My absolute favourite pens – gel pens

Let’s get it out of the way – I like the look of pencils but I don’t ever use them. I went through a stage, maybe 10 years ago, where I bought some coloured pencil lead – pink and blue – which gave me some joy, but certainly not as much joy as my absolute favourite pens – gel pens!

I have three favourite gel pens and they all have three things in common:

  1. They’re point 0.7 mm
  2. They’re colourful (no black and boring blue; I do like a nice navy though)
  3. They all have retractable points

I started out with Pilot G2 0.7 – hunter green, sky blue, dark red, metallic colours, they’re all so good

then Pentel brought out such amazing colours in their energel brand – purple, pink, orange in addition to the green (I’ve been using them for 7 years)

and then my friend, Suzy, sent me a full set of Papermate Inkjoy Gel pens in the most delicious colours. At the time we couldn’t get them in South Africa. Now we can get them, but they’re R53 per pen! (see the pics in this post for the Papermate pens)

Which are your favourite pens? Or pencils, if that’s more your thing?

My favourite work notebooks

I’m fussy about my stationery but even I’m surprised at how specific I like my various items of work stationery to be! These are called campus notebooks by Typo and I pay R69,99 each or R100 for two (they have them on special a couple of times a year). They’re spiral-bound, a little wider than A5, have 4 sections (more on these sections later) and have lined paper.

They are my favourite notebooks which I use in the following way:

  1. I keep about 4 pages free in the beginning of the notebook for a few lists: lists of my clients, lists of new business I’m working on and any other lists I might need (sizes of meeting rooms are current favourites because I book enormous meeting rooms during these times, current work projects, and so on)
  2. I then make a daily eat the frog list, and my ta-da list and goals for the week at the end of each week. It’s my whole end-of-work week routine.
  3. I start each day with a daily list, make meeting notes and actions, both in preparation for the meetings I run and when I’m a participant. One day can use up anything from 3 – 8 pages, depending on the types of meetings.
  4. These notebooks used to last 6 months each but during these pandemic times where we work mostly from home and have far more meetings than ever before, they’re stretching to 3 months if I’m lucky. (I just checked my current notebook – I started it on 18 May and looks like I’ll start another one on 18 August).
  5. I completely ignore the partitions. I know some people like to use one section for clients, one for team meetings, one for something else and one for to-do lists. That’s not how my brain works – my brain works strictly in chronological order. E.g. “when was that client meeting? oh, 4 August.” I then flip to 4 August and find my notes. So I (horror of horrors) just cut out those partitions and I keep just one for a few post-it notes.

And now for the enormous disclaimer…

There is absolutely nothing special about this notebook or any other notebook.

The best notebook is the one that works for you!

Confession – you don’t even need a fancy notebook. An A5 exercise book that school kids use will do.

I would say you need a system to keep up with your work actions, a place to hold the thoughts in your mind, a place to plan the important and not urgent matters (quadrant B items) and a place to reflect back and refer to notes.

If you have that, great!

If not, perhaps try my system – who knows? It might just work for you too. If not, keep the bits that work and start tweaking the other parts.

Which is your favourite notebooks to use for work?

PS Whenever I post something like this, people always say, “why should you use pretty stationery for work?” To that I say, I spend 50+ hours a week on work; I definitely want to use that time and make my environment and tools ones that spark extreme joy for me 🙂

{planning} 6 important things about monthly planning

Even if you’re not a goal-setter, monthly planning is a good way to start adding some structure to your life.

Why

You can plan your month such that events within your control are spread throughout the weeks.

You can find your optimum busy rhythm.

You can plan things like birthday presents and reserving book club books in advance.

When

I do my monthly planning either on the last day of the month (if I finish my goals review early) or otherwise on the first day of the month. I don’t feel late as I’ve glanced over the first few days to make sure nothing will fall through the cracks.

How

1. Add anchor events first (these are things that are already due to happen)

  1. Birthdays – do you need to buy a present, send a card or arrange to take someone for lunch or supper? Make a note of these action items.
  2. Socials – add in any fixed friend dates you may have, like a monthly book club, family get-togethers with extended family, or a standing tea or lunch with a friend. Do you have any action items you need to make a note of? E.g. do you need to buy the book club book or borrow it from the library?
  3. Any other anchor events – work meetings that might bleed into personal time, etc. I add my coaching client appointments here. Pre-covid, this is when I’d add all my business travel too as it would mean I’d need to get to bed early for early flights the next day.

