your mind isn’t 100% sharp, try increasing your sleep by just 30 minutes a night. If you’re currently sleeping 5 hours a night, get to bed 30 minutes earlier. Don’t try to remember; use your phone and set a daily reminder. Once that new sleep number is your normal, increase it by another 30 minutes, until you get to at least 7 hours every night.

More tips: here and here

2. Food

If you follow me on Instagram, I’ve shared pictures when I pack my lunch bag at night. I might have mentioned this but I seriously hate packing my lunch. And no, I have no idea why! 

A few weeks ago, I said to Kendra (9) that I was dreading doing my lunch. She said, “but you don’t hate packing our lunches” and I said, “no, I don’t. I love doing yours“. You know what she said?

“Then just pretend you’re packing our lunches”.

Simple but profound. I’ve been pretending ever since and it is a game changer. It feels more fun and it’s getting done quicker 🙂

If you’re not yet sold on menu planning, have a read here. I love menu planning because I love knowing what I have available in the house, and when we *actually* do eat all those meals in the same week, I do the metaphorical happy dance 🙂

Thinking about food and what to cook/ eat/ prepare three times a day is exhausting (and mind-numbingly boring for me) so automate the process in order to free up your mental load.

3. Energy

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

This might seem like a “nice to think about” but I think it’s essential. Often in the past when I’ve mentioned to Dion that I feel like I’m in a funk, it’s because I’m not getting as much people time that I need as an extrovert.

I’ve since found that I need 5 one-on-one friend dates besides my two book clubs every month for my tank to feel full. I spread out those friend dates, at least one every week, and that works beautifully.

My husband is an introvert and if I see his energy flagging, I’ll rescue him by taking the kids to do something so he has alone time at home, or let him go do grocery shopping by himself. Granted, there are still people at the shops but he doesn’t have to talk all the time to two very chatty nine-year-olds.

These are foundational issues that, if attended to on a consistent basis, will definitely increase your happiness levels.

Leave a comment and let me know which one of these three foundational basics you’re going to prioritise for the next 1 – 3 months.

If you’d like to work with me, I do currently have 4 time makeover coaching spots available every month. Send me an email and let’s get you started.

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 🙂

5 things to keep in mind when organising your space

A few bullet points of encouragement for your organising projects this Spring/ Autumn:

  1. Small spaces count. Your one drawer matters as much as an entire room. Start small to motivate you to keep on going. I also suggest starting with a small space that will make a difference to you mentally or emotionally.
  2. Declutter first. I’ve been saying this for years and it’s still true. Any space is easier to work with once you get rid of stuff.
  3. Just start. Don’t overthink things – it doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you do.
  4. You can do anything for 15 minutes – Flylady. You can. Set your timer and start with one drawer, one pile of paper, one shelf. If you feel like continuing after the first 15 minutes are over, great. Go ahead. But if you want to stop there, that’s also good. You can start again tomorrow with another 15 minutes.
  5. Use what you have. This is my favourite thing about Marie Kondo – she’s not about buying pretty containers and storage boxes, but recommends shoe boxes or whatever you have laying around.

And finally remember, there’s no perfect time to get organised – now is a good a time as any.

I created a printable last year when I did Spring into Organising. It’s still available for my friends in the Northern Hemisphere. Download the attached printable and print it out. If you liked this post, please feel free to share it on your social media or with a friend.

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.

What’s the best way to sort your stuff?


Is it best to sort by colour? By category? By frequency of use? By function?

The short answer is that I can’t tell you the best way to sort your stuff.

I can tell you that you should sort so that it is easy to find and manage your things when you need them.

Let’s talk through some examples:

Colour vs Function

Bookshelves – if you can’t remember what colour your book is, there is no point in organising by colour. But if you remember what your book looks like and would be able to retrieve it quickly, this is a good way for you.

Clothes – if you reach for a specific colour pair of pants or shirt, then perhaps store your clothes by colour. However, if you make decisions based on what you want to wear, like a dress vs pants and a shirt, for example, then consider storing your clothes by type, with all pants, dresses, or tops together.


Category vs Frequency of use

Makeup – when you’re doing your makeup in the morning, do you like all your lipsticks together, or do you like your daily makeup together (lipstick, eye-shadow and blush) and the rest in one section? If you have no problems retrieving a specific lipstick, then perhaps store by category. Otherwise, store your daily makeup together and your special occasion makeup together.

Bowls in the kitchen – do you prefer that all your bowls are stored together, or do you prefer to keep often-used ones in one location that is easier to reach, and special occasion bowls on higher, difficult-to-reach shelves?

In writing this blog post, I realised I almost always store by frequency of use and with my clothes and books, by colour.

Please share some examples of how you prefer to sort and store your stuff.