2. Add in all the want-tos

  1. Exercise – if you’re a daily exerciser, this might be useless step but most people aren’t daily exercisers and need to plan out of the house time with spouses.
  2. Courses, workshops –it’s easy to schedule if it’s a once-off session. But what if it’s a self-paced course like my Discover Yourself course? When I sign up to an online course or workshop, I schedule time every week to make progress otherwise it’ll never get done. If you’ve purchased a course, have you actually done it? You might need to block out time once a week for an hour or two to work through the content.
  3. Catch-ups with friends – these are non-monthly standing appointments but you would like to arrange this time together.

3. Evaluate and answer these questions honestly

(you might not have a true idea when you first start but you’ll get better as you go along)

  1. Do your weeks look too busy?
  2. Are there some of those want-to items that would do better for you to move to another week instead?

4. Review your goals and add what you can to your non-busy weeks

Skip if you haven’t set any goals BUT I call goals anything you want to get done.

I set goals in 7 categories and for the purposes of this post, I’ll share the three goals I set in the Finance/ House category for March.

  1. Fumigator
  2. Make waterproofing decisions (the quote is way too much but I asked them to break down all the work into the 3 areas so we can do it in stages)
  3. Send canvas pic to my printer

My style is to put all 3 of these onto a house list and do the research and send out the emails all on one evening. An ideal evening would be after a vigorous exercise session like Zumba since I’ll be too tired to do anything else.

I should also write every week for my blog/ newsletter or if I’m creating a course. I usually have a night for writing every week and I like to couple that with something else computer-y like updating my budget or editing photos, etc.

5. Maintain and evaluate as you go through the month

As the weeks pass, notice how you feel at the end of each week.

Was the week too busy even though you thought it might be doable?

6. Speaking of energy…

I don’t like more than two evenings out (even if it’s at the gym) during the work week but I don’t feel it that much if those evenings are spread out – like a Monday and a Thursday. This is something I noticed while evaluating my weeks. I also don’t mind a Barre and Zumba class one night after the other, but I wouldn’t like two Zumba classes on subsequent evenings (too heavy on my body), or two coaching evenings in a row.

Do you need to change the order in which you plan according to your energy?

Do you do monthly planning? Is there anything else you add that helps you?

I work with clients in 30- or 60-minute time management sessions and show them how to translate their goals to quarterly, monthly and weekly action steps. We talk about the best method to get things done for their own personality type – there is “no once size fits all” approach. Send me an email and let’s schedule your session.

{planning} The joy of quarterly planning

I’ve been an annual planner for the last 25 years. Until last year and the lockdown. I felt quite despondent and hopeless until Gretchen Rubin suggested making a 19 for Covid-19 list. After I made my first one for 3 months and saw how well it worked for lockdown, I just kept making a new list every 3 months.

Annual planning

  1. You do the planning properly once and then you just implement.
  2. Because you have the long-term view, you tend to take seasonal fluctuations into account, e.g. you might want to take 2 – 3 holidays a year – one in autumn, one in spring and one at Christmas.
  3. It will take longer as you consider the entire 12 months.

Quarterly planning

  1. Because you’re only planning for 3 months, it’s often easier to do because the planning is for a shorter time.
  2. If you no longer want to do something or if something is not working, you can change your goals and planning for the next quarter. Yes, you can do this for annual planning but we often don’t. The mere fact that the planning is only for 3 months changes your mindset about sticking to something you’re not enjoying.
  3. Useful in these pandemic times where things change quickly (lockdown levels) and where we might need a change.

My quarterly planning process

Last year, I just wrote down 19 – 20 things willy-nilly the first time I did my quarterly planning, but the next two times, I wrote down goals in the main 7 areas of my life.

The more structured approach worked well for me so that is how I will continue to do things this year. Do the same if you like a bit of structure or just go wild and write down some things. I do suggest at least having one or two goals in each of the work, home and personal/ relationships category.

I make a mindmap on a page in my bullet journal, put branches for the various areas – family, friends, health and fitness, house/ finances, work (day job) and OrganisingQueen (night job – ha!) and play/ fun (my word of the year). Any of my planning (even for this blog post!) starts with a mindmap.

Hint – I like a branch for my word of the year so that I put concrete goals to make my word alive for me.

Do you think you’ll give quarterly planning a try? What are your categories?

PS I talked more about quarterly and seasonal goals here.

{goals} What do you need during this pandemic festive season?

This week, more than ever, I’d like to talk about the three Rs that are so important for this time of year.

1. Rest – to recover physical strength

  • Let’s face it – everyone is tired. It’s been a looooong year and most of our reserves are depleted.
  • Whether you take actual leave over December or not, I’d like to encourage you to build in some time every weekend to do something truly restful for your body to replenish your physical reserves. Prioritise sleep; if you feel tired, go have a nap on the couch. There’s nothing nicer than going to lay on the couch with a book and nodding off to wake an hour later, refreshed. Eat proper food (fruits and vegetables), drink enough water and get outside in nature (literally, go outside and stand there for 5 minutes to breathe).

Relax – to make less tense or anxious

  • Relax speaks to our mental or emotional states whereas rest above speaks to our physical states. This time of year is always stressful as everyone wants to get all their work done so tempers are frayed, people are impatient and good manners go out the window. I’ve been saying to myself “oh, it’s just covid” when I see behaviour that I know is not usual for work colleagues because I know I’ve not been my absolute best, sparkling self. Do you know that the Organising Queen herself double-booked two socials for the same time this weekend? I have no words but my friend was gracious to me!
  • Write down a few sentences that will help you relax about what you can and can’t control. I did this very thing the other day. I wrote down what God has called me to do (to do excellent work with the utmost of care, take good care of my clients, be courteous and professional and do my work as for Him) and I glance over at my bullet journal daily to remind myself that I’m not here to stress about anything because I’m just trying to get through a pandemic.
  • If you’re feeling anxious about Christmas, read this post – it’s your permission to do things your way, or not at all. One of my favourite Christmases ever was one where I said to Dion, “I don’t feel like doing anything so let’s just you and I do our own thing at home”. This was pre-kids and we ended up going to visit an uncle but it was still super low-key and wonderful! I really don’t even mind not seeing family this Christmas (I honestly think it will be safer all round!) but I know not everyone feels the same. Give yourself grace to feel what you need and do whatever is right for you.

3. Review – to make an assessment with the intention of making a change if necessary

  • You and I both know that you can make a change any time you feel like it. The questioners know this better than anyone else 🙂 We also know that the start of a new year is always an excellent time to change things that are no longer working for you.
  • There’s a step before making change though, and that is reviewing what’s working and what’s not. As you go about your days during the remainder of this month, I’d like to encourage you to keep the Let’s Do This workbook or your bullet journal handy. Every time you notice something, jot that down. What’s really working? What’s not working? Did you just have an insight? Write it down. What do you need to let go of? What’s bugging you that you need to change? And so on.
  • You’re being a detective in your own life, gathering evidence so that you can solve the mystery of being more intentional next year, at least in areas you can control 🙂

** I started off with 10 and I have 6 X 60-minute laser coaching slots at $50 each then they go up to their usual price of $60/ hour. I’d love you to book one of those sessions for us to talk about your life, do your review and set you up, ready for 2021. Email me! This is especially useful for the Obligers out there – accountability is the secret tool of your success.

Over to you – which of these three Rs is currently speaking to you most? Obey the nudge and take some action.


{planning} your ideal weekend routine and rhythms

We are all different personalities and therefore need different rhythms for our weekends to feel like they were good ones.

What is important and consistent across personality types is for all of us to decide for ourselves what the components are that will make a weekend feel successful, and then incorporate those elements into our days.

This will also differ according to different times and life stages, e.g. in winter I cook more because that feels more life-giving to me, but in summer I only want to be in the kitchen a very short time.

Let’s look at some components of a successful weekend, shall we?

church – anchor event

1. Anchor events and scheduled activities

In this section, extroverts will typically want to have more time spent with other people where introverts will be happier by themselves.

I have at least three anchor events on most weekends – a tea with a friend after work on Fridays, Saturday morning Zumba and Sunday morning church. Those things are scheduled and in my diary; they can move, but probably won’t.

2. Downtime

We all need downtime, but what downtime looks like for you may differ to the next person.

Some people relax by reading on the couch; others relax by going for a long run. You do you.

3. Chores

Let’s face it – we all look forward to getting some nagging things off the to-do list and I, as an enneagram 1, like nothing more than to potter and set things in order in my home. The week is often for keeping the house ticking over and weekends are when I (and you) can devote a longer period of time to a little deeper cleaning or organising, like swopping summer and winter clothes, decluttering your kitchen cupboards, etc.

4. Planning

This only has to take 20 – 30 minutes but is so useful if done consistently. I’ve heard of some couples who take time on a Friday night to plan for the week ahead. I do my planning in two stages – I plan the menu for the week ahead on a Friday night or Saturday morning and write out the shopping list, and then on a Sunday afternoon, I take 5 – 10 minutes to review and plan my schedule and to-dos for the week ahead. On very busy weekends, I might push the planning to a Monday night but I still like to get it done.

I need to get out once a day at least or else I get cabin fever but other than that, I like to both relax and get things done around the house every weekend. This goes out the window if I have a heat headache but if I’m well, that sounds like the perfect weekend for me.