How to be a happier person at work


Penelope Trunk once wrote on her career blog that if you want to be happier at work, have a shorter commute.

I read somewhere that the average commute in Johannesburg is around 45 minutes. Mine usually 40 – 45 minutes long.

That feels about right although I hear many stories of commutes being much longer too.

A few weeks ago I was driving to work and I realised that I was actually happier at work due to making my commute a pleasant part of my day instead of something to dread due to these five things I’ve put into place:

1. Choose the times you travel

I realise that not every job is flexible. I, myself, worked in a terribly inflexible job for just over a year. However, if you don’t ask, you definitely won’t get anywhere so see if you have flexible work times available so that you can travel to and from work at a more convenient time, traffic-wise, for you.

2. Use your commute for audio books

I recommend that you don’t only listen to music or talk radio. Even if you only listen to an audio book in the mornings or afternoons, you can get through most books in two weeks (about 7.5 hours). My rhythm is to listen to a book in the mornings and a podcast in the afternoons, except for Fridays which are reserved for listening to the Happier Podcast 🙂

3. Stop for special pleasures

I’m not someone who would ever swing through a drive-thru for a coffee (or tea) but I do stop for photos. I leave an extra 10 – 15 minutes especially so that I have time to pull over and take pictures of autumn leaves, winter branches or the jacarandas. When I do stop, I’m always glad I took the time to metaphorically smell the roses.

4. Be intentional about your route

I love that we have clear seasons in Johannesburg and I choose the route I drive based on how pretty it is. I figure what’s 5 minutes here or there if I’m having fun?! So I choose beautiful leafy suburbs to drive through  or routes that have great autumn leaves or jacaranda trees. Sound crazy? Maybe, but I’m happier when I do.

5. Create buffer time

As I mentioned in 3 and at the start of the blog, my commute is about 40 minutes but I aim to leave an hour just in case there’s an accident or bad traffic. I had to train myself to think this way because my natural bend is to do things until the last possible minute; now I tell myself I can listen to my book or podcast 🙂 I can’t tell you how nice it is to arrive at places, finish listening to a segment if I need, or calmly pack up my work things instead of rushing into the building to a meeting.

Do you have any tips for a happier commute?

How long is your commute?

PS I’m always surprised when I ask people and they say, “it’s 15 minutes but in the traffic it’s an hour” because when are you actually going to work when it’s 15 minutes? 4 am in the morning?!)

{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?

{money and organising} Let’s talk about food spend and 3 tips to reduce wastage

I read an interesting statistic in Laura Vanderkam’s book, “All the money in the world”. 

The average household spends 7.6% of its budget on food consumed at home and 5.3% on food eaten out.

(of course, I do realise that this is an American book and that currencies and food prices are all different, but it’s still fascinating to me)

This kind of thing makes me super curious so I went looking at our budget.

We obviously don’t spend all the money we make, so I’m looking at our groceries and eating out line items as a percentage of total expenses.

Ours are much, much higher for groceries and much, much lower for eating out 🙂

This tells me one thing at least – that we cook a lot more at home than the average family (this I do know). It’s true – I have been known to say that I can cook something quicker than it would take me to buy something prepared (or get a takeaway) at the shops.

I’m curious – do you know what you spend on groceries and eating out every month? Is your % spend also higher than the quoted %?

There’s no right or wrong way to approach this food spend area but I would encourage as I always do to not imagine you will use more food than you actually do. Especially as we’re in South Africa, I just can’t stand the thought of food wastage with so many people starving on our literal doorsteps.

If you spend a significant of money on groceries but you actually use all of the stuff you’re buying, then good going for you.

I personally am uncomfortable with spending what is a house payment on food.

3 tips to reduce food wastage

  1. If you grow fruit and vegetables in your garden, and you know you can’t get through all of them, share with your work colleagues. A classmate of Kendra’s has been bringing her lemons which I think is so generous and thoughtful of him.
  2. If you don’t want to menu plan, at least plan the fruits and vegetables (and make actual pen on paper notes somewhere in your kitchen) so you know how long it takes for your family to use up a 1.5 kg bag of apples, or a small bag of bananas, or a small head of cauliflower. It’s very tempting when you’re in the store to see all the beautiful colours and think you’re going to cook 6 different vegetables before they go bad. You won’t. Err on the side of buying less and perhaps keep a bag of frozen peas in the freezer.
  3. Plan for a leftovers night every week. A pasta is always good to use up bits of cheese and a few odd vegetables. One of my skills is gathering up odds and ends from the fridge and using them all up in a stirfry or pasta, or on a pizza 🙂

Do you find it easier to cook something at home or pop by Woolworths/ Pick and Pay to get a convenience meal? What do you do to reduce food wastage?

More posts on groceries (and some good comments)

Let’s talk about groceries and spending

Feedback on my groceries experiment



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