I’m flexible around my loose plan (typical upholder!) but I do need those first three components to be present, and I feel like I’m winning for the next week too if I get my planning done.

What are the components for you to feel like you’ve had a successful weekend?

{productivity} How I use a master to-do list to prevent overwhelm

master list

Let’s talk about the difference between a master list and a daily to-do list.

People often confuse the two which is the exact reason they experience overwhelm. I would also feel overwhelmed if I saw 30 items every day but I don’t feel overwhelm if I only see 5 or 6 items.

  1. I make a master to-do list of what I call Life Admin every so often. This list has things around the house, projects, financial things, medical appointments, etc.
  2. Here’s the trick – I keep this list on my desk so it’s visible at all times.
  3. Every week I put one or two of these things on my weekly list – to be done either during the week (if it’s time-specific or dependent on other people) or on the weekend (usually self-imposed and needing only my input).
  4. When I complete the item, I cross it out with a highlighter. As I progress through the list, more and more items get crossed off which feels very satisfying for this upholder.
  5. I then rewrite the list when the list of undone items is less than half the list, or it’s a new month (I love the fresh slate of a new month).

I mentioned above that I have a master list for my life admin. I also have one for all my clients at my full-time job (in Excel) and I suppose you could call my To Blog list a master list too 🙂

If you don’t already use a master to-do list, I encourage you to try one. There is a satisfaction in knowing that you can take a month, two months even to get to all your things, but that you only need to do just as many as you want to, every couple of days or weeks.

Do you use a master list? What do you have master lists for?

{planning} introducing my 2020 diary

2020 diary

Compared to 2018’s back and forth on the subject of my 2019 diary, I am so pleased that this year there was none of that nonsense.

You can read about my 2019 diary here. Interestingly, it’s the most popular post in November 2018 of the 6 months since May 2018! And here are pictures of my 2019 diary in action on Instagram.

I saw all the diaries in my local bookshop, noticed a few that I liked but one stood out – this one. I thought about it for a few days and then went back to get it.

2020 diary

Things I love in a diary are:

  • goals page at the front, and one for each month
  • monthly events calendar at a glance
  • weekly format
  • not too big to carry around

This diary had all of these features and the best is that I’ve already played around with the same format in 2018, so I know it works for me.

I also like how it zips up so I can carry a thin bullet journal with me and zip the whole lot up so that it stays contained in my handbag.

2020 diary

For those who are new to me, I love a weekly planner because my brain thinks in weeks and no matter how pretty the daily planners are, I’d never use them as well as I use a weekly planner.

I also like that this diary has a prayer list if you’re so inclined (you can use it for your weekly intentions, which is almost the same thing!), your priorities for the week and the notes for the week section which I use for some of my weekend to-dos.

Perhaps this will be the year I’ll be able to restrict all my weekend to-dos to that one little section? 🙂

2020 diary

I prepared my diary by adding dates, school terms, public holidays, etc. and I started my to-dos yesterday too.

Do you use a diary? Which one are you using this year?

Here’s a useful post to help you make decisions if you haven’t decided yet.

{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.

How my bullet journalling has changed over the last 3 years

I’m always fascinated by how things change in my own life and in other people’s, especially with regard to how we do things.

Today I want to talk about bullet journalling.

Yes, I’m still bullet journalling and to be honest, even when the craze ends, I’ll still be using a bullet journal simply because I was bullet journalling long before it became a thing. In those days, I just had a notebook I carried around with me for my lists 🙂

I have noticed that the way I use my bullet journal changes according to the diary I have for that year.

This year I have a diary with lots of monthly goals space so I use my diary for my goals instead of the bullet journal. I still use my bullet journal for my monthly review though (you can download your monthly review free printable page here)

So which pages am I still using?

  1. Weekend to-do list
  2. WFM Daily to-do list (once a week)
  3. Podcast club notes (podcast club does not happen as often as it used to, though)
  4. list of blog posts to write (this is still a permanent page in my bullet journal)
  5. brainstorming specific blog posts or what needs to go in my monthly newsletter
  6. monthly project life photo planning (I do a mindmap and ask myself what happened that I want to remember, and then I look for a picture. It’s much less overwhelming than looking at 300 pics trying to whittle them down to 6)
  7. daily journalling from holidays, when they happen.
  8. People interested in the Four Tendencies workshop (I keep a list and update it after every workshop) – this has been a strange thing and I should write down some learnings after the workshop on 1 June happens.
  9. Life admin list – granted, at certain times of the year, this list is WILDLY busy but most months there are only one or two things on there at most, which is how I prefer it.

Are you still bullet journalling?

Which are your favourite pages in your bullet journal?

PS I have a separate bullet journal for all my reading. Read more about that one in this post.



